Barack Obama’s amazing grace

By Robert Mann

Among dozens of moments that define the historic, consequential presidency of Barack Obama was his moving eulogy of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in June 2015.

Pinckney and eight of his parishioners had died days earlier, victims of a young man’s violent racism. It was a day that justified cries of rage and retribution from those in attendance. Obama, instead, appealed to what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”

“This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace,” Obama said of the murders in the church’s basement. “The grace of the families who lost loved ones; the grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons; the grace described in one of my favorite hymns, the one we all know — Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

Obama ruminated further on grace and admonished mourners to focus not on their anger but, rather, on redeeming the tragedy. In particular, he urged banishing the Confederate flag (with which the killer had posed in a photograph) from the state’s Capitol.

“I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions, ways of life that make up this beloved country, by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace,” Obama said.

Obama suggested Americans also could find grace in the midst of pain by entering into a serious dialogue about our country’s history of racial division. “If we can tap that grace, everything can change. Amazing grace, amazing grace.”

And then Obama broke into song, leading the mourners in the first stanza of the hymn, written in 1772 by the Rev. John Newton, a former slave-ship captain. It was a stunning and emotional moment, one I will never forget for what it represented about what Obama and his presidency meant to the nation.

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7 Responses to Barack Obama’s amazing grace

  1. JonTB says:

    Amen. His farewell speech in Chicago this week was equally a great lesson in civic responsibility to “we the people.”


  2. Stephen Winham says:

    I believe, in the context of the time of his service, President Obama is the best president we have had in my lifetime. I would, perhaps, only consider ranking JFK higher, but his time was cut short, so we will never know.

    The one refrain I hear from critics of President Obama that really chaps me most is that he did not do anything to fix our race relations problems. When I ask, “What would you have had him do?”, I am consistently rewarded with silence. Do any of you have suggestions in that regard? He led by example and that, to me, was the most he could have done.

    Most other criticisms I have heard of the Obama presidency are simply baseless carping about actions the critics are in no position to even judge. I will miss President Obama more and more as time passes and as we enter a new administration about which I have serious trepidation.


    • Edith Herring says:

      Stephen Winham, I can only and simply say a heartfelt “Amen!” to your post. Thank you for saying it so well!

      Thanks for saying it best!


    • martybankson says:

      I agree, as long as the qualifier “in the context of the time of his service” is used; and, not knowing your age, would have to qualify that as well, but since Kennedy is in the timeframe, would include the much maligned Carter as up there, too. The problem is the bar has not been very high with scalawags like Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes littering the history.
      My main problem is this era of continuous war we have gotten ourselves into with the need to justify the global military complex we have established, and Obama’s failure to make much of a dent reversing this campaign of world domination. He became to be the first president to be engaged in war every day of his two terms. But I think now the arrangement is firmly established and systemic (for lack of a better term), and there is not much any single president can do in one or two terms to begin reversing it—that’s why the qualifier “in the context of the time of his service” makes your rating valid, in my opinion: Iran nuclear agreement, check; restoring relations with Cuba, check; keeping troops out of Syrian, check; Obamacare, check; maintain a scandal-free and irreproachably classy model of the presidency and first family, double check.


  3. Pingback: Robert Mann: Amazing Grace | KeenLand

  4. Stephen Winham says:



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