US president Barack Obama had a busy, emotional day. After delivering a moving statement on the Supreme Court’s decision to effectively legalize gay marriage, Obama travelled to Charleston, South Carolina to give a eulogy for Clementa Pinckney, one of the victims of last week’s shooting at a historic black church .
“Preacher by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived,” Obama said. “What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41. Slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock.”
Pinckney and the other victims were killed during a bible study group at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, allegedly by Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist.
The president said that Roof surely did not expect the outpouring of support for the victims, the forgiveness he received from their families, and the national conversation about racism his actions sparked. He “presumed [his act] would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.”
“Oh, but God works in mysterious ways!” Obama said. “God has different ideas!”
The president called the Emmanuel AME Church a “sacred place” for not just blacks and Christians but for “every American who cares about the steady expansion of human rights and justice in this country.””
Obama also spoke of systemic racism—the need to “guard against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for an interview, but not Jamal”—and about the decisions taken this week by local governments and private companies to take down the Confederate flag, what he called”a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.”
“By taking down that flag we express God’s grace,” he said. Obama concluded his eulogy by singing a hymn devoted to that grace, as the rest of the mourners joined in.