Barack Obama Just Gave One of the Best Speeches of His Presidency

June 26th 2015

Mike Vainisi

President Obama delivered a powerful eulogy at the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a pastor and South Carolina state senator who was murdered, along with 8 others, by an alleged white supremacist in an attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

President Obama knew Pinckney, who was a pastor at the church.

"What a good man," Obama said. "Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized."



In one of his most deeply religious moments as president, Obama led the congregation in "Amazing Grace" after expressing his belief that the alleged killer "could've never imagined the way the families [of the victims] would stare at him and offer grace and forgiveness."

The president linked Pinckney's murder to the long history of attacks on Black churches, incidents that were "not random, but [used] as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress" Black communities.

He also said that calls to remove the Confederate flag, which was on the license plate of the alleged killer, from public and private sites are not an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers, but instead "an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought, slavery, was wrong."

While "a flag did not cause these murders," the president stated, "for many, black and white, that flag is a reminder of a system of oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now."

The president said, however, that the response to the shooting should be more than just removing the Confederate flag from public spaces. It should also lead to criminal justice reform, efforts at increasing economic opportunity, and the end of the "the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview, but not Jamal."

He also talked about the need for more gun safety laws.

"For too long, we've been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts on this nation," he said.

The life of Clementa Pinckney

Clementa Pinckney was known for his strong public speaking. In fact, just a few weeks before he was killed, Pinckney delivered a poignant speech on racism in the wake of the death of Walter Scott, an unarmed Black man who was killed by a police officer in South Carolina.

After Scott was killed, Pinckney advocated for police body cameras.

Pinckney was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives at age 23. He successfully ran for the state senate at age 27.

Pinckney had two daughters, Eliana and Malana. He attended Allen University and received a master's degree in public administration from the University of South Carolina and a master of divinity at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.

“I see everything I do as an extension of the ministry,” Pinckney said in a 1999 article with the Savannah Morning News. “It’s all about service. In the community, in the African-American community, one person ought to say something and that is the minister. The minister is paid by the people. He doesn’t work for a big company. He doesn’t represent a particular special interest.”

In 2013, Pinckney gave a powerful speech about public service. The speech also illustrates the incredible history of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site of the attack that killed Pinckney. The church has been a symbol for Black Americans since before the Civil War.