Obama’s Eulogy, Which Found Its Place in History

Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times:

Barack Obama’s eulogy for the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., was remarkable not only because the president sang the opening refrain of “Amazing Grace” on live television, and not only because of his eloquence in memorializing the pastor and eight other parishioners killed by a white gunman. It was also remarkable because the eulogy drew on all of Mr. Obama’s gifts of language and empathy and searching intellect — first glimpsed in “Dreams From My Father,” his deeply felt 1995 memoir about identity and family. And because it used those gifts to talk about the complexities of race and justice, situating them within an echoing continuum in time that reflected both Mr. Obama’s own long view of history, and the panoramic vision of America, shared by Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as a country in the process of perfecting itself. Mr. Obama’s view of the nation’s history as a more than two-century journey to make the promises of the Declaration of Independence (“that all men are created equal”) real for everyone, his former chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau, suggested in an email, is “both an American and a religious sentiment” — predicated upon the belief that individual sinners and a country scarred by the original sin of slavery can overcome the past through “persistent, courageous, sometimes frustrating efforts.”

…At the same time, the eulogy he delivered that Friday afternoon in Charleston turned out to be the capstone to a dizzying and momentous week in which Southern politicians began calling for a renunciation of the Confederate battle flag, while the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and found that the Consitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. It was a week in which a lot of Americans felt they were actually watching the arc of history bend in front of their eyes, and it was a eulogy that both spoke to the moment and connected that moment to the past and the future of what Mr. Obama calls the great “American experiment.”

More here.