Rev. Clementa Pinckney was one of the nine victims of the Emanuel AME Church massacre last week. Today in Charleston, therefore, President Obama delivered the eulogy for the late pastor, speaking about his warm personality, humility, and commitment to service.
“We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith,” he said. “A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life to those who followed.”
“I cannot claim to have had the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well, but I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger,” he continued. “The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor—all qualities that helped him [handle] so effortlessly the heavy burden of expectation.”
And expectations were tremendously high indeed, Obama explained.
“He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful, a family of preachers who spread God’s word,” he declared. “A family of protestors who [helped] to expand voting rights and desegregate the South. Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching. He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23.”
“He did not exhibit the cockiness of youth, nor youth’s insecurities,” he added. “Instead, he set an example worthy of his position.”
He was not just a Christian pastor, however. He was also a committed — and unassuming — state senator, who represented one of the poorest districts in the state.
“No wonder one of his Senate colleagues remembered Sen. Pinckney as ‘the most gentle of the 46 of us, the best of the 46 of us,” he added. “What a good man. Sometimes, I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized. After all the words, recitations, resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man.”
Finally, he addressed the issues of black unemployment, gun violence, and the moral imperative of removing the Confederate Flag from South Carolina's State Capitol. He even broke out into song, leading the congregation in a impressive rendition of “Amazing Grace,” which the audience enthusiastically helped him with.
President Obama was joined at the service by his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden.