President Barack Obama eulogized the Rev. Clementa Pinckney on Friday as a man of faith, grace and compassion. And he spoke of Mr. Pinckney’s life of service and perseverance as a state senator.
The congregation of 5,400, many who had waited in line for hours to get in the TD Arena for the service, got to their feet more than once to affirm what he said.
But it was the president’s passionate endorsement of the causes that the Rev. Pinckney stood for that brought the loudest applause and shouts.
Perhaps their reaction was born of hope that Charleston, and South Carolina, are ready to redouble their efforts on behalf of unity, racial equality and economic opportunity for all.
Perhaps the outpouring of love and charity, and the willingness of people to examine their own hearts and minds, will continue.
Perhaps the devastating murder of Clementa Pinckney and eight of his flock will be the catalyst for long-term solutions to those social problems the Rev. Pinckney cared so much about.
Mr. Obama noted that the Confederate flag “has always represented more than ancestral pride.” He gave S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley warranted praise for her “eloquence on the subject” of removing it from the Statehouse grounds.
It is encouraging that the General Assembly appears poised to furl it.
The president also seemed to challenge Charleston — and South Carolina — to pursue Mr. Pinckney’s efforts to address noble causes like reducing poverty throughout the state, seeing that children don’t have to attend dilapidated schools and providing more jobs.
It’s the solutions to those problems that would likely provoke disagreements. But Mr. Obama, who knows first-hand about the difficulty of people with different perspectives arriving at solutions, nevertheless said doing so is a moral imperative in a just society.
He held Sen. Pinckney up as a model for such conversations, describing him as quiet but resolute, with a steady belief that “better days are ahead.” And someone who was committed to biblical precepts of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and housing the homeless.
Before the president took the podium, a parade of speakers spoke lovingly of Clementa Pinckney’s childhood, his college years, his faith and his family. So it was fitting for the president of the United States to speak of tough subjects that were important to the Rev. Pinckney. He mentioned the large prison population in need of rehabilitation, and law enforcement that needs to earn people’s trust. He spoke about racial bias in hiring and laws that make it harder for people to vote.
He clearly hit home when he spoke about gun violence and the opportunity that the Emanuel AME Church shooting presents to make needed changes to curb it. Already, it has pushed people to consider rational controls on the purchase of guns. That conversation, and others, must not “slip into comfortable silence,” as Mr. Obama said.
Clementa Carlos Pinckney was a man worthy of admiration and respect. President Obama’s eulogy was both respectful and affectionate — and an inspiring challenge for this country to be the United States of America.