Thoughts on the funeral, and the president’s remarks?


I’m watching and listening, as you probably are, too. Here’s a place where you can do that.

Here’s another

I’ll get back to you when the president is done speaking…

In the meantime, I’ll just note things he says as we go along…

He just said: “This whole week I’ve been reflecting on the idea of grace.” So have we all, Mr. President…

“For too long we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag caused…” Amen.

He just called Governor Haley “worthy of praise.” Amen again.

Taking down the flag not a dishonor to soldiers who fought and died, but “… an acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, is wrong…” Triple Amen.

“By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace…” Yes.

“For too long (for too long, comes the response)…”

“It would be a betrayal of everything Clementa Pinckney stood for… to go back to business as usual…”

“History… should be a manual on how to avoid the mistakes of the past…” AMEN! Too many in South Carolina see it as an altar before which to bow down.

“If we can tap that grace, everything can change…” And I think we’ve been seeing that in recent days.

I’ve never heard him sing before!

“May God continue to shed his grace on the UNITED States of America.” Absolutely.

Let the church say, AMEN.

31 thoughts on “Thoughts on the funeral, and the president’s remarks?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Y’all, I would normally go back and write through a piece reflecting overall on the president’s speech, but… I need to get some work done on my day job.

    But feel free to go on without me, until I can return…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    I just got home, and they were re-running the funeral on ETV (earlier today, for some reason, it was carried live on the local commercial stations, but not on ETV), and I heard a speaker say:

    “He wanted to start a race war, but he came to the wrong place.”

    A BIG Amen to that…

      1. Brad Warthen

        Yes. Here’s my problem. I went home for lunch at about that time. I was listening to it on the radio. I get home, turn on the tube, and there’s Sesame Street or something. Fortunately, all the commercial channels had it.

        And here’s my point: I don’t have all those extra channels, like 1250 or wherever ETV was showing it. I’m not going to pay another $75 a month or whatever it is to get hundreds of channels I’ll never watch. I have cable mainly for the Internet service so I can get the much-cheaper (and to my tastes, better) Netflix and HBO NOW.

        And I’m thinking here of the many poor South Carolinians who are even less able to afford cable than I am, and would have liked to watch it on TV. Fortunately, they COULD, on commercial broadcast stations. But I think our PUBLIC station should make an event such as this available on its most basic, widely available, FREE platform.

        See what I’m saying?

        1. Andrew

          The funeral WAS on ETV yesterday, ETV 3, which everyone can get over the air. It’s the same channel that has the live legislature broadcasts.

        2. Louis Cook

          NC ETV carried it and many in the Pee Dee could see it that way. Sad that other programming was more important to SC ETV. It should have been on the main over-the-air channel.

  3. Dave Crockett

    One of the President’s better speeches, all things considered. No teleprompter. Just notes. Sounded pretty much from the heart. The Confederate flag comments will give him some grief, no doubt. Slipped into a southern accent occasionally. He said that he’d met Pinckney but never really knew him. Called him ‘Clem’ and ‘ClementAH’ several times. No one else who seemed to really know Pinckney did that. I think his singing voice is far better than mine, but he’d better keep his day job.

    I’ll be interested to hear the Fox spin. Then Jon Stewart’s…

  4. David Carlton

    I was honestly thrilled at the eulogy. I even found myself making comparisons to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address; while it scarcely reached that height (I consider the Second Inaugural the greatest American speech ever given), I could think of no other comparable effort by an American president to use theological reflection to examine who we are as a people and who we need to become. If Lincoln used the mysterious workings of Providence to come to terms both with the horrific death and destruction of the Civil War and its “astounding” result, so too did Obama evoke the power of unearned Grace to bring a historically divided people together and transcend their divisions. The theology stirred my southern Presbyterian soul, but I was especially struck by his use of history. My favorite line was one he quoted from Clementa Pinckney: “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history — we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.” I remember as a graduate student being relentlessly schooled by my mentor (the great C. Vann Woodward) not to say “southerner” when I meant “white southerner”; even a putative liberal like myself had difficulty speaking of white and black southerners as members of a common community, separated but intertwined. What the events of the past week have shown, I think, is that we *can* reclaim our *common* heritage; that “southern pride” need not be segregated. Our common history is dark, but it can sing surprising grace.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I don’t know about Lincoln’s Second Inaugural — I don’t think anything else in our history rises to those sublime heights — but POTUS definitely rose to the occasion, and was inspiring.

      You really prick my conscience when you speak of meaning “white southerner” when you say “southerner.” That’s an association I’ve never really been able to shake. Someone says “Southerner,” and the first picture in my mind is a white guy. I try to rationalize it by saying black folks are innocent of the original sin of being Southern (they were in fact the victims of that element of Southernness, not the perpetrators), that if you don’t have in your makeup that irascible devil that would secede from the Union rather than submit to anyone’s moral authority, you’re not a Southerner. But I know it’s inaccurate. Obviously, anyone from here is Southern.

    2. Mark Stewart

      I’m from the West. The Pioneer spirit (and the subsidiary trapper / cowboy / settler strains) permeates the western states. It’s sort of a one trick pony – pardon the pun.

      The South, on the other hand, is a mash up of so many wildly conflicting assimilations. I know Southerners’ inately recognize the rich complexity of their heritage; but I think you are correct in quoting Pinckney, people don’t consciously appreciate the interwoven threads of other peoples’ histories.

      There is so much to celebrate in this rich (cultural) tapestry. I get that it is a lot to reflect upon and to reconcile within one’s heart and soul. What seems to get the South in trouble, of various sorts, is the tendency to over-simplify and consciously attempt to unwind these interwoven threads into separate spools. From this outsiders perspective, that just seems neither wise nor possible. Once the single threads have been added to the fabric, these cannot be spun back out. I don’t think there is a white southern culture; certainly not one distinct from a black southern culture. Each is interwoven with the other. Of course there are distinctions, but these are just our arbitrary attempts to overlay imaginary lines. These lines are the what is not real. Differences are not distinctions.

  5. Burl Burlingame

    I’m always nonplussed when conservative leaders make vicious fun of the president’s public-speaking skills.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I agree. He’s the best speaker we’ve had in the White House since Kennedy, although Clinton was pretty good at times — and yes, I know vast numbers of my friends out there think Reagan was a master, but I always found his style contrived and, I don’t know, smarmy.

      And neither Obama nor JFK rise quite to the level of FDR. But then, he had such BIG things to speak about, which tends to lend grandeur.

      I was very impressed the first time I heard Obama speak. And no, it wasn’t the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention. Somehow, I missed that, and didn’t even hear a recording of it later (remember, this was before YouTube). I heard ABOUT it, and knew his name, but that was it.

      It was one morning on NPR, a year or two later. For whatever reason, they shared several minutes of an Obama speech, in New Hampshire or somewhere (already looking toward 2008). I missed the beginning, so I didn’t know who I was listening to. I was REALLY impressed — by his voice, his cadence, and by his topic, which really spoke to me (probably something on the lines of us all being Americans, not Democrats or Republicans). I LIKE this guy, I thought. And what a speaker!

      It wasn’t until he was done that I learned who he was, and thought, well all those people who say he’s a good speaker were right…

      I also — going back to the white-oriented assumptions we make — was surprised. I thought I was listening to a white guy. All I knew about Obama was that people called him black (I didn’t know about his distinctly non-black background). But his voice was so generic, so accentless, and when we can’t place a person regionally or ethnically, we white guys tend to picture a white guy.

  6. Bill

    Obama gave the speech/sermon of his life.The Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage will seal his place in history as one our greatest presidents…

  7. Brad Warthen Post author

    POTUS is just busting out singing all over:

    Wish I’d heard that.

    Was it OUR Dave Crockett who asked that? How many Davy Crocketts are there out there?

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        POTUS was a bit pitchy, as they say, but then I guess that’s the style…

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            That’s one of those “American Idol” type remarks. More formally, his intonation was shaky in places.

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              Not that I actually watch American Idol or its clones. I just read about them. I wouldn’t know 99% of the songs….

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      He reminds me of our former long-time pastor at St. Peter’s Msgr. Lehocky. He was such a serious, sober, dignified guy, but occasionally in the middle of a homily, he’d just sing a line of two of a song — and it was so unexpected if you didn’t know him well.

      Good voice, too…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Example: He was talking once about what a horrible, self-centered point of view the Sinatra song “My Way” represented, and in the middle of making his point, started singing it. I’m sure it yanked back a few people whose attention was wandering…

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