President Barack Obama: Delivers Eulogy Providing Comfort to Families and Nation Grieving the Loss of Nine Persons to Murder in Charleston, South Carolina

Know Their Names, By Sarah Green, sarahgreenillustration (
Know Their Names, by Sarah Green, sarahgreenillustration (

On June 17, 2015, nine Black people were killed during a Bible study meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (Emanuel AME) by a visitor (Dylann Roof, now in jail awaiting criminal charges). One of the nine, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was a pastor of Emanuel AME and was a South Carolina state senator.

[The remaining eight are–Ms. Cynthia Hurd; Ms. Susie Jackson; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor; Mr. Tywanza Sanders; Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr.; Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Ms. Myra Thompson.]

President Barack Obama, on June 26, 2015, delivered a eulogy for Rev. Pinckney as well as the other victims. Eulogies are tricky speeches–the words must

  • provide comfort to the grieving surving family members of the deceased,
  • wish the deceased well in their new life in eternity, and
  • honor the life of the deceased, in the case of a religious person, like those who worshiped at Emanuel AME, both their religious and secular lives.

The President was able to craft a wonderful speech that was comforting, respectful, and was encouraging of positive change as the response to tragedy. The YouTube video of the speech is presented below.

In closing, I use quotes from the President’s eulogy because it provides advice for the way forward in addressing structural discrimination.

None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight.  Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race.  We talk a lot about race.  There’s no shortcut.  And we don’t need more talk.

It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.

[Author’s Note: Persons, like Dylann Roof in a murder case discussed in this post, accused of a crime in the United States are presumed innocent until proven guilty.]