amazing obama

It may seem odd, decades after the civil-rights movement, to note that for a sitting President to say that the Confederacy fought for the institution of slavery—and that doing so was a moral wrong—is a radical statement. Yet it is, and shortly after making it the President fell silent. It appeared that perhaps he had lost his way, but then, in a remarkable moment, he began to sing “Amazing Grace,” a hymn that is at once a lament, a prayer, and a hope—written by John Newton, a onetime slave trader who became an abolitionist. Immediately after the speech, people began debating whether the song had been part of the prepared text or whether the President sang it out of an impromptu spiritual imperative. In either case, he was likely hoping to see in the national culture precisely the transformation that Newton had experienced in himself, one that facilitated his first truthful accounting of the evil of slavery. 



  1. James Fallows: “His singing was the aspect of the speech that will be easiest to remember. That is in part because it was so unusual and in part because it was so brave: Obama sang well, but not perfectly. For someone so precise and aspiring-to-perfection in most other realms of achievement, and so obviously hyper-aware of his levels of skill (he told Marc Maron in his remarkable WTF interview that he didn’t like playing basketball any more, now that he recognized that age had made him the weakest player on the court), singing like another enthusiastic parishioner, and not like a featured member of the choir, was brave and said something about his comfort with this crowd.”

  2. I find Fallows’ comment as having racist overtones, as if President Obama is at home with his fellow darkies but not being in the presidential arena dominated by us honkies. I’d wager that most of humankind – of any color – is beyond comfortable with Obama’s song, and message.

    Those that aren’t are the problem, not the solution.