“This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace,” said President Obama today, just before he broke into song at the funeral for South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a pastor killed along with eight others in last week’s Charleston, S.C., church shooting. The song Obama sang, of course, was “Amazing Grace.”
Obama isn’t the first president to speak about the concept of grace. One of my favorite quotes about grace is by John F. Kennedy, who said, “I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty.” But this was an exceptional moment, when a president spoke at length about something so tender, so ephemeral and so difficult to describe that we don’t ever talk much about it. Obama chose this occasion for a surprisingly profound exploration of what grace means here, today, and for all of us.