tv CNN Newsroom With Brooke Baldwin CNN June 26, 2015 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT
so full of life and so full of kindness people who ran the race who persevered people of great faith. to the families of the fallen the nation shares in your grief. our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. the church is and always has been the center of african-american life. a place to call our own in a too often hostile world. a sanctuary from so many hardships. over the course of centuries,
black churches served as hush harbors where slaves could worship in safety. praise houses where their free descendents could gather and shout hallelujah. rest stops for the weary along the underground railroad. bunkers for the foot soldiers of the civil rights movement. they have been and continue to be community centers where we organize for jobs and justice, places of scholarship and network, places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm's way. and told that they are beautiful and smart. and taught that they matter. that's what happens in church.
that's what the black church means. our beating heart, the place where our dignity as a people is embodied. and there's no better example of this tradition than mother emanuel, a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder fought to end slavery only to rise up again, a phoenix from these ashes. [ applause ] when there were laws banning all church gatherers, services happened here anyway in defiance of unjust laws. when there was a righteous
movement to dismantle jim crow dr. martin luther king preached from its pulpit and marches began from its steps. a sacred place, this church. not just for blacks not just for christians but for every american who cares about the steady expansion of human rights and human dignity in this country, a foundation for liberty and justice for all! that's what the church meant! [ applause ]
others knew all of this history but he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. it was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches. not random but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and depress. [ applause ] an act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination,
violence and suspicion, an act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation's original sin. oh but got works in mysterious ways. [ applause ] god has different ideas. he didn't know he was being used by god. blinded by hatred the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding reverend pinckney and that bible study group, the
light of love that shone that joined their prayer circle. the alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court in the midst of unspeakable grief with words of forgiveness. he couldn't imagine that. [ applause ] the alleged killer could not imagine how the city of charleston under the good and wise leadership of mayor riley how the state of south carolina how the united states of america would respond not merely with
rchl his act and more importantly with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life. blinded by hatred he failed to comprehend what reverend pinckney so well understood. the power of god's grace. [ applause ] this whole week i have been reflecting on this idea of grace. the grace of the families who lost loved ones the grace that reverend pinckney would preach about in his sermons, the grace
s not merited. it is not something we deserve: rather grace is the free and benevolent favor of god. as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the blessings. grace is a nation out of this terrible tragedy god has visited grace upon us. for he has allowed us to see where we've been blind. [ applause ] he has given us the chance where we've been lost to find our best
selves. we may not have earned it this grace, with our ranker and complacency and short sidedness and fear of each other, but we got it all the same. he gave it to us anyway. he's once more given us grace. but it is up to us now to make the most of it. to receive it with gratitude and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift. for too long, we were blind to the pain that the confederate flag stirred in too many of our cities. [ applause ] it's true a flag did not cause these murders. but as people from all walks of
life republicans and democrats now acknowledge, including governor haley whose recent eloquent of the subject is worthy of praise as we all have to acknowledge the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. [ applause ] for many black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression.
ghts for all people was wrong. it would be one step in an honest accounting of american history. a modest but meaningful bone for so many unhealed wounds. it would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better. because of the work of so many people of goodwill. people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. by taking down that flag we expressed god's grace. [ applause ]
i don't think god wants us to stop there. for too long we've been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. perhaps we see that now. perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty or attend delapitated schools, perhaps it causes us to examine what we're doing to cause some of our children to hate. [ applause ] perhaps it soften hearts towards
those lost young men. tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system and lead us to make sure that system is not affected by bias that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so the trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure. maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don't realize it. so that we're guarding against not just racial slurs but we're also guarding against the subtle impulse to call johnny back for a job interview but not jamal. [ applause ]
er for some of our fellow citizens to vote. by recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born and to do what is necessary to make opportunity real for every american. by doing that we express god's grace. [ applause ]
for too long -- for too long we've been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation. sporadically our eyes are open. when eight of our brothers and sisters are gunned down in a church basement 12 in a movie theater, 26 in elementary school but i hope we also see that 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day. the countless more whose lives are forever changed, the
survivors crippled the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school the husband who will never feel his wife's warm touch. the entire communities whose grieve overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place. the vast majority of americans, the majority of gun owners want to do something about this. we see that now. and i'm convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country, by making the moral choice to change we express
god's grace. [ applause ] we don't earn grace. we're all sinners. we don't deserve it. but god gives it to us anyway. and we choose how to receive it. it's our decision how to honor it. 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. we don't need more talk.
[ applause ] none of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy. it will not. people of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies as our democracy requires. it's a big raucous place america is and there are good people on both sides of these debates. whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete. but it would be a betrayal of everything reverend pinckney stood for, i believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.
[ applause ] once the eulogies have been delivered, once the tv cameras move on to go back to business as usual, that's what we so often do. to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that so affects our society. to settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change that's how we lose our way again. it would be of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits whereby those who disagreed 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. reverend pinckney once said across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. we haven't always had a deep appreciation of each other's history. what is true in the south is true for america. clem understood that justice grows out of recognition. of ourselves in each other. that my liberty depends on you being free too. that history can't be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield
against progress but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. how to break the cycle. a roadway toward a better world. he knew that the path of grace involves an open mind. but, more importantly, an open heart. that's what i felt this week. an open heart. that more than any particular policy or analysis is what is called upon right now, i think. what a friend of mine the writer marilyn robertson calls that reservoir of goodness beyond and of another kind that
cynthia hurd found that grace. susie jackson found that grace. ethel lance found that grace. depayne middleton-doctor found that grace. tywanza sanders found that grace. daniel simmons found that pace. sharonda single ton found that grace. myra thompson found that grace. through the example of their lives, they have now passed it on to us. may we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift. as long as our lives endure may grace now lead them home. may god continue to shed his grace on the united states of america.
a powerful message. >> let the church say amen. >> amen. >> let us bow our heads in prayer. when i come to the end of my journey, weary of life and the battle is won carrying the cross of redemption he'll understand and he'll say well done. by the grace and glory, our creator, our ruler and our redeemer bless and comfort us as we prepare to leave this place. we've mourned the untimely and tragic death of the reverend clementa pinckney but we've celebrated his life full of service and work and rerejoice because he was and is your child, he resides in your eternal presence where there is
no gun violence no racial prejudice, no pain and no danger. rejoice that he now lives eternally in a land where every day is a day of unspeakable joy. let us remember him as we never know life's unpredictable pathways but if we trust in you, we will never walk alone. bless his wife jennifer and his daughters and his father and extended family and the families of the eight other souls. as they grapple with their grief, be their comfort and refuge and strength and help them to remember that even when the visitors become less frequent you are still always just a prayer away. bless those of us in the ame church and in the broader family of faith. keep our spiritual arms around this family so we can be
reassurance and bless us to live out our faith as clementa pinckney did so we can change things for the better. lord bless our community, state and world. we've come together in a mighty way to deal with a horrific tragedy. now, lord keep us together so that we can continue to stand and work together and find common ground for equality and prosperity and justice and progress not on our terms but on your terms. bless and be with us dear lord. lead guide and protect us so we can remember clementa pinckney by serving you as he did. so when this life is over for each of us our legacy will say as it does for me and him that epitomizes his legacy if i can help somebody then my living will not be in vain. amen. >> amen.
>> thank you so much. may you please be seated. >> i want to welcome our viewers in the united states and all around the world as we have been watching the celebration of the life of reverend clementa pinckney there in charleston south carolina. it is a capacity crowd. 5400 people there. and you just witnessed one of the most powerful moments in president obama's time in office. that speech as the city mourns nine lives lost nine days ago. my colleague don lemon is there in charleston along with van jones who once worked with the president there at the white house. don, it's tough to even follow the speech but the word i take away is grace. >> you know brooke this is quite possibly one of the most powerful and extraordinary moments that i have witnessed on
television especially a speech coming from the president. i never really -- i'm at a loss for words and i'm almost at a loss for words right now. i mean van and i couldn't even look at each other. >> yeah. because this is what happens in the black church every sunday morning. >> but not only that this is what many people around the country wanted to hear from this president for a long long time. >> a very long time. >> it's time to step into your legacy. >> it really is. this is a different president. this year i think, has transformed him. i think a year ago, ferguson baltimore, now charleston i think you're seeing the 3.0 version. when he first came on the scene he was trying to talk about race and he's trying to -- >> he kept getting hit by people. >> he became the racial pinata.
the black saying he wasn't doing enough the white saying he was doing too much. in this speech he gave it over to the -- >> he said in the podcast, i'm fearless. once you're fearless and once you really don't give a damn no one can stop you. and i think that the president is in that mode now. he knows that this is his legacy. he knows, if anyone not just in this country but anyone in the world can make a change to race relations and -- he said that. he said we have to stop. we have to start listening to each other. >> i thought it was -- he had to make a choice today. was he going to talk about the political issues? >> and he did. >> he talked about the flag. is he going to talk about guns racism or was he going to talk about the deceased his friend who died? and he decided to do both. >> he brought in religion. >> yes. >> right? he began to talk about that. and he talked about the church.
>> yes. >> what the ame church meant. he kept saying "our." as christians. >> what i think is most important is that when he stands up and he begins to sing "amazing grace," i have never heard a president do that. certainly not in the way that he did it. when -- because he hit so many of the deep cores within the african-american community, the organist started coming into the speech. i've never heard an organist come into a presidential speech. >> we jumped out of our seats. he's in full preacher mode right now. >> minister in chief. >> right. >> at the moment when ministry is needed. but he didn't take the safe way out. >> can i ask you a very personal question? >> yes. >> how did it feel to watch him as a black man? >> i was proud and i was terrified. i was afraid that he was going too far. >> i'm so glad you said that. i'm so glad you said that. >> he might have had people
misunderstand him and i'm thinking to myself i understand what he's doing. i'm stirred up. i understand these references. i understand the chords but i'm thinking is somebody going to say that he's playing the race card at a funeral? i have so much trauma in trying to protect the first black president but he's free. >> he's free. >> i think all nine of the people who died and that's what it should be about, would be proud of this speech. that's the most important thing i can say. they would be proud. if you look at the things that they lived for and died for, this is a political assassination. a political leader was killed. and so many of us don, were afraid that obama would be assassinated. that obama would be in a casket. >> right. >> so when you have the first black president standing up over that body and he decides to actually tell his own truth, that is a powerful moment in our community.
i was terrified every word he spoke. >> as someone who is emancipated and who was freed watching that speech as a black man, go on say is it. if you don't say it nobody is going to say it. go on. say it. if you don't say it nobody is going to say it. be damned what everybody thinks. he is speaking his truth. he is the president of the united states but he's also the first black president of the united states and he comes from a certain place and that place is okay because he said during the speech he said we have always been respectful of history. we've been enamored by history but not each other's history. and he said you can be proud of that flag but you should not be proud of slavery, of owning slaves. >> the challenge the president now has is he went from being a bridge builder, he became a
pinata. >> dr. king. >> same thing. now he's standing up and trying to be an authentic and fearless leader. >> i don't think he's trying. i just think he's doing it. >> now the country has a choice. do we welcome this level of candor do we welcome this level of authenticity and meet it with more authenticity or go back to the name game? >> no. >> he took real chances today. i hope the country can receive it. >> there's no going back. i think the genie is out of the bottle. people can say what they want you don't have to agree with president obama, you don't have to disagree with president obama, but what you must agree with even if you don't agree with him, he said come in everybody listen stop calling each other names and start listening. we've had lots of conversations -- i say it all the time we have a lot of conversations about race but do we ever really do anything about it? >> the part that i was inspired
by and encouraged by also was his faith has been questioned. >> yes. >> this was the most christian speech i've heard from the president. >> yeah. >> some people may be uncomfortable with that but i have to say this a lot of people on the left are uncomfortable with religiocity and yet they celebrate those that can forgive. they have to recognize and respect that it is their religion that is letting these people be as forgiving as they are and people on the right have to respect the fact that the president is speaking authentically about his own experience he's speaking for a lot of people and truth can set you free. >> as he said, uncomfortable truth. >> and the truth will set you free. and he said, god works in mysterious ways and donna brazile is joining us on the phone. what did you think of it donna? >> first of all, i wanted to say thank you to you and van but i think president obama paid homage to reverend pinckney and
his flock and it's been a very painful week in many ways for the president but i believe that he received his inspiration from those families who not only show their what i call forgiveness, they welcome an evil man into their home of worship and then they forgive him for this act. it's not only about forgiveness but, also he talked about the threats and what we are still dealing with and fighting with. he gave a lot of thought, you can tell and let me just say this. he wrote this. this came from president barack obama.
>> yeah. that's him. >> donna, we were saying that. we were saying that earlier. we were saying who wrote this? >> no. he wrote it. this was -- this was barack obama, president barack obama. grace. that was the theme. grace. and van, i was shocked. he started to sing "amazing grace." i have been in enough black churches all of my life to know that only the best of the best can get up and sing from the pulpit and when they come behind you, never in my life would i ever think a president, let alone this president would do that and it came from the heart. that was barack obama. >> donna -- >> yes. >> -- van and i have been asking about this where do we go from here. i am of the belief that we cannot go back. we must not go back. us in the media, we can't allow
it to go back. we must be honest with each other, we must be genuine, we must have open dialogue with each other. we can't go back. and the president cannot be worried about how people are going to react to him speaking candidly about race in this country. >> well you know don, it's all about calm. when you are in that position as he is and he's been in this position for almost 6 1/2 years, this is who he is. he is a man of peace he's pragmatic and i think going forward he has spoken his truth. but this is his moment of grace as well as a moment for the entire country to understand and believe that we can find a way forward. healing is possible. i mean we can do this. we're americans. but i do believe the president today, what he showed in his humility and his grace that he
received, i am sure i think he's showing us how we can conduct ourselves. i'm proud of him. i've always been proud of him and so many others in our world and in our presidents but today was a moment when i think he touched all of our souls in ways that i hope we never forget. >> he's changed the envelope of what a president can do. this is a different leadership act than we've seen. we have -- from bill clinton all the way down we've seen leader after leader stand up in the wake of tragedy. he's changed the envelope by becoming the minister in chief and speaking in an authentic way. this is a different kind of obama. i hope it's received in the spirit in which it is offered because we need a different modality to get through this moment. >> donna, this is a moment that we have been fortunate enough because of unfortunate circumstances to witness here in the united states a president of the united states -- this is a moment -- this is american
history. this is history that we have witnessed now. as van said let's hope it's received in the right tone in which it was given, in love and open-mindedness and open heart. brooke baldwin, as i toss back to you in new york city this has been unbelievable to witness and i'm so glad that america, the world, really got to witness what this president had to say today. >> i think van is still processing it i think a lot of people -- a lot of people are still processing the president's words, don. you know to your point a moment ago, the question was, would the president really speak about the deceased reverend pinckney or take all of these issues that the country has been chewing on and wrestling with for years and tackle them head on from the pulpit and he did precisely that. i want to bring in our chief washington correspondent jake tapper who covered the president for a number of years. jake first, i want to play -- when the president spoke, one of
the issues that he mentioned was the issue that's been front and center since the shooting death of the nine in charleston the issue about the confederate flag flying over south carolina. here is how the president handled that. >> for too long we were blind to the pain that the confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. [ applause ] it's true a flag did not cause these murders. but as people from all walks of life republicans and democrats now acknowledge, including governor haley whose recent eloquence of the subject is worthy of praise -- [ applause ] -- as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just
ancesteral pride. [ applause ] >> >> and there's the organ. jake tapper the confederate flag police bias he hit every single major issue. you covered him for years. have you ever seen anything like this before from this man? >> yeah. i mean this is president obama speaking in a community that he is intensely comfortable in speaking at a black church. and you would often, in 2007 and 2008 when he was running for president, he would speak movingly at events like this in black churches. he's also given very moving speeches and remarks to black
churches talking about problems in you are began america that urban america needs to solve as well. certainly there is something of the second term obama going on here when you see president obama start to sing "amazing grace." i mean that was the moment that really struck me. >> the moment. that was the goose bumps moment. >> you don't see a lot of politicians singing in public like that. and that certainly was a strong moment and spoke to what he was feeling as well as the comfort that he had in the room. it was an interesting speech in a lot of ways. his infusing political issues with religion was something that you don't normally hear. talking about by taking down that flag we expressed god's grace was something you don't normally hear especially from democratic politicians who tend not to mix religion and the
politics. he also talked about gun restrictions further restrictions on gun ownership saying it would be a betrayal if we go back to business as usual on that subject as well. so in that you do see his -- both his policy views and also his comfort and also his religious roots, the idea of him speaking in churches especially in chicago when he was a community organizer all coming together. so it really did remind me of the obama that would you occasionally hear on the campaign trail when he spoke at black churches. >> jake stand by. let me bring don lemon back in. you had the same question that i had and donna brazile answered it. the president has been marinating on this sense of grace. who wrote this? and she kept saying this was all him. >> we have this conversation as
he was preaching, van and i were having the same conversation. i looked at van because we were saying he got the call about the marriage ruling from valerie jarrett as he was writing the speech and i said who wrote this? and van said this was all him. i lovecolleague, jake tapper. this is different from when he was a community organ i see or or state senator, when he's spoken about it before. this was different. the way he did it in the past there was a hinds ran. he would -- >> stutter? [ laughter ] >> he would hedge. he wouldn't go as far as people might have wanted him to go because he's still a politician. he still had to possibly be elected, still had to get bills passed. he does not care anymore, america. >> fearless. >> this speech did not show you that today, then i don't know what will. he was speaking to a certain
group of people and he spoke to the country, in a black church which is the same conversations that happen in black churches all over the country on sunday mornings. where they welcome people in where they teach people that their lives matter that they're smart, they're just not a statistic, they're not just someone who lives in a bad neighborhood or may be gunned down. the black church on sunday teaches you, in spite of all of that in spite of the hideous flag that -- nobody cares about that flag. that flag can inspire you, it should come down but on sunday mornings, they tell you in spite of those things you too can make it you too are wrong, and he was speaking specifically. this was not a dog whistle. this was a yell and he was preaches to the country. all right to you too, amen. >> i think this is different than before. i don't think we can go back. >> jake i want you to weigh in.
>> well i mean -- i'm just going by reporting, i covered him on the campaign trail for to years, and the white house for four. don did have his take as he wants. >> go ahead, jake. >> one thing having to do with actually who wrote the speech. i'm to the that the director the speechwriting wrote the people but president obama obviously, as van and don noted, obviously put a lot of work into it as well but those are the two individuals responsible. >> jake if you have somebody who is writing the speech can you just describe the process? does somebody initially write the speech? and how much time -- how much would you president morph and mold it to make it his own? >> a great deal. i mean what typically happens is there's a conversation about what the speech will be the speechwriter in this case cody keenan the director of speechwritten, does the first draft. president obama weighs in. this sounds like one of those
speeches he weighed in quite a bit, usually in longhand. you can certainly hear his voice and thoughts expressed throughout the entire peach. >> jake tapper i know you have to get ready for your show. we'll see you in five minutes. don quickly, and then we'll bump out to break. >> what i wanted to say is i agree with jake on that. he's said the words before but the intent and meaning and feeling be hind it he put his whole self into this. that's all i'm saying. you can say the same words, but it can be different, depending on your motivation. that's all i'm saying. >> don, thank you. van jones, thank you. this was the moment this was the president standing up there singing "amazing grace." ♪ amazing grace ♪ ♪ how sweet the sound ♪
suzie jackson found that grace. ethyl lance found that grace. depayne middle-doctor found that great tywanza found that gray daniel found that grace. sharonda found that grace. myra thompson found that grace. through the example of their lives, they have now passed it on to us. may we find ourselves worthy of that appreciate and extraordinary gift. as long as our lives endure may grace now lead them home. may god continue to shed his grace on the united states of america.
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welcome to "the lead." we're going to begin with breaking news. president obama delivering a very moving eulogy for belove reverend clementa pinkney and the surprise stunning moment the president of the united states leading the congregation in "amazing grace." ♪ amazing grace ♪ ♪ how sweet the sound