President Obama to Bring the Nation Together Again in Eulogy for Pastor and State Senator

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Much has been made about the presidency being what Teddy Roosevelt called a “bully pulpit” — bully at the time meaning first rate.

On Friday, President Obama will use his presidency as a pulpit in a more conventional and solemn sense, delivering a eulogy for at least the 15th time while in office, this time for South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in a mass shooting at his Charleston church on June 17.

Yet unlike a conventional pastor, Obama has used these different occasions — including memorial services for Nelson Mandela, Upper Big Branch coal miners, Sandy Hook Elementary School students and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy — to preach the American gospel, the secular catechism of beliefs that he thinks tie the nation together.

As he said after the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013, these virtues and principles make up “our common creed.”

And yet, after each one of the mass attacks that have marred his presidency, it becomes harder and harder for Obama to invoke the grand optimism that progress is being made or, to cite the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

Instead, the president has gone from just marking the country’s strengths to also highlighting its failure, and his own failure, to do something to control gun violence.

He celebrated Americans’ public spiritedness and rights to peaceful assembly after the Tucson mall shooting that wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), saying in January 2011 that the people killed and wounded had been engaged in a “quintessentially American scene” and showed “that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle.” But after the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn. — the fourth time he comforted a grieving community “torn apart by a mass shooting” — Obama said that “these tragedies must end” and “we’re not doing enough.”

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Source: Washington Post | Steven Mufson

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