President Obama’s Amazing Grace Eulogy, and the Power of Love at Emanuel AME Church

#lovewins

Richard Davies

President Obama’s “Amazing Grace” eulogy (from ABC News coverage)
It’s been a long time since you could say it was a good week for President Obama.
And for good measure, this was also one for the history books.

In addition to two sweeping Supreme Court decisions on Obamacare and same-sex marriage, the President scored a crucial win in Congress, thanks mostly to well-organized support by Republicans. He gained full authority to negotiate a sweeping Asia free-trade agreement. After all the gloom and gridlock of late it was enough to make your head turn.

At the end of the week Obama flew to Charleston, South Carolina to deliver a moving, rousing and eloquent eulogy toRev. Clementa Pinckney, who wasmurdered nine days before at the historic church he led.

The President is very good at this: much better at giving speeches and presiding over somber public ceremonies than the daily grind of…

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President Obama’s Amazing Grace Eulogy, and the Power of Love at Emanuel AME Church

  President Obama’s “Amazing Grace” eulogy (from ABC News coverage)
It’s been a long time since you could say it was a good week for President Obama.
And for good measure, this was also one for the history books.

In addition to two sweeping Supreme Court decisions on Obamacare and same-sex marriage, the President scored a crucial win in Congress, thanks mostly to well-organized support by Republicans.  He gained full authority to negotiate a sweeping Asia free-trade agreement.  After all the gloom and gridlock of late it was enough to make your head turn.

At the end of the week Obama flew to Charleston, South Carolina to deliver a moving, rousing and eloquent eulogy to Rev. Clementa  Pinckney, who was murdered nine days before at the historic church he led.

The President is very good at this: much better at giving speeches and presiding over somber public ceremonies than the daily grind of governance.  But his even partisan critics cannot deny that Barack Obama’s heartfelt and at times profound remarks on race come from his own lived experience.

During his long address, Mr. Obama evoked the history of black America, through slavery, discrimination and violence. The crowd responded warmly with many “amens”, “yes sirs”, and standing ovations.  There were strains of the church organ and electric guitar.

To the surprise of the congregation and those watching on TV (the three legacy broadcast networks broke into their daytime programing), the President launched forth with a rousing chorus of “Amazing Grace.” His singing may be much better remembered than what he said!

But what moves me the most about what happened in Charleston and elsewhere in recent days has nothing to do with the President words or the  fuss over that blighted Confederate Flag.

It has been the stunning response of the good people of the Emanuel AME Church. After a young white man seized by racial hatred murdered their pastor and eight others in the church basement and devastated their community, they responded with words of love and even forgiveness.

Somewhat incredible you may think.  The increasingly noisy critics of organized Christian religion might stop to ponder that.

This church still stands strong and proud in the belief that love is more powerful than hate. Its open-doors policy to strangers and newcomers remains in place.  As one AME pastor in New Haven, Connecticut told a news reporter, he prefers God’s protection to security guards or surveillance cameras at his church.

One member of the congregation who stood in line for hours before the President’s eulogy said: “I want to be here to show love. You can feel the love, and see the love.”

And love was also front and center at The Supreme Court this week.  The hashtag #lovewins was tweeted more than five million times in the hours after the court’s decision was released.

Writing for the majority in same-sex marriage case, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that “no union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, devotion, sacrifice and family.”

Every year in late June the major decisions of the Supreme Court are a time for passionate debate about moral and ethical concerns raised in the U.S. Constitution.  This year the  practical importance of love is part of our national conversation. Amen to that.

Father’s Day Thoughts: Time to Celebrate and Say Thank-You to Our Kids 

  

When I was young I  had a hard time smiling for the camera.  Mug shots of me were awkward and uncomfortable.  

But that quickly changed when our daughter Kate was born 29 years ago.  It was as if a light bulb went on.  For some magical reason that I will never understand, now that I was a father it was much easier to smile at will. 

This was one of the countless gifts that my kids gave to me.

Fast forward to this year.  Now that Kate and her brother Harry have started their careers, I’ve had the chutzpah to re-launch mine.

After decades of a pretty rewarding job and a regular paycheck, I started an audio business, DaviesContent.  My kids are both working for themselves, and now I am to.

They’ve taught me about patience (something I don’t have much of), added to my rudimentary understanding of technology, and  helped me understand that if you’re going to have a chance of being successful at being your own boss, you have to be remarkably persistent.  That means seeing things through one project at a time, and one day at a time. 

Publicizing and launching our new weekly podcast show this month, How Do We Fix It? and finding an audience for it is a struggle.  The darned thing never goes away. I feel possessed!  But watching and learning from my kids has added to my confidence and determination that this will be a big success.

And I’m far from alone. Many other baby boomers are also launching grown-up startups.  They have the audacity to put themselves out there, re-discovering the passion that they had when they were young: doing something new, and perhaps making a difference.

Like me, many other fathers have watched their gutsy,determined adult children as they knock on doors and learn new tricks in a rapidly changing and uncertain job market.

We really can learn from them.

For me , Father’s Day is not just a celebration of Dads, it’s also a chance to reflect on what our children have brought to us.

Mocking Donald Trump: Fun For Some, But It’s Bad For America

  

Sure, it’s easy to make fun of Donald Trump.  The front-page of the New York Daily News portrayed him as a clown.

The mocking mainstream media had a field day after Trump announced that he was running for President. The speech was “like it was plagiarized from an old drunk man mumbling to himself in a bar,” wrote Chicago Tribune columnist, Red Huppke.

Others called Trump egotistical, bombastic, a bloviating buffoon. 

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart sounded positively gleeful about the Trump event saying “it was over a half-hour of the most beautifully ridiculous jibber-jabber ever to pour forth from the mouth of a billionaire.”

How hilarious.  It’s easy to sit back and have a good laugh at those we despise.

But there’s a dark side to the thrill of political hating.  It contributes to a nasty climate of cynicism, distrust and even despair.

“We citizens need to look inward a little,” says Arthur C. Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute. 

“Whether or not we want to admit it, political hate is a demand-driven phenomenon.  We are the ones creating a big market for it.”

This week Donald Trump is the most searched Presidential candidate on Google.

Do your own calculation.  For every newspaper article, radio or TV story about a new idea or a constructive way to think about a political problem, there must be a hundred examples of ridicule, sensation or mockery.

What the heck are we doing to our public square?

I agree with Arthur Brooks.  You can fight back.  Whatever your own view of the world, “avoid indulging in snarky, contemptuous dismissals of Americans on the other side.”

Lessons I learned from “How Do We Fix It?” Podcast #1

  Developmental Psychologist Abigail Baird… Our first guest on our new podcast.


This is launch day, and there’s excitement in our house.  

I’m writing this on the morning of June 10th, two months to the day since I moved on from full-time employment as Business Correspondent and news anchor at ABC News Radio to work on my digital audio startup.

Our new weekly half-hour podcast, How Do We Fit It?, is now searchable on iTunes and other podcast sites.  There are four episodes so far with new ones being added each week.  Please subscribe! 

With a great deal of help from our fab producer, Miranda Shafer, we built a website that has lots of info on us and what we are up to.  We’re also posting photos on Instagram and thoughts on Twitter and Facebook.

My buddy, former Popular Mechanics Editor-in-Chief,  Jim Meigs, and I are both practical guys, impatient for solutions.  We’ve spent decades reporting the news, and want to move past tired old left vs. right rhetoric of yesterday to something new.

Instead of despair, our podcasts are about hope.  Each show is a lively conversation, built around a smart guest, who is known for fresh thinking and innovative ideas.

The expert we reached out to for our first show is Abigial Baird.  As Developmental Psychologist at Vassar College, Abi studies the teenage brain.  She’s a thinker and a doer – the proud mother of two young twins.

As dads and journalists, Jim and I know what a challenge technology presents for parents and kids.   Computers, video games and mobile devices are a huge temptation. But are they an obstacle or a great opportunity as children learn about the world? 

Here on our first show, Abi shares her humor, enthusiasm and wisdom as a caring parent and a whip-smart neuroscientist.  We learned a lot listening to her.  We think you will too!

Please download and subscribe to our podcasts.  If you like what you hear, share us on social media.  We’d very much like to read your suggestions for new shows.

We are public radio without the N P R.  Thanks for being part of our brand-new community.