President Barack Obama has delivered a soulful eulogy for a reverend who was killed with eight others last week in Charleston, South Carolina.
Clementa Pinckney, pastor at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and also a state senator, was shot dead along with eight of his congregants in on June 17, an apparently racially motivated attack that shocked the nation.
"What a good man," Obama said, praising Pinckney, who he new personally. "Sometimes I think that's the best thing to hope for when you're eulogized," Obama said of Pinckney. "What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his 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," Obama added. "A 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."
The Emanuel church, the oldest in the southern U.S., has a long history of political activism. It was burned down in the early 19th century by white supremacists, and was rebuilt only to be leveled by an earthquake in 1886, and rebuilt again.
It served as a rallying point during the civil rights movement of the 1960s like many other black churches at the time.
Obama said that the church is a "sacred place" for all, "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 stone for liberty and justice for all. That's what the church meant."
Dylann Roof, 21, a white man, has been charged with last week's shootings.
The killings have allowed America to respond "with the thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life," despite the alleged killer's intentions, Obama said.
Obama addressed the ongoing controversy surrounding the Confederate battle flag's continued flying on the grounds of South Carolina's Capitol.
"For too long we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens," Obama said. "For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now."
"Removing the flag from this state's Capitol would not be an act of political correctness. It would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong," he added.
The American president rounded out his speech for Pinckney by leading the audience in singing Amazing Grace.
Following the eulogy, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama held individual meetings with the immediate families of the victims and the survivors, according to the White House. Vice President Joe Biden and wife Dr. Jill Biden were also present.