What Led Obama to Sing 'Amazing Grace'

Michelle, Valerie Jarrett were a bit skeptical at first
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2015 11:00 AM CDT

President Obama's rendition of "Amazing Grace" at the end of his eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney has been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube. Had he listened to the gut reaction of those around him, it might not have happened at all. The New York Times and ABC News have the background on his decision to break out in song: Obama first shared his plan—to sing once he got "to the second part of referring to 'Amazing Grace'"—with Michelle Obama and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett while en route to Andrews Air Force Base to board his flight to South Carolina. "I think if I sing, the church will sing with me," he said, per Jarrett, who told the story during a Q&A at the Aspen Ideas Festival last week.

How Jarrett says she responded: "Hmm." How Michelle put it: "Why on earth would that fit in?" Jarrett says he told them he wasn't convinced he'd go that route, but wanted to offer a warning. "We'll see how it feels at the time," she says he said. She says she and Michelle were ultimately encouraging, and as for the long pause before he began, she says that was a moment of debate ... but not about whether to go ahead. "I knew I was going to sing," he told her. "I was just trying to figure out which key to sing it." (More President Obama stories.)

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