By Tanya Basu
July 7, 2015

When President Obama first broached the topic of singing “Amazing Grace” as the finale to his eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney he’d already had his mind pretty much made up: He was going to do it.

“When I get to the second part of referring to ‘Amazing Grace,’ I think I might sing,” he told his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, adviser Valerie Jarrett, and two others before the funeral for the South Carolina state senator and pastor murdered along with eight others at a Charleston church last month.

Their responses were not encouraging. Jarrett’s answer was a non-committal “Hmm,” while Mrs. Obama was straightforward: “Why on earth would that fit in?”

Jarrett, recalling the moment at the Aspen Ideas Festival last week, said she and the First Lady ultimately “encouraged him to do whatever the spirit moved him to do.”

Read the entire story at the New York Times

Write to Tanya Basu at tanya.basu@time.com.

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