Both President Obama and Eric Holder shed tears during an event Friday for the retiring Attorney General which was capped by Aretha Franklin singing “America the Beautiful.”
Obama was seen wiping away a stray tear as he was thanking Holder, who also cried a bit at the conclusion of Obama’s remarks. Both grew emotional during Franklin’s rousing six-minute serenade.
The event began with the unveiling of an official portrait of Holder, who is set to leave office next month pending Senate approval of Loretta Lynch, Obama’s nomination to replace him.
During his introductory remarks, Obama thanked Holder, who has been described as his “lightning rod” because of his tendency to take on controversial positions that Obama can not take head-on.
“You know, having good men in positions of power and authority, willing to fight for what’s right, that’s a rare thing, said Obama.
“That’s a powerful thing. It’s something that shapes future in ways we don’t even understand. We don’t always imagine,” he concluded, wiping away a tear.
Obama introduced Holder, and the two embraced.
In his speech, Holder shied away from controversial topics — he saved that for an explosive interview with Politico which was published earlier Friday — and instead praised his Department of Justice colleagues while highlighting areas for improvement.
“The beauty of this department is that, at its best, it is, like our country, at its best, always growing, always changing, always being vigilant in the defense of those values that have distinguished this nation and made it truly exceptional,” Holder said in his prepared remarks.
“Great as it is, our nation is not yet perfect. The fact that we can acknowledge this is what truly distinguishes us as a people,” he added.
Holder drew the strongest applause from the audience when he was listing what areas he’d like to see improved in the future, asserting that, “at all costs, the right to vote must be protected.”
Holder also provided a long list of his heroes, including the Founding Fathers, “Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Garvey, Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Sanger, Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey, John Lewis and Dr. King, JFK and LBJ, Vivian Malone, Harvey Milk.”
He paused, adding “Barack Obama.”
After Holder’s speech, Franklin, the singer of the Sixties classics, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” and “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman,” was introduced.
As Franklin attempted to step up to the podium, Obama rushed to her aid carrying a stool.
“Hold on Queen,” he said, referencing Franklin’s title as the “Queen of Soul.”
During Franklin’s soulful version of “America the Beautiful,” both Obama and Holder teared up.