By Paolo von Schirach
April 12, 2013
WASHINGTON – Hard to convey in my own words a beautiful, indeed moving, atmosphere created by an understated, simple, yet solemn White House ceremony officiated by President Barack Obama. Indeed, America is at its best when it celebrates its values and virtues –with simplicity, without any fanfare or pomposity.
The Medal of Honor
And here it is. On April 11, 2013 President Obama presided over a White House event whose purpose was the posthumous award of the extremely prestigious Medal of Honor to Emil Joseph Kapuan, a US Army Chaplain, a Catholic priest, who died in captivity during the Korean War, after having spent all his energies trying to improve the material and spiritual circumstances of his fellow prisoners. The list of Kapuan’s acts of selfless heroism, saving so many wounded soldiers, tending to them, and a lot more is just incredible and incredibly long.
But in all this what was beautiful and moving was President Barack Obama. He officiated. He greeted Kapuan’s family and the elderly Korean war veterans present. He welcomed all. He read the story of Father Kapuan. And he did so in a simple, unadorned, yet strikingly sincere and respectful way. With his words and most of all with his simple and respectful manners and delivery President Obama was at his best as President and as an American.
The civil rite
He was the selfless Minister of a civil rite. With simplicity and humility President Obama celebrated the virtue of a brave and good American. He did so as the good steward who knows and deeply understands that the ceremony is about the reaffirmation of the moral values that bind the Nation together. The ceremony is not about Obama or about the White House.
The White House is the venue, the President is the instrument. It is up to him to show, with his own humble demenaour that he is aware that this ceremony is about America. And President Obama did all that, with dignified, noble simplicity. In so doing, the President created a solemn, moving moment that should not be lost.