Barack and Michelle Obama Pay Tribute to Aretha Franklin With Heartfelt Letter Read at Funeral

Former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, are continuing to pay their respects to Aretha Franklin.

Although the two could not attend the service in person, they were at the Queen of Soul’s “Celebration of Life” in Detroit, Michigan, on Friday in spirit.

About midway through the funeral, Rev. Al Sharpton read aloud a heartfelt letter that was sent to him from the Obamas.

“From a young age, Aretha Franklin rocked the world of anyone who had the pleasure of hearing her voice,” Barack wrote on behalf of him and Michelle. “Whether bringing people together through a thrilling intersection of genres or advancing important causes through the power of song, Aretha’s work reflected the very best of our American story — in all of its hope and heart, its boldness and its unmistakable beauty.”

Barack and Michelle shared a deeply personal connection with Franklin. Back in 2009, the legendary singer performed “My Country ’Tis of Thee” at Barack’s first presidential inauguration, and was personally invited back to the White House several times while he was in office.

Read the full letter below:

Dear Friends and Family of Aretha:

Michelle and I extend our heartfelt sympathies to all those who have gathered in Detroit, and we join you in remembering and celebrating the life of the Queen of Soul.

From a young age, Aretha Franklin rocked the world of anyone who had the pleasure of hearing her voice. Whether bringing people together through a thrilling intersection of genres or advancing important causes through the power of song, Aretha’s work reflected the very best of our American story—in all of its hope and heart, its boldness and its unmistakable beauty.

In the example she set, both as an artist and a citizen, Aretha embodied those most revered virtues of forgiveness and reconciliation, while the music she made captured some of our deepest human desires: namely affection and respect. And through her own voice, Aretha lifted those of millions, empowering and inspiring the vulnerable, the downtrodden, and everyone who may have just needed a little love.

Aretha truly was one of a kind. And as you pay tribute, know we’ll be saying a little prayer for you. And we’ll be thinking of all of Aretha’s loved ones in the days and weeks to come.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

Plenty of celebrities gathered together at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple on Friday to pay their final respects to Franklin, who died on Aug. 16 at the age of 76 from pancreatic cancer. Additionally, stars like Faith Hill, Ariana Grande and Chaka Khan took the stage to perform.

The service continues with upcoming performances by Jennifer Hudson and Jennifer Holliday. See the full funeral lineup here, and watch the video below for more on Franklin.

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