The Common Good

A Grateful Farewell

Joshua DuBois has been running the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for President Obama for the past four years, but he leaves the White House today. That Joshua’s farewell party had to be moved to a larger location is just one sign of the respect and affection he earned during Obama’s first term. The President especially appreciated his young spiritual adviser, and read devotional biblical reflections from DuBois every day. At yesterday’s National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama lifted up Joshua’s importance to him and his administration, and said how much the young African-American Pentecostal pastor would be missed; the applause from the audience demonstrated the president wasn’t alone.

I have worked closely with Joshua, and want to wish him my own grateful farewell. I’ve watched this young man grow into this important job. He has been a good listener, facilitator, encourager, and convener; and has worked hard to put faith-based offices in executive departments throughout the administration — a first for any White House. Over the course of the last four years, Joshua has been successful because people both trust and like him, and the farewell comments at his going away party will show that. Joshua has especially worked hard to connect outside faith leaders and the faith-based community to key places and players in the White House to move agendas that we care about forward. 

Reporters have asked some of us whether the faith-based office has had an impact on policy decisions and directions in the Obama administration. But that is the wrong question. The right question is whether faith leaders have had an impact on the policies of this administration; and the answer to that is a clear yes. The political game-changing impact of the faith community on immigration reform is a dramatic current example of that impact. Another is the protection of poor and vulnerable people, so far, in the budget and deficit debates in the midst of “debt ceilings” and “fiscal cliffs.” The White House has told me very explicitly how much impact the faith community has had on those issues — and the evidence is clear. Faith leaders and their communities have helped created “the space” for doing the right things, both White House and Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have tole me. Though Joshua would never take credit for all of that, he has worked continually to support the influence of the faith community on policy decisions, and I often see and sense his smile when faith leaders speak their minds and hearts in meetings with the president and his top White House staff.

The good news is that this is not a farewell to Joshua for us in the faith community. He will still be part of “us” and is beginning a new project designed to connect faith communities, government, businesses, and other non-profit organizations to actually solving problems in cities across the country — especially in relation to poor and vulnerable people. That has been Joshua’s passion in the faith-based office—to make stronger connections between the faith community, government, and all the other sectors to actually solve some of our biggest problems. 

So we will continue to work together with Joshua. He also will be publishing a new book for leaders, based on the daily devotionals he has given to the president. And on top of it all, he is getting married! We are all very happy to see the attention and commitment he wants to give to his new married life in this important personal transition. So we pray for God’s richest blessings on Joshua DuBois in this next step of his vocational and personal life and look forward to continuing to work with our friend. So no final farewells Joshua, just next steps together!

Jim Wallis is the author of the forthcoming book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good and CEO of SojournersFollow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

Photo: USDAgov via Flickr 

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