The Common Good
January 2009

Dear President Obama

by Jim Wallis, Marian Wright Edelman, Elizabeth Edwards | January 2009

Memos to the new president from political, cultural, and religious leaders.

 

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A Two-Way Street
by JIM WALLIS

We haven't seen many good models recently, from either party, about how the White House relates to religious communities. We need to do more than merely having chaplains in the corridors of power, or religion functioning as a power bloc within a party to legislate its own narrow agendas, or mere photo-ops at prayer breakfasts for faith leaders at the White House.

Let me suggest another model: the "two-way street."

One direction of the two-way street is for the faith community to offer you its prayers and support. There will be times when you are going to feel an acute need for those prayers. On that same road is the support from people of good religion and good will, whether or not they voted for you. Your election was a historic milestone in this nation's life and history. Most of us in the churches, synagogues, and mosques are celebrating that achievement. Wanting the very best for our nation at this time of crisis, and for you and your family as you seek to lead, is a bipartisan religious commitment.

THE OTHER DIRECTION of the two-way street is what the faith community can say back to you, which previous administrations, from both parties, haven't fully availed themselves of.

For example, on the issue of poverty, you know that it is often people of faith who live and work alongside the poor in the worst neighborhoods in this country. People of faith best know the families, the kids, and the streets in our neediest communities, as you know from your own experience as an organizer. Street workers and leaders from faith communities often know a great deal about what will actually work to overcome the pain and misery of poverty in America. Let the faith community help you and even serve as your eyes and ears on the ground.

Likewise, the knowledge, experience, and critical relationships of faith-based relief and development organizations, missionaries sent all over the world from American congregations, and the connections that religious service organizations have in virtually every country in the world—especially in some of the world's most troubled places and countries—could be a vital resource for you in your most important decisions about foreign policy. The faith community around the world has learned a great deal about what most resolves human conflicts and what exacerbates them—because they have seen that firsthand. They understand from their experience the wisdom of Pope Paul VI, who once reminded us, "If you want peace, work for justice." The religious community could be much more effectively used, not just as service providers, but as foreign policy advisers.

The religious community must do two more things. First, we can bring people together on the great moral issues of our time from across political dividing lines, because we have a "ministry of reconciliation." Our communities are diverse politically and always will be. It is likely that the faith community is better able to bring people together on those big questions than any other sector of society. Because you are calling us to come together to solve our big problems, we'd like to offer you our help.

Second, there will be times when our prophetic vocation will require us to challenge your administration. That is always the hardest thing for political leaders, especially presidents, to accept or even listen to. But I think you are capable of taking criticism and even know that you need that sort of accountability. The voice of religious conscience may be one of the most important for presidents to listen to. It's really a deeper way to offer our support and to help make you a better leader, by being faithful to your own moral compass.

So I call upon you to open up that "two-way street" with the community of faith—and I hope the following "memos" begin the conversation.

Jim Wallis is editor-in-chief of Sojourners.

Instinct and Intellect
by BONO

Every room I have ever been in with you was a much easier room for your presence. It's rare to meet a person like you, where intellect and intuition make such a perfect rhyme. Your intuition tells you that the well-being of the American people, spiritually as well as physically, is connected with America's role in the world. I know you know that the prosperity of your fellow Americans, though hard-fought, is less fulfilling knowing there is so much more that can be done to alleviate poverty and suffering in the developing world.

You know that less than 1 percent of government income as a contribution from the world's richest economy to the world's poorest is not a fair tithe—even in times like these—which is why you have promised to double foreign assistance. As with our own personal sojourn, so it is with country and community: We discover who we are in service to others.

I know your intellect—fashioned in the halls of Harvard and on the floor of the United States Senate—has weighed up the evidence on how effective American tax dollars are when converted into smart, targeted, focused aid. Putting children into school where they can think freely of freedom. Giving farmers on the parched land seed varieties that double the size of their crop yields. Giving mothers 20 cent immunizations to protect their newborns from the deadly virus that they pass on through childbirth.

I know your intellect has taken in the data and seen the analysis on the transformative power of effective aid in places where the U.S. flag is currently not smiled at. I know you know how much cheaper it is to make friends of potential enemies than to defend yourself at a later date. I know you know all this stuff.

My prayer for you is that your instinct and intellect stay in harmony in the difficult months and triumphant years ahead.

Bono is lead singer of U2 and co-founder of The ONE Campaign.

We Know What to Do
by MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN

While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be enormously proud of the strides our nation has made over the past 40 years, especially the country's inspiring and groundbreaking election of our first black president, he would be calling on the president, the Congress, and all of us to mount a national, multiracial campaign to free the 36.5 million Americans of all races and places from the noose of poverty driven by low-wage work and to end racial disparities still prevalent in all areas of American life.

Today there are 36.5 million poor people in America, including 13 million children, although our gross domestic product is three times larger than in 1968. He would be pushing our new leaders, and all of us, to achieve long overdue health care for all, beginning with all children and pregnant women; to end the "Cradle to Prison Pipeline" that will afflict 1 in 3 black and 1 in 6 Latino boys born in 2001 unless we act together with urgency to dismantle it; to expand proven parent-child support programs and establish a high- quality comprehensive early childhood development system to get all children ready for school; and to create a public school system that expects all children to learn and provides them supports needed to succeed and compete in our globalizing world.

Leaders are only as strong as the citizens who raise their voices for justice and opportunity and who hold them accountable. We know what to do to end poverty, child illiteracy, and hunger and to ensure every child and person health coverage and job-rich, safe communities. Finding the spiritual and political will to do what is right and economically sensible and necessary is the challenge you and I and our new leaders face.

Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, is author of The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation.

This is Your Moment
by ELIZABETH EDWARDS

Although it has been said that every great president needs a crisis during which to exhibit his greatness, it is also true, but less said, that the greatness is displayed in the bold strokes that man is willing to embrace in such times: Lincoln and emancipation, Franklin Roosevelt and sweeping social programs.

The crises are here. Do not fail your destiny. Treat health care as a moral issue, not a political one. Consider those in poverty and those in fear of poverty as a test of our national character. Save God's planet while there is still time. This is your moment.

Elizabeth Edwards, author of Saving Graces, is a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress.

Keep the Rigor and Vigor
by JOHN J. DIIULIO JR.

Probably the hardest single thing for any modern president to maintain amidst the daily storms, both real and media-manufactured, that surround and pound the White House is the personal quality that former Secretary of State Colin Powell cited when he endorsed your intellectual rigor and vigor. Loyal and talented, wise and well-meaning though they may be to an individual, your White House senior staff will, by degrees, and before the "first 100 days" have elapsed, succumb to diverse daily pressures to simplify the complex, ignore inconvenient facts, and, in what they will sincerely believe to be yours and the nation's best interest, shrug off or silence even the most constructive critics.

Neither the electronic press nor the print media (what's left of it) will long suffer complex answers to complex questions, not even if delivered by a master rhetorician and great communicator. And your own supporters in Congress will be among your worst enemies when it comes to delays justified only by your determination to deliberate a bit longer (he's indecisive!), gather more facts and perspectives (he doesn't truly respect or trust us!), or craft creative alternatives (he's actually still wet behind those big ears!).

But, come what may, you will be a great president if, and only if, you retain, against odds no less long than those you faced as a candidate, the intellectual rigor and vigor that, more than any other single trait, got you into the Oval Office and into the history books forever.

John J. DiIulio Jr., the first director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, is a professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University and author of Godly Republic.

Where Do We Go From Here?
by GABRIEL SALGUERO

I am a Latino evangelical. Usually when the media speaks of evangelicals, we are left out. However, in election 2008, this was less the case. The increase in the Latino vote in New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, and elsewhere had a substantial impact on the election this year.

While I have no illusions that the serious issues of poverty, a consistent ethic of life, two wars, and countless other issues will be easily solved, I was profoundly moved by the historic moment of your election. As a Latino with a 3-year-old son and another on the way, I was proud of a country that said a person of color can lead us.

The question now, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., is "Where do we go from here?" Latino evangelicals, an increasing demographic, are hoping that all our elected officials will develop a serious commitment to a consistent ethic of life. Issues of abortion, the death penalty, war, children's health care, and people dying on the border or in shipping cargos from Asia must be addressed. I hope for a broad coalition of men and women that will seek the common good, independent of their political or ideological persuasion, and hold our president and all our elected officials accountable. Conscience and democracy demand no less.

Gabriel Salguero is pastor of the Lamb's Church of the Nazarene in New York City, a Ph.D. candidate at Union Theological Seminary, and director of the Hispanic Leadership Program at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Let's Mobilize Millions
by NICHOLAS KRISTOF

Your campaign fired up supporters around the country and galvanized them to ring doorbells and make phone calls. Now you need to institutionalize that enthusiasm with a national service program—not just for young people, but also for retirees. One of the things we've learned in trying to fight poverty over the decades is that top-down efforts are often disappointing, while grassroots efforts truly can bring about momentous change. So let's mobilize millions of people to get involved in education, health, and poverty programs.

This can also involve foreign assistance. One of the most effective forms of foreign aid is support for educating girls. The result is smaller families, faster economic growth, and female participation in the formal economy. So how about a major American effort to promote girls' education in poor countries, with a strong component of American volunteers? I'm thinking of something like "Teach for America," but on an international scale.

You have made America exciting again around the world, and partly that's because you've injected a moral dimension into your speeches. We need to sustain that with these sorts of anti-poverty programs, but it's impossible to present ourselves as pursuing moral policies when we ignore the genocide in Darfur. Genocide is an affront to all humanity. There is no magic bullet for Darfur, but there is magic buckshot—a no-fly zone, consultations with regional powers, targeted sanctions, close cooperation to end Chinese military sales to Sudan. So let's stop running away from the Darfur genocide and make ending it a presidential priority.

Nicholas Kristof is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner.

Selfless Giving for the Common Good
by LYNNE HYBELS

As a pastor's wife, a mother, grandmother, and advocate for global engagement, I have a simple request: that you honor your commitment to call the American people to sacrifice and selfless giving for the common good. On election night you called it "a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other." I love that! In churches and faith-based organizations across this country, Christian leaders are calling their congregations and constituencies to do just that.

As I write, Christians across all denominational lines are praying for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan; donating money for refugees in the eastern Congo and Darfur; restocking food pantries throughout the U.S. and sending food to Zimbabwe and Ethiopia; producing films about the impact of climate change on the world's poor; sending medical kits to African volunteers who care for people with AIDS; rescuing women and girls from sex trafficking; and calling on wealthy Christians to establish emergency funds for Americans who are losing their jobs or homes.

Centrist and progressive Christian leaders believe we have been called to advocate for peace and justice and to protect the vulnerable—from the unborn to senior citizens, from the poor in American cities to the desperately poor in African villages. Even during this financial downturn we are calling our constituencies to give generously of their money and their time. We ask and pray that you will similarly call your constituency—the American people—to wholehearted and personal sacrifice for the good of this country and the world.

Lynne Hybels is the advocate for global engagement at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, and author of Nice Girls Don't Change the World.

Two for the Price of One
by VAN JONES

You need a smart, elegant "signature initiative" that will solve many problems at once. Green For All recommends that you create a Clean Energy Corps to put people to work retrofitting, rebooting, and repowering the nation with renewable energy.

We have so many people who need work: construction workers, veterans, urban and rural youth, people coming home from prison. We have so much work that needs to be done: installing solar panels, manufacturing wind turbines, weatherizing homes, planting trees. If you connect the people who most need work to the work that most needs to be done, you can beat the recession and global warming at the same time.

Van Jones is author of the New York Times best-seller The Green Collar Economy and president of Green For All.

A Prayer for a New President and a New America
by SHANE CLAIBORNE

God of love, grace, and hope, thank you for creating a perfect world. Forgive us for the mess we have made of it. Forgive us for the groaning of creation, for the millions who die of hunger and curable diseases, for warehousing people in prisons and using them for labor, for the scandal of billions wasted in war, for an economy that mirrors the seven deadly sins, for the violence and greed in our own hearts. Save us from ourselves.

Give us the courage to bless the poor in a world that blesses the middle class, to bless the meek in a world that admires aggression, to bless the hungry in a world that feeds the already fed, to bless the merciful in a world that shows no mercy on evildoers, to bless the pure in heart in a world of clutter and noise, to bless the peacemakers in a world that baptizes bombs.

Give us imagination that we might not conform to the patterns of this world, that we might shatter indifference and interrupt injustice with grace, that we might choose the cross over the sword, that we might be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves, that we might consider the lilies and sparrows as they shame Wall Street's splendor, that we might choose the dream of God over the dreams of nations, that we might cling to the God who so loved the world, not just America, that we might allow our Jesus to change America rather than America to change our Jesus.

Shane Claiborne is a founding partner of The Simple Way, a radical faith community in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with Chris Haw, of Jesus for President.

Remember the Left-Behind
by ANGELA GLOVER BLACKWELL

President Obama, in taking the nation into its next chapter, I am counting on you to remember those who have been left behind and forgotten by too many of your predecessors: The janitor working double shifts to keep the heat on. The disabled veteran who can't find a steady job. The young mother worried that her neighborhood public school won't get her kids ready for college. All Americans—especially those in low-income communities and communities of color—must be given the chance to participate and prosper.

Every decision you make can be crafted to have a positive impact on these vulnerable communities. The federal budget is not just numbers on a ledger—it is a living moral document.

When you tackle global warming, you can steer jobs to low-income workers and kick polluters out of their neighborhoods. When you invest in our long-neglected national infrastructure, you can make sure public transit lines connect people to jobs and broadband lines finally come to all communities. When you reflect on the grassroots power of your campaign, you can instill that same ethic in the federal government by opening up the process and bringing the concerns of all people to the table.

Every American must have the opportunity to share his or her gifts and hopes with the world. An American president who remembers this every day—and holds it as a central tenet of his presidency—will be a true success.

Angela Glover Blackwell is founder and CEO of PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity.

Leave the Future to God
by RICHARD ROHR

You have been given a wonderful opportunity to help and heal America and the world. Thank you for using your gifts so well. "When a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him," says Jesus in the gospel of Luke.

We ask you to do the truth and to do justice, especially for the outsiders, the poor, and the voiceless. To do this well, we ask you to let go of any concern for a second term, and leave that future to God and to grace.

Richard Rohr, OFM, is founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Focus on Results
by KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND

This election galvanized millions of people who yearned to take back our country. People want to contribute their talents, strengthen communities, take pride in what we give and accomplish. How the federal government organizes its funding to localities can make a big difference in building the capacity for neighbors to help neighbors and to work for the common good. The way that federal funding is distributed must change so that it focuses on results, local decision-making, and comprehensive strategies.

Work, health, education, transportation, and recreation monies need to be integrated with the input of local leadership. Government works best not when it does things for people, or to people, but with people.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is former lieutenant governor of Maryland and author of Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way.

The Face of America
by SOONG-CHAN RAH

I too am a child of immigrants. I too have a funny-sounding name. I became a Christian in a church that would be considered outside the boundaries of a typical white evangelical church. So when you were portrayed as someone not worthy of trust by the typical American, I took personal offense. I was stunned that my fellow Christ­ians would question the faith of an individual whose testimony of conversion is about as evangelical as you could get. I was deeply wounded at how easily you were portrayed as an outsider. It was as if my own country and my fellow believers in Christ were challenging my identity as an American and as a Christian.

But our nation is changing. We are not only looking at a multiethnic future, but a multiethnic present. Whether I agree with all of your policies or not, having you as my president says that the United States is moving toward a multiethnic reality. Joe the Plumber is not the face of America. The face of America is Barack, Niyasha, Carlos, Ileana, Anis, Makana, Erik, Katiana, Angela, and even Soong-Chan.

Now this atypical American, this non-white evangelical Christian, can look to a political leader who embodies the ethnic and cultural diversity of our great nation. Now I can connect more fully with the phrase "in order to form a more perfect union." Now I believe that there is a seat at the table for those with funny-sounding names and of a different ethnic origin. I am Barack Obama, and Barack Obama is America.

Soong-Chan Rah is Milton B. Engebretson Assistant Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary.

Tend to Your Soul
by WESLEY GRANBERG-MICHAELSON

You are a leader not just because of what you have done, but because of who you are. Tend to your soul. Your dream of a changed nation, transcending polarization, captured the hearts of millions. Nurture that vision continually. Imagine the future it can create. Share this constantly.

Stay grounded in hope. This dispels the fears of others. Your election has inspired the world. Show that our nation can live with others according to the value of every human life that our ideals so cherish. Read Matthew 25 at least every week. Inspire policies that remember the least of these. Keep loving your wife and children. Your presence and time are the greatest gifts you can give them.

The expectations of a nation and a world have rarely been higher for a new president. After all you do, each day, your surest response is to relinquish yourself, again and again, to the Lord whom you love. Pray without ceasing. "Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love." And may the God of peace be with you, and sustain you, always.

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson is general secretary of the Reformed Church in America.

Beyond Black and White
by ADAM HAMILTON

Your election represents the desire of millions of voters for a president who can see the gray in a world that is often painted in black and white terms. You are comfortable dealing with paradox and complexity. You have the ability to pursue a conjunctive approach to faith and politics—one that brings together concerns of both the left and the right into a powerful third way. You articulate a personal Christian faith and a desire to follow Jesus Christ, and you hold this together with a progressive concern for social justice and individual rights that you see as rooted in your faith. You support the right of a woman to choose, and you are the first Democratic candidate for president to write into the Democratic platform a commitment to reduce the number of abortions in America. You believe that marriage is defined as the union of a man and woman, and you support the right of states to grant civil unions.

The challenges facing our country are great. Your presidency is not the answer to all of these challenges. But to the degree that you exercise your leadership potential well, you will bring Americans together around a common vision; you will draw upon divergent perspectives in developing a plan to address our challenges; and you will inspire and lead us to make the sacrifices and changes necessary to navigate through our present crises in pursuit of a brighter future.

Adam Hamilton, author of Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, is senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.

The Torch Has Been Passed
by ADAM RUSSELL TAYLOR

A generation of young people has been galvanized and inspired by your historic victory, including a growing movement of young Christians who are applying their faith to a broad moral agenda that includes ending the scandal of extreme poverty at home and around the world. Economic justice has increasingly be­come a generational cause, continuing much of the unfinished business of the civil rights struggle that was so tragically derailed 40 years ago.

Our shared faith calls us to view politics through the lens of the weak, the vulnerable, and the oppressed. Yet the crisis of poverty has too often become a taboo issue and political afterthought. I pray that you reverse this trend using your presidential leadership to galvanize our nation to address the crisis of poverty.

The true biblical and moral test of our nation's health is how the least, the lost, and last are faring. We look forward to working with your administration in order to turn a new page in the fight against poverty. A generation of young Christians is anxious to join you in this cause.

Adam Russell Taylor is senior political director at Sojourners.

Support Pregnant Women
by RICHARD LAND

There are tens of millions of Ameri­cans who did not vote for you who are still very, very pleased that an African American has been elected president. The fact that this could happen in a country with as tragic a racial past as America's says something noble and fine about the American experiment. We covenant to pray for you, your family, and your administration. We will pray that God will grant you godly wisdom in all your decision-making.

Mr. President, Southern Baptists remain unalterably committed to the protection of unborn human life. The vast majority of Southern Baptists believe that a pre-born baby is a distinct human life, according to both science and the Bible. You have said you want to unite us as a nation. An excellent place to work for such unity would be for you to put your full support behind the Democrats for Life initiative known as the Pregnant Women Support Act (its goal is to reduce abortion by 95 percent over a 10-year period).

This bill would provide child care to low-income and student parents; provide parenting education in maternity group homes; make the Adoption Tax Credits permanent; ensure that pregnant women are not denied health care by insurance companies and that coverage is continued for newborns; increase funding for the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program; provide grants to institutions of high education to fund pregnant and parenting student services; and provide new mothers with free home visits by registered nurses.

All of these measures would help fulfill the pledge made in the 2008 Democratic Party platform, which "strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs."

Richard Land is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and author of The Divided States of America?

Take Time to Breathe
by BRIAN McLAREN

As you prepare to begin your historic presidency, I offer you these simple words from another senator from Illinois in whose footsteps you are walking. Abraham Lincoln said, "I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me." Being a friend to yourself will mean at least four things for you:

First and foremost, it will mean keeping your soul open and connected to God—through prayer, through confession of your sins and mistakes, through a sustained humble attitude of dependence on God. If you seek God's wisdom, will, and guidance first, you will lead with the same serenity and strength that have brought you this far. Second, it will mean keeping your family life strong and healthy. Doing so will be an example for the nation and a gift to yourself, because you will only be president for four or eight years, but you will be husband to Michelle and father to Malia and Sasha forever.

Third, it will mean having some "non-utilitarian" friends—soul-friends, if you will. You need a few wise and trusted people who don't want or need anything from you, with whom you can be free and open, who can pray for you, listen to you, tell you what they believe you need to hear not just as a president, but as a human being and child of God. Fourth, it will mean having space and time to breathe—to take a walk, to shoot some hoops, to do things you enjoy. Even a few minutes of solitude each day will be important for you as you seek to balance insight and perspective in challenging times.

May you enjoy the journey and, when it comes to an end, may you have billions who consider you their friend because of the good you have done while in office. And may you find, deep inside you, a friend to yourself as well, a part of you that receives and celebrates the love of God, the ultimate unfailing friend to all.

Brian McLaren, a writer, speaker, and Sojourners board chair, is the author of numerous books including A Generous Orthodoxy and, most recently, Finding Our Way Again.

The Challenge of Religious Conflict
by EBOO PATEL

Religious conflict is the great global challenge of the 21st century. America is the most religiously diverse country in the world and the most religiously devout nation in the West. The next president has an opportunity to translate this religious diversity into a pluralism that strengthens American civil society, transforms American diplomacy, and contributes to global stability. The next administration must bridge America's religious communities by supporting and increasing interfaith service initiatives.

Eboo Patel is founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core and author of Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.

Without God's Help We Cannot Succeed
by RICH NATHAN

As a Jewish-Christian pastor of a congregation that includes blacks and whites, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans, the able-bodied and the disabled, old and young, rich and poor, Republican and Democrat, we come together now to support you as our president. We pledge to pray for you. Without God's help we cannot succeed; with God's help we cannot fail.

The greatness of our nation will continue to be measured by our treatment of the least and the last. In our country the least and the last surely include the unborn and their mothers, immigrants, the medically uninsured, and those who still go to bed hungry in this land of abundance. Our congregation urges you to fulfill your commitment to reduce the number of abortions in our nation. Around the world, America is our brothers' keeper of those suffering in Darfur and the Congo. Please work on behalf of those enslaved by global sex trafficking, the billion people who live on less than $2 a day, and those who are the victims of religious persecution. As you lead, remember Jesus' words: "As you have done to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it unto me"

America has an extraordinary capacity to reinvent herself, rarely more so than in this election. We remain the screen upon which the world projects its greatest hopes and its most noble aspirations. Live a life worthy of our hopes.

Rich Nathan is senior pastor of Vineyard Church of Columbus (Ohio).

A New Day of Open Government
by SISTER HELEN PREJEAN, CSJ

What we need most from you is regular, open communication with citizens about the inner workings of our government and the challenges that we must face and shoulder together. For far too long we citizens have been barred from responsible citizenship by political power brokers who met behind closed doors, who were bent more on private interests than the common good.

We need you to initiate a new day of transparent, ac­countable "sunshine" gov­sern­ment, and so we ask you to hold regular bipartisan meetings with congressional leaders to tackle the enormous challenges facing us—with public television present, so that citizens can follow the proceedings and respond via the new media; to hold frequent citizen town meetings in which ordinary people can have an opportunity for a free-flowing, "un-vetted" conversation with you to ask questions and to share their concerns; to periodically hold nationally televised seminars (similar to your half-hour infomercial during the campaign) to help us gain deeper understanding of the formidable issues that confront us: the economy, global warming, poverty, massive imprisonment of our citizens, and relationships with other countries, especially those whose culture and mindset seem so different from our own.

Thank you for shouldering the enormous responsibility of being our president. You have stirred in us a new flame of hope, and this hope inspirits us to become engaged and responsible citizens, working with you to make our democracy come alive again.

Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, a prominent anti-death penalty advocate, is author of The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions.

Love Your Family First
by JOEL HUNTER

I am hoping you will: 1) Love your family first. Before taking care of the country, please be an example to us all by being devoted to your family.

2) Keep Jesus in mind as you shift our sense of public morality, as you set the tone for public discourse, as you choose the various leaders to carry out the vision, and as you prioritize the issues that will have the most significant benefit to the widest possible sector of humanity.

3) Spend the next four years winning the country with the same fervor it took to win the election. It might be advisable to continue a variation of the organization it took to inform and recruit the general population's participation to win the election. We want to be a part of building a better future. Help us build coalitions. Challenge us to serve and make a way for us to participate in fulfilling the vision you have set before us.

Joel Hunter, author of A New Kind of Conservative, is senior pastor of Northland Church, a megachurch near Orlando, Florida.

What Would Solomon Do?
by PHYLLIS TICKLE

Whether installed by election, by hereditary right, or by power of arms, of all the rulers humankind has ever had, none is so venerated or cited or—and this is important—none so forgiven by history as is Solomon. Faced with the opportunity to enjoy unmediated power and enormous wealth, he elected instead to ask of Heaven the gift of an understanding heart that he might discern between good and evil and thereby judge rightly amongst the various demands and desires of his people.

No leader could ask for more, but only a very foolish one would ask for less, especially as you begin your life as president. Both Heaven and we, the people, are listening.

Phyllis Tickle is the founding editor of the religion department of Publishers Weekly and author of The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why.

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I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)