The Common Good

The Man Behind the President's Devotional

Date: October 22, 2013

On December 14, 2012, Joshua Dubois was sitting at his desk in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships when he began to see the news reports of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut. That Saturday, President Barack Obama asked Dubois to accompany him to Newtown, where the president would meet with the families of the victims and address the interfaith memorial service.

Dubois remembers watching the president ask each of the people to tell him about their loved ones who had been killed. The president did this for hours, going from room to room, acknowledging the pain of the families and offering any comfort he could.

One morning during that trying time, Dubois sent Obama an email that contained the scripture passage Luke 22:52-53, called Darkness Hour, based on a quote from Jesus, who told the guards who had come to arrest him, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness."

Dubois explained to me that he sent the scripture to the president with a reflection on "the responsibility of us, the people of light, to push through that darkness and in the middle of the night to ask God to remind us that daybreak will come."

Dubois has been sending devotionals to Obama every morning since the 2008 presidential campaign. A collection of these spiritual messages to the president has now been published Dubois' new book, The President's Devotional.

Dubois started working for Obama shortly after he became a senator. A public policy and economics student at Princeton University, he was also ordained at a small Pentecostal church where he served as an associate pastor. It was this combination of skills that led him to become Obama's faith outreach coordinator during his first presidential campaign and, later, to be appointed as the Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships during the president's first term.

The president and Dubois worked together on issues of church-state relations early on, starting with a speech that the then-Senator Obama gave in 2006 at Jim Wallis' Call to Renewal Conference. "It's a speech that I worked closely with him on. He laid out the parameters for engaging religion in public life in a way that respects the central role that religion has played in our history and continues to play in the lives of million of Americans, and also respects our constitution and the important separation between church and state. "