The Common Good

Obama's Call to Rebuild

Sojomail - February 26, 2009


In the course of this inquiry, we have been shocked by the extent of the damage done over the past seven years by excessive or abusive counter-terrorism measures in a wide range of countries around the world. Many governments, ignoring the lessons of history, have allowed themselves to be rushed into hasty responses to terrorism that have undermined cherished values and violated human rights. The result is a serious threat to the integrity of the international human rights legal framework.

- Arthur Chaskelson, former president of the constitutional court of South Africa and chair of a panel which spent three years roaming the world to study terrorism. Their report concluded that many measures introduced to fight terrorism were illegal and counter-productive, and that undemocratic regimes with poor human rights records have referred to counter-terror practices of countries like the U.S. to justify their own abusive policies. (Source: BBC)

+ Sign up to receive "Verse and Voice" - our daily quote and Bible verse e-mail

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Obama's Call to Rebuild

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners Get a free issue of Sojourners
This wasn’t really a budget speech, or even a State of the Union. It was a call to rebuild a country -- from its infrastructure, to its economy, to its values. Tuesday night, Barack Obama called a new generation to a new American future. And from the “twittering” and Facebook status updates I am aware of going on last night, the new generation stayed up late to watch and got the speech they wanted—a vision for the new America they hope to raise their children in.

There hasn’t been as much political vision or ambition in the chamber of the House of Representatives for decades as there was last night. It wasn’t just a list of little ideas or a recitation of familiar symbols; it was a substantial diagnosis of America’s crisis and the bold promise to find the solutions necessary. If the inaugural speech disappointed some for being more sobering than visionary, the call to action they were waiting for came last night.

The new president boldly declared that it is time to meet the big challenges. After telling Americans for the last month what we were up against, he said that America can and will rise to meet the challenge.

... while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

After succeeding in passing the most aggressive economic recovery plan in memory, despite a united opposition, Obama sounded absolutely optimistic about the budget he will present this week.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America - as a blueprint for our future.

He said both his stimulus plan and his budget will focus on beginning to fix the biggest issues—energy dependence, broken health care, and failed education. He said our crisis has come from ignoring, neglecting, and postponing solutions to core problems like these while, at the same time, spending money we didn’t have to buy things we didn’t need.

But the “day of reckoning has arrived,” said the new president, and “now is the time” to solve our biggest problems—and while the problems are great, we will solve them.

Some of the most important ideas, lines, and promises were:

Stressing that the economic recovery is “not about saving banks, but helping people.”

Reminding us that “responsibility for our children’s education begins at home.”

Promising to support both soldiers and veterans, but to also get rid of outdated Cold War weapons systems.

Pledging to cut unnecessary subsidies to agribusiness and eliminate no-bid contracts like in Iraq -- big tasks that politics has been unwilling to take on.

Committing that we will no longer hide the price of war in the budget.

Stating emphatically that “the United States of America does not torture,” especially saying it the night after Jack Bauer and 24.

Recognizing that the biggest deficit we face is the “deficit of trust” that Americans feel for their leaders and their lack of solutions.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a rising star for the Republicans, could not muster a compelling vision counter to what the president proposed. He admitted that his party had failed the country but then used the story of incompetent political appointees and the bureaucratic mess they created in response to Katrina to try to make a point that government never works. But that didn't work.

In contrast to the simple Democratic reliance on the government or the Republican mantra of the invisible hand of the market to solve our problems, Obama called for a new commitment to the common good, collective action, and a new combination of both personal and social responsibility.

He said, in closing:

Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to govern in extraordinary times. It is a tremendous burden, but also a great privilege - one that has been entrusted to few generations of Americans. For in our hands lies the ability to shape our world for good or for ill. I know that it is easy to lose sight of this truth - to become cynical and doubtful; consumed with the petty and the trivial.

But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.

Some people don’t like strong leadership. I do. And this is the kind of leadership that calls and inspires people to act themselves and be part of the solutions we need. I like that too. And it’s a new kind of leadership that invites being held accountable to results. That’s fair.

Obama has a vision and last night offered a road map. And he invited citizens across the political spectrum to bring their own ideas but to join the journey and stop standing by the side of the road with their arms folded in critique. Disagreement comes with a responsibility to offer better ideas, says this president.

The words of Ty’Sheoma, a school girl from South Carolina, sitting in the gallery next to Michelle Obama, were lifted up by President Obama last night. She wrote the Congress to ask for help for her school but wanted them to know, “We are not quitters."

+ Click to share to this article

+ Click to respond to this article on the God's Politics Blog


Marshall Ganz on Organizing for Social Change

marshall-ganz-videoBarack Obama knew that in order to win an election through grassroots organizing, he would need to go to the expert: Marshall Ganz, an experienced field organizer who worked in the civil rights movement and joined Ceasar Chavez as a farm worker organizer. Today, Ganz is a lecturer on public policy at Harvard University. In this compelling video, Ganz teaches about the importance of narrative in initiating social change during a presentation at Sojourners' Training for Change in June 2008.

+Click here to watch the video


+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

Let's Talk About Race
by Barby Zúñiga Ward

Last year, throughout the presidential campaign, I asked many of my friends and acquaintances a "race question" as a way to engage them at a deeper level. The question: "Why is racism wrong?"
+ Click to continue

Mobilization and Murder in our Nation's Capital
by Aaron Graham

It's 8 p.m. and I'm exhausted. My six-month-old boy finally stopped crying and fell asleep ... I've been in meetings and on the phone all day trying to convince people they should come to the Mobilization to End Poverty. I'm beginning to wonder, is all this organizing worth it? Is what I'm doing making a difference? Is it really worth it to keep working late? As I doubt myself, I see police lights and cars begin to get detoured down our little street. I grab my coat and stroll to the corner to see what's happening.
+ Click to continue

Mixed Signals on Immigration Enforcement
by Jennifer Svetlik

Washington, D.C., is sending mixed signals about how to enforce immigration law, and immigrants and their families are suffering the consequences. On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security executed the first work-site immigration raid of the Obama administration.
+ Click to continue

Vote in the M2EP FilmMaker Challenge
by Matt Hildreth

090225-filmmaker-logoIn preparation for the upcoming Mobilization to End Poverty on April 26th - 29th, Sojourners and World Vision have launched their first ever FilmMaker Challenge. Aspiring filmmakers were asked to submit videos with the theme "What can you do to end poverty?" We will be sending the winner to Africa to work on a video project with World Vision, but we need your help deciding who the recipient of this prize should be. Vote now and let us know which film you think best demonstrates what you can do to end poverty.
+ Click to continue

Hope and Action in Hard Times
by Mary Nelson

In these times of foreclosures, tight budgets, and shrinking funds, community builders feel like Jesus' disciples with five loaves and two fishes and thousands to feed. During an earlier time before I retired from Bethel New Life, I reflected on doing more with less, and share this now.
+ Click to continue

The Sad State of Dialogue on Civil Unions
by Logan Laituri

Ever since the November elections, I have been unable to turn my attention from the issue of civil unions and same-sex marriage. My interest was piqued when I heard of my own home state of California's passage of Proposition 8. So when I received an invite by Facebook to a public hearing before Hawaii's House Judiciary committee to discuss House Bill 444 (HB444), I enthusiastically clicked "will attend."
+ Click to continue

Calling for Interfaith Action in the Middle East
by Jim Wallis

Interfaith dialogue is great; interfaith action is better. The Community of Religious Leaders at the World Economic Forum released a statement calling for interfaith action in the Middle East. For centuries now a geo-political conflict has been perpetuated in the draping of a religious one.
+ Click to continue

Audio: The Right Relationships to Fight Physical and Spiritual Poverty
by Efrem Smith

Preaching from the story of Ezekiel and the dry bones, Pastor Efrem describes the "right relationships" that God wants to bring about for both physical and spiritual change in our lives. So even though the church must be engaged in working against poverty, our work must always go beyond the physical needs to address the spiritual -- new life in Jesus Christ.
+ Click to continue

Ash Wednesday: Concrete Solidarity
by Barbara Born

How can the solidarity we feel – our faith's call to emulate the Lord's compassion toward those engulfed in darkness on the labyrinth of life – become concrete in our Ash Wednesday fasting?
+ Click to continue

Green My Hood
by Leroy Barber

Is it possible to create a new economy in the hood that would create jobs, lower energy costs, reduce the carbon footprint of an urban neighborhood, and allow neighbors to get to know one another at the same time? I think there just might be a way to make this a reality. I would like to green my hood.
+ Click to continue

Save Darfur's Women: Rape as a War Crime
by Kaitlin Barker

The U.N. estimates that 300,000 civilians have died. At least 2.5 million have been scorched out of their villages and left homeless. And then there's the sometimes less acknowledged statistic, usually falling here, at the end of the paragraph: thousands of women raped.
+ Click to continue

A First Person Fight for the Millenium Development Goals
by Teddy Warria

In order for partnerships to function smoothly in a globalized world, it's integral that we not only understand the cultures and histories of our cross-continental ancestors and neighbors, but encourage development on their behalf.
+ Click to continue

From Cultural Conformity to Biblical Obedience
by Mimi Haddad

The power of God continually brings spiritual renewal in our lives! Just consider the life of the apostle Paul whose inner transformation in Christ so altered his worldview that it compelled him to abandon and resist the ethnic and gender segregation of the Jewish priesthood in which he grew up.
+ Click to continue

How Advocacy Works
by Lisa Sharon Harper

New York Faith & Justice has been going for two years. And we started as four strangers who met on Capitol Hill, at a Sojourners conference, at Pentecost 2006, in Charles Rangel's office. We were kind of thrown together that day to do lobby day -- and we just were fascinated that our legislative representatives actually want to hear from us! We were flabbergasted by that -- none of us had ever done lobbying before.
+ Click to continue

10 Reasons We Don't Like to Talk About Race
by Eugene Cho

Last week, I shared a post titled "a nation of cowards" and asked if we're indeed cowards when it comes to the conversation of racism and the continuous work toward reconciliation. One thing that is clear to me is that the church is quite silent. We talk often of reconciliation that's necessary between God and humanity but need to keep pushing forward about how our faith informs and transforms our relationship with one another.
+ Click to continue

India's Women Stand Up to Religious Bullies
by Julie Clawson

Since the Sena also threatened to attack any couple they found celebrating on Valentine's Day, a campaign was created asking women to stand up against extremism and bullying on February 14. Supporters were asked to send the Sena pink chaddis (Indian slang for underwear) and to deliberately go to pubs on Valentine's Day.
+ Click to continue

Guarded Optimism in Zimbabwe and South Africa
by Nontando Hadebe

It's been just over two weeks into the new transitional government in Zimbabwe. There is guarded optimism and most people have adopted a 'wait and see' approach.
+ Click to continue

The Poverty Forum's Three Points of Common Ground
by Jim Wallis

It is the power of relationships that make new things possible. Relationships are the foundation of and the means for creating a culture shift. The Poverty Forum represents four months of policy work, but also years of relationship-bridging across theological and political differences.
+ Click to continue

Poem: Freedom's Lament
by Seth Naicker

Today, many people in South Africa are restless and discouraged by the workings of a political system within a post-Apartheid era that has not delivered the people's contract. The African National Congress, the party I call my political home, has taken enormous critique for promising a freedom 15 years ago that has only materialized in middle- to upper-class silos.
+ Click to continue


+ Sign up to receive our "Daily Digest" e-mail - the latest headlines on critical issues

Top Stories:

Poverty Fight Unites Christians on Left, Right
The Washington Post
The brainchild of progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis and Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for then-President George W. Bush who now writes a column for The Washington Post, the bipartisan alliance is made up of an "orgy of strange bedfellows," Gerson said at a news conference this week introducing the group's ideas. +Click to continue

Religious Leaders Press for Stimulus for the Poor, Release Policy Recommendations on Poverty
Religion and Ethics Newsweekly

Silly vs. Noble Bipartisanship: the Gerson-Wallis Example

Christian Right, Left Find Common Ground in Poverty Reduction
The Christian Post

Poverty Forum offers new solutions to aid marginalized people
The Catholic Review

Have Faith
The American Prospect

Questions linger on faith-based makeover
The Christian Century

"Sojourners in the news" articles are the most recent news clippings that mention Sojourners in any way -- whether favorably or unfavorably. Though we provide the text on our site for your convenience, we do not necessarily endorse the views of these articles or their source publications.


Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Evangelical Environmental Network seeks new President who will lead EEN and implement strategic plan, focused on climate change policy and creation care as part of Christian discipleship. For more information see

Sojourners Intern Program - apply today! There is more than one way to serve God. Find yours. Click here to find out more.

How can I engage in the work of healing and sustaining God's creation? Scripture contains the answers ... in green-lettered text. Order The Green Bible today!

The Great Awakening: Seven Ways to Change the World -- Jim Wallis’ latest NY Times bestseller is now out in paperback. Order yours today and get a free downloadable study guide!

Wanted: Diverse anti-poverty leaders to attend The Mobilization to End Poverty. Apply today for the Community Leaders Scholarship Program and take what you learn at The Mobilization back home - deadline extended to February 27.

Go deeper this Lenten Season with Preaching the Word - the online sermon prep and study resources based on the Revised Common Lectionary. From the editors of Sojourners. Check out a free sample or buy today.

God's Politics Blog facebook
MySpace YouTube

Click Here!

GIVE TO SOJOURNERS: Donate now to support this voice for justice and peace.

GET THE MAGAZINE: Subscribe today

CONTACT US: General inquiries: | Advertising: | About Us

PRIVACY NOTICE: Sojourners won't trade, sell, or give away your e-mail address. Read our privacy policy.