The First 100 Days

By Jim Wallis 4-30-2009

Wednesday marked the 100th day of President Obama's administration and the final day of Sojourners' Mobilization to End Poverty, the nation's largest gathering of Christian leaders and activists committed to overcoming poverty in our country and world. This Mobilization brought together more than 1,100 Christians from across the religious spectrum who visited 83 Senate and 200 House offices to advocate for including low-income families and vulnerable people in the economic recovery. Participants on the first full day of the Mobilization were excited and energized by a video message from the president, who took the opportunity to recommit to overcoming poverty in our country and partnering with the faith community.

In the first 100 days, President Obama has made unprecedented strides and set promising priorities in two key areas -- expanding economic opportunity at home and forging a new role for the U.S. in the world.

In regard to poverty, the president and his administration have shown a clear commitment to ensure that poor and low-income people are not left out of the economic recovery plan and the budget. There has not been a president or a budget I have seen in my lifetime that has so carefully considered the people Jesus called "the least of these." These early steps show that poverty reduction will be a commitment of the Obama administration, both in word and deed. This can be accomplished through commitments in his budget and stimulus plan to repair a neglected safety net for those who find themselves without jobs, key investments in infrastructure that will create new jobs and opportunities, especially green jobs, finally achieving health care reform, and a long-term plan for ensuring that our schools and institutions of higher education are the best in the world. His budget's commitment to foreign aid will make sure that the progress we have seen on reducing extreme poverty across the world will continue in a time when we could easily backslide.

Regarding our role in the global community, from the moment he was inaugurated President Obama changed the image of the U.S. in the eyes of the world. He has made substantive policy changes and set priorities that are forging a new global role for our country. First, he has reached out to the Muslim world and begun to build the bridges and understanding that will be necessary for peace, security, and prosperity in our world. Second, he has clearly and unequivocally stated his commitment to ensuring that torture is not acceptable and will no longer be a tool of U.S. foreign policy. Third, his global commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons is a compelling vision for which we have already waited too long, and an early commitment to that goal offers the opportunity for serious progress over the course of his administration. Fourth, early steps in foreign policy have shown a preference for development and diplomacy over mere military action, and we urge that emphasis to continue in Afghanistan rather than increasing combat troops. By dropping the deceptive and misleading "War on Terror," we have new opportunities for progress and peace.

On values, vision, principles, and direction, President Obama's first 100 days have offered some real encouragement to many of us in the faith community. But the most important results are yet to come. For that, it will take a vital, new partnership that includes both the support of the faith community when the Obama agenda is consistent with our own, and challenge when our prophetic integrity requires it -- a role that this new president has already affirmed.

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