Obama's Community of Support and Challenge

By Jim Wallis 03-16-2009

Yesterday, The New York Times ran a story about five pastors who have served the president in a variety of roles, from prayer support at the death of his grandmother to policy advice. As one of those mentioned in the article, it struck me how this piece just scratched the surface of the ways in which the president has assembled around himself a wide community of diverse advisers.

It is easy in this city to willfully or passively surround oneself in a bubble of thoughts, ideas, and perspectives that only confirm and support what one already knows and believes. But the pastors mentioned in this article are diverse, and barely begin to cover the broad range of religious leaders that President Obama has reached out to. He has made a point of seeking out religiously and politically diverse opinions and has actively sought dissenting thoughts and perspectives. When he met with his new Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, he told us that he wanted to know what we honestly thought about things. In the meeting that followed, we were told that we should feel free to disagree with President Obama-even publically-and, in fact, the president was counting on us to show that kind of "prophetic integrity."

A small group was recognized in this article, but over the course of his administration I believe we will see the president turn to many others. They will come from within the Christian tradition, other faith traditions, as well as secular leaders. They will be men and women, older and younger, and multi-faith

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