Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Tonight my wife and our adult sons watched televised replays of the activities surrounding the inauguration of U.S. President Barack H. Obama and Vice President Joe R. Biden. Like millions of people from countless places across the United States, we were in Washington to personally witness the inauguration. Like them, we braved the cold weather, endured the necessary security measures, and persevered through long lines and fatigue. Many others viewed the inauguration on television sets around the world. Together, we rejoiced.

Now the people who witnessed Inauguration Day will return to diverse homes and lives. Many of them will cherish memories of the sights, sounds, and other sensations that made this historic event unforgettable. They will recall where they were when Obama won the election for President of the United States on November 4, 2008, and where they were when Obama took the oath of office as the 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009. They will email photographs, videos, and messages of recollection to family members and friends. Many Americans will reaffirm their faith in that unique brand of democracy practiced in the United States.

Another faith will also be reaffirmed. It is a faith that spans geographic, national, cultural, language, religious, and other boundaries. It is faith that people can overcome hate, fear, and the divisiveness that has often bedeviled and infected political power. Barack Obama campaigned for the presidency based on that faith. His campaign was fueled and energized by people of all backgrounds who embraced that faith. His election is a testimony to that faith. And his presidency will challenge Americans and the world with the implications and realities of that faith.

As the writer of the New Testament epistle to the Hebrews asserted, "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." The faith affirmed by countless people surrounding the Obama presidency is not defined by partisan political labels (Democratic v. Republican, liberal v. conservative) or by national boundaries. The hope that Obama called on Americans to embrace is not an American creation, and cannot be accurately defined as uniquely American. There is no American monopoly on the capacity to hope for freedom, equality, justice, peace, and dignity. The capacity for that hope lives in every soul.

We must remember that hope is a choice made by morally capable intelligent beings. Just as many people interpret the Obama presidency as the triumph of hope, others choose to view it through the lens of their fears and the fury of their hatred. Some people are overwhelmed by the fear of change. Some are furious about the notion of anyone who is different from their notion of leadership holding the power and potential of the U.S. presidency. And, let us not forget, that there are people whose world view is defined by their faith in the supremacy of their race, religion, dogma, or history and who perceive the Obama presidency as a force to be fought, not something to be celebrated. One need only read some of the messages posted on Internet blogs to verify these observations.

My family, like so many others in the United States and throughout the world, chose faith over fear. We are people of faith who recognize the realities of hate, power addiction, and injustice. Yet, we refuse to live in fear about them. We know that hateful and fearful people can think, say, and do hurtful (even tragic) things. But today we have new, unmistakable, unapologetic, and hate and fear-defying proof that faith can triumph over fear. We have new proof that the words of the black spiritual sung with such determination during even the most challenging times of the modern civil rights movement in the U.S. are true: "Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day."

That faith prompted civil rights workers to also sing: "We are not afraid. We are not afraid. We are not afraid today. Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday." The Southern Christian Leadership Conference now sings "today" instead of "someday." Today, let us press onward as President Obama leads in the power of that faith. Others may choose to live in the shadows of fear and hate. Those among us who reject fear are not afraid. Despite the fear, hate, injustice, and other trials of our time, we know and Obama proves the moral supremacy of faith over fear. Despite the fears and fury, we shall overcome by the power and relentless effort fueled by our faith.