After one of the longest campaigns in history, plus a historic election and inauguration, we are finally entering this new day of hope and change. There were a lot of promises made and now we will be able to see what will become reality and which will fall by the way side. “What will Obama do” has replaced “Yes, we can” and we have begun to see WWOD in his appointments and inaugural ceremonies.
Obama campaigned on the promise of change – a change from the politics of division to a politics of hope for all Americans; a change that would listen to all Americans, respecting our differences but finding common ground for the good of all.
While supporting a woman’s right to chose, he also promised to work to reduce unintended pregnancies. He promised to eliminate unnecessary middle managers and cronyism in the administration while promising hiring based on merit with a policy not based on qualifications and experience. There were other campaign promises on education, criminal justice, energy and environment, foreign policy, health care and, of course, the economy that gave hope and promise to all Americans of a better future, not just today but also for future generations.
All of these campaign promises effect the gay community but it was his promises on issues for our civil rights that made Obama’s presidency the most promising. Working with military leaders to repeal the current Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, advocating for equal treatment for same sex couples in family and adoption laws and to never compromise on his commitment to equal rights for all LGBT Americans.
Now that the campaigning is over we are waiting to see WWOD for us. So far his appointments and inauguration have sent mixed messages.
Despite getting off to a slow start on openly gay appointments, The Obama team has stepped up its game with several prominent appointments. Brian Bond, a political veteran who has headed the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund has been tapped for deputy director for the White House Office of Public Liaison. He joins Brad Kiley, director of the Office of Management and Administration, Nancy Sutley heading the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Dave Noble as the White House liaison to NASA, Karine Jean-Pierre as White House liaison to the Department of Labor and David Medina (in my dream job) as deputy chief of staff for Michelle Obama. That’s the good news.
On the other side, Robert Gibbs, spokesman for President Obama, said that other issues may take priority over lifting the ban on members of the gay community serving openly in the military. I’m sure everyone recognizes that the economy has trumped everything.
But although Obama stated his opposition to California’s Prop. 8 and supports a civil union that would provide the legal rights and protections of marriage, he is also on record as saying he believes marriage is between a man and a woman and is not in favor of gay marriage. Contradictions – maybe – but definitely room for common ground.
The big monkey wrench in our interpretation of WWOD, however, came in his selection of Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inaugural ceremony. Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life” and leader of Saddleback Church, an evangelical mega-church, is no friend of the gay community and was outspoken in his support of California’s Prop. 8. How could our “friend” in the White House choose Warren?
That Rick Warren, whose words and actions have been hurtful and harmful to the LGBT community, was selected to give the invocation for an administration that was elected with the promise of change was mind boggling. I listened to the pundits, commentators on NPR and other Obama supporters and perhaps, if I could apply Vulcan logic to this selection, saw where Obama was trying to go with this (I guess).
But, as my ears aren’t pointed and I don’t share the cool, calm logic of Mr. Spock, like the millions of my LGBT brothers and sisters, I was outraged and added my outrage to the cacophony of protest that swept across the country. How did the inaugural team, which includes openly LGBT people, let this happen?
Quick to recover, Obama responded to the outrage over Warren by inviting the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, to speak at the opening Inaugural event at the Lincoln Memorial – a sign to many LGBT leaders of Obama’s commitment to LGBT equality. Now let’s see how many of those promises he can deliver.
Gandhi said “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” We stand at the beginning of a new era of politics, economic and human relations that will change the way we live and govern for generations to come. Obama has said, “This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands.” But he also reminded us that this victory and the work to achieve these goals are ours. We must be the change we want.
For many, when in doubt, reflection upon WWJD (what would Jesus do) provides answers for actions/directions reflecting the caring, compassion and love exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ. This acronym has been morphed to WWBD (What Would Buddha Do), WWGD (what would Ghandi Do) and others both serious and jokingly to reflect on a way of action different from the norm.
I imagine some time in the future, students, pundits and politicians will look back on this time, this Obama era, when faced with a tough decision and ask WWOD – What Would Obama Do? The answer will come from the questions we ask today, the actions we take and the accountability we demand from this administration. WWOD in the future will depend not just on WWOD (What will Obama Do) but WWWD (What will WE do) today.