Faith Leaders Assess Obama Presidency

by: James Wright Special to the AFRO jwright@afro.com
/ (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) /
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While political scientists and historians are academically dissecting the Obama administration, a book has been published doing the same type of analysis for the 44th presidency’s spiritual legacy.

President Barack Obama delivers the eulogy at the funeral of Reverend Clementa Pinckney at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C., June 26, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Barack Obama delivers the eulogy at the funeral of Reverend Clementa Pinckney at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C., June 26, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The Revs. Barbara Williams-Skinner and Darryl D. Sims recently worked on Mr. President: Interfaith Perspectives on the Historic Presidency of Barack H. Obama that was published this month by the District-based Sims Publishing Group.

“We produced this book on the hope that this is something that chronicles the feeling, love and respect those theologians and faith leaders have for the 44th president,” Sims told the AFRO. “We talked with 84 theologians about President Obama and found that they respected the president and his attempt to work with people with whom he disagreed with.”

Williams-Skinner is a faith leader who leads the Skinner Institute, a place designed to train and educate leaders who are moral and technically competent and committed to aiding the economically disadvantaged. Sims, a native of Chicago, is a graduate of Chicago State University with a bachelor’s degree and the Howard University Divinity School with a master’s in divinity.

Williams-Skinner and Sims convinced noted religious leaders such as AME Bishop Vashti McKenzie, seasoned pastors and scholars, including the Rev. Otis J. Moss and Dr. James Forbes as well as Catholic Church leaders such as D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Rabbi Julie Schonfield and Jim Winkler, the president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches and rising faith leaders such as Rev. Jamal Bryant of the Empowerment AME Church in Baltimore. Sims said that many of the religious leaders who participated in the book never met Obama but identified with him.

“Many of them pointed out the qualities they admired in Obama,” he said. “It was obvious to them that the president was a man of faith and relied on his faith during the tough times he faced. The consensus was that Obama traveled a road unlike any other president and did it with dignity and high moral standards.”

McKenzie, in her essay, “An Ordinary Kind of Guy” talks about how skeptical she was of Obama when he first decided to run for president but after meeting him she was on board. During the essay, she made a point of noting how he was mistreated by other politicians and the media.

“As with President Obama, all manner of things have been said to him and done to him,” McKenzie said. “Yet, he still maintains poise, integrity, calm and wisdom and is one of the best presidents we’ve had for the kinds of things he has done.”

Obama’s disrespect can be traced to White supremacy Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine, wrote.

“The election of Barack Obama to the presidency was a fundamental blow to White supremacy-a Black man in the highest office in the land and the most powerful position in the world,” Wallis wrote.

The Rev. George Holmes, president of the Obama National Clergy Leadership Committee based in the District, wrote, “There is something about this man: The Anointing and the Appointing of President Barack Obama” and was happy to do so.”

“I became involved with this project first and foremost because I was led by God to do so,” Holmes told the AFRO. “In order to preserve the legacy of President Barack Obama, it was essential that many of us who contributed to the book Mr. President give an in-house, up close view of the varied experiences of Barack Obama, the man and the president.”

While the comments regarding the president were positive overall, the book contained critics. Dr. Martha Simmons took Obama to task for not appointing a Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“What a major missed opportunity to provide little Black girls with a new view of hope and promise for their lives in America,” Simmons wrote in her essay, “A Major Missed Opportunity.”

Nevertheless, Sims said that overall, the book reflects about not only Obama the president but Obama the individual.

“He was a very successful in being the president of the United States,” he said. “He was a man of character, excellence and unblemished as a husband and a father.”

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