At a gathering last night celebrating Obama’s inauguration, I was delighted to meet Judith Light partly because of the character she plays in Ugly Betty, and largely because of her tireless and passionate support of the LGBT community. She has worked hard for many LGBT charities, including the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the Point Foundation, on whose boards she sits. An outspoken AIDS activist, she played Ryan White‘s mother in a TV movie on his life. She is quoted as saying, “Bigotry or prejudice in any form is more than a problem; it is a deep-seated evil within our society. “
When I asked Ms. Light what she thought about Obama’s choice of Rick Warren, she responded, “that was a bad decision.” Although she tries to see the good in it. “This could be a learning moment for him (Barack),” to be more sensitive to a community that has fought hard for him and will continue to do so. But not blindly, especially after this.
I pointed out that our new leader has consistently intoned his “belief that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together — Democrats, Republicans, independents; Latino, Asian and Native American; black and white, gay and straight, disabled and not — then not only would we restore hope and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe, just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process.” And his mere inclusion of gays in the tally can perhaps erode walls – fear, ignorance, prejudice – that keep us out.
But Ms. Light could only concede a weak maybe. “We need to be vigilant.” She added that “we have to remind him of his own civil rights,” that it was once denied to African Americans, Asians and other people of color. We agreed that we all need to make sure that the next president keeps his word and does bring in lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered individuals into the fold with full and equal rights. Just as he has led by hand, conservatives and fundamentalists into his magical big tent, people who not only have rights but power and clearly, influence.
Another person I met, an ardent supporter of Obama, expressed her concerns about his reaching out to everyone. “I hope that he isn’t too naive … I hope the presidency doesn’t ruin him.” A few of us chimed in, “Oh, he isn’t naive.” On the contrary, he is a savvy politician from Chicago who climbed to the highest seat in the land in such as a short time.
Nonetheless, I do share Bishop Robinson‘s prayer at the celebration at Lincoln Memorial.
O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…
Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.
Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.
And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.
Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.
Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.
Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.
And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.