Sunday Forum

Sunday, January 18, 2009. 10:10 AM

A Special Forum on the Presidential Inauguration

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The Sunday Forum: Critical Issues in the Light of Faith
The Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, host
 

To observe the inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the United States, Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III hosts a special Sunday Forum with philanthropist Earl Stafford and journalist William Raspberry.

“The presidential inauguration…takes on or sheds meaning, depending on the circumstances.” comments Raspberry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who produced columns for the Washington Post for almost four decades. “This one…represents such an amalgam of change and opportunity and growth for America that it has taken on really special meaning.” He uses the phrases “the people’s inaugural” and “the people’s victory,” and asserts that, after the election, President-elect Obama’s approval rose twenty percentage points higher than his margin of victory.

“There is something about the hopefulness this particular inauguration ushers in, that makes us think that America has taken and is taking a giant step in the direction of becoming what it has, in its heart of hearts, wanted to be since its inception,” Raspberry summarizes.

Lloyd asks Stafford to describe the origin of the People’s Inaugural Project, which began in March of 2008, and which was planned to occur regardless of who won the presidential election. Even amid the sense of hope that has swept the nation, Stafford says that “the focus has to be on the people, those who are still hurting in America.” The People’s Inaugural Project brought the underprivileged, wounded veterans, and people facing serious illness to the inauguration. Some of the project’s guests even stayed in the presidential suite in the Hay-Adams Hotel after the Obama family checked out. The project provided not only accommodation but also gowns and tuxedos for its guests to wear to formal inaugural events.

Raspberry reflects on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy in light of the inauguration. He believes that the country’s mood has changed, that a decade of pessimism has begun to pass away, and that King’s dream is beginning to intersect with reality. Stafford, however, cautions that this “great moment” represents the continuation of the realization of the dream, but “we haven’t arrived yet.”

Stafford believes that too much attention has been focused on Obama as the first black president. Instead, he hopes that more people will view Obama as “a very qualified, outstanding person who is qualified to be president, and, oh by the way, he happens to be black. I don’t think his race should always be at the forefront.”

“This is the beginning of change and not the culmination of it,” Raspberry says. He describes a shift, particularly among white Americans, from disbelief that a black candidate could be elected president, to strong support of Obama. “There are so many things we have been reluctant to start because we thought, because we told ourselves, it ain’t gonna happen; the people aren’t ready,” Raspberry says. “You don’t know what the people are ready for until somebody comes on the scene and says, ‘Let’s try it.’”

Businessman Earl Stafford is host of The People’s Inaugural Project, a three-day presidential inauguration celebration in downtown Washington, D.C. specifically created for the underprivileged, injured veterans, and those living with serious illness. Its purpose is to reignite concern for the less fortunate and to highlight America’s traditions of social benevolence.

William Raspberry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy Studies at Duke University. As an urban affairs columnist for the Washington Post for nearly four decades, he wrote widely on education, crime, justice, drug abuse, and housing issues.

About Earl Stafford

Businessman Earl Stafford is host of The People’s Inaugural Project, a three-day presidential inauguration celebration in downtown Washington, D.C. specifically created for the underprivileged, injured veterans, and those living with serious illness. Its purpose is to reignite concern for the less fortunate and to highlight America’s traditions of social benevolence.

About William Raspberry

William Raspberry was a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy Studies at Duke University. As an urban affairs columnist for the Washington Post for nearly four decades, he wrote widely on education, crime, justice, drug abuse, and housing issues.

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