February 6th, 2009
06:59 PM ET

For President Obama, faith counts

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/05/obama.faith/art.obamacap2.gi.jpg caption="President Obama announced Thursday that he is changing the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives."]

Eboo Patel
Interfaith Youth Core

Two things struck me about President Obama’s Faith-based office yesterday: this matters to him, and he expects it to get things done.

I’ve been asked to serve on the Advisory Council for the Office , and had the honor of being part of a 30 minute Oval Office meeting with the President yesterday. He set out our charge pretty quickly: cooperate to serve others during this time of need in America, and be a positive example of interfaith engagement in a world torn by religious conflict. He spoke about the importance of engaging talented young people, of reaching out to the Muslim world, of working across religious diversity and also the secular / faith divide. The focus isn’t so much what happens in churches, synagogues and mosques – it’s what all those Christians, Jews and Muslims do in the world together.

Obama’s office has several concrete initiatives, all of which seem designed to avoid controversy and to deliver results. Engage faith communities and other service organizations in helping Americans during this economic crisis; reduce abortions and work with at-risk girls and unwed mothers; strengthen fatherhood and reach out to at-risk young men; and encourage interfaith cooperation at home and abroad.

The Advisory Council has been told that we will be divided into Task Forces along these four priorities and asked to generate recommendations for actions that will get results.

I look at this as the chance to achieve the dream of the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions, where the Protestant leader Charles Bonney said: “From now on, the great religions of the world will no longer declare war on each other, but on the giant ills that afflict humankind.”

Filed under: Eboo Patel • Faith • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. virdie L. Epps,author seeing by faith-moved by compassion

    i say to the president, keep the faith. we atre praying for you.

    February 8, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  2. Lo

    Obama is trying to be everyone's friend.

    February 8, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  3. michael bow

    Since we are all worrying about money and our economy. Well in my opinion all the judges, supreme court, governor, mayor and all most everyone in the government are really scared about this economy. then they should all take a pay cut. theirs no way these people should be making more money then teachers, police, firefighters, military. These people are the most important people that keep this country running. so if they take a pay cut. we can give the money to education, military and the safety country. then we can start to help the others out. so if they are welling to do this. then they are really heir to help the country out instead of worry about themselves and their homes.

    February 8, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  4. Dave Pretzsch

    Dear Mr. Cooper
    Our new President has enough on his mind with out worring about were he can slip off to to have a smoke, I have quit and helped several others quit with a simple remedy. You have the chance to give him this advice as I do not, Please help him and he will help us all by being less stressed. The Farmers Almanac gives several days in each month to quit, they are guided by the stars and they help. He then would only need 7 days worth of patchs. This remedy works Sir.
    Please pass it on to Mr. Obama, for our Country's sake

    Sincerely Dave W. Pretzsch
    Carmi, Il
    Land of the Free Thank You!

    February 8, 2009 at 12:21 pm |
  5. Joan Henry

    As we all may realised by now President Obama is trying is best to assist every one, remember it will take years for every one to ahieve their goal. Please work with the president uplift him, don't put him down, give him the empowerment to empower us. I know he will achieve his goal, and I give him 2 years with our help and encouragement. So for all those that having 2 or more jobs give up one to some one else.

    February 8, 2009 at 12:52 am |
  6. ment

    Hi ,
    stimulus bill a water bed for the GOP's to blind fold the nation on the mess they have thrown the country into for the past 8year, while runing a lobbyist system of government. I see their agurment as a revenage to the closure of lobbying the government in the white house. IF the GOP's in their mind thinks they are defending the tax payers, why did'nt they defend them for the past 8 years they were buzz lobbying the tax payers money and their Job?.
    The critics of this bill may be rigth or wrong,but most of them are bayas with their thougths. At the same time one question for all, is there any congress man or woman lossing his or job to feel the pain of those who lost theirs?.

    February 7, 2009 at 10:20 pm |
  7. Luis

    Hey Larry,

    You got it dead on. Ted Kennedy is apparently coming in just to vote "yea" on the bill without reading the garbage that's attached.

    But yea, Obama wants it now, Their afraid to oppose the guy and he's too popular. I don't know who's the puppet masters here. Obama or congress pulling our strings.

    February 6, 2009 at 9:41 pm |
  8. Larry

    Obama wants us to force OUR Congressional reps to pass a bill without reading it first; talk about 'no bill left behind'.

    Congress works for the people, not for the president.

    February 6, 2009 at 9:31 pm |
  9. Luis

    Here's an idea everyone can agree with.

    Until Our Politicians Can Balance Our Budget, we should put a pay cap of $60,000 dollars a year. All gifts such as money, assets, or physical objects with a value of $100 dollars or more would become property of the United States Citizens and be stored at the Fort Know Gold Depository.

    If they want to play by those rule so be it. If you agree say "I"

    February 6, 2009 at 9:25 pm |
  10. Bethany

    Isn't it an oxy-moron to sign in a bill that allows federal funding for abortions domestically and internationally while saying that one of the goals of the Faith-based initiatives is to lower abortion rates?

    Reminds me of a dog chasing his tail.

    Am I missing something here?

    February 6, 2009 at 8:38 pm |
  11. Curtis

    So his faith is what makes him spend 900 billion on nothing but projects he desires. I feel he needs to revaluate the stimulus and really look up "stimulus" in the dictionary, different than "spending". Both are S's but very different meaning.

    February 6, 2009 at 8:31 pm |
  12. P.

    Question: Do people know that the first Prime Minister of Canada put together a similar stimulus plan? It was called the 'National Policy', and it helped boost the economy. If it worked over 100 years ago, why won't it work now?

    February 6, 2009 at 7:58 pm |
  13. Luis

    Fred, what you want is Welfare. All ways have a savings when employed. You don't need that $12,000 T.V. Save up.

    If our companies weren't taxes to death, they would be outsourcing or jobs for cheaper cost of labor and tax savings. We have the second highest corporate tax in the world.

    By the way, end Bill Clinton's NAFTA!!!

    NAFTA is bad.

    Nike is a U.S. company but has never made a shoe here in the U.S., meaning it does not provide manufacturing jobs here in the U.S.A, just a lot of paper pushers.

    Both REPUBLICANS and DEMOCRATS are slowly killing this country.

    February 6, 2009 at 7:48 pm |
  14. nate

    I hope President Obama's future policies are consistent with the moral fabric represented by the American people who believe strongly in their faith and religion. It sure wasn't when he passed the freedom of choice act.

    February 6, 2009 at 7:04 pm |
  15. fred

    Anderson please tell me how a tax break will help me , when i don't have a job . how wil this pay my bills

    February 6, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  16. Terry

    I read your article...my respose...then he turns around and puts it in the hands of 26 yr old campaigner....yeah he's a preacher...I have a 26 year good christian son who is an engineer and he's not qualified....hello....

    February 6, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  17. renee, nashville, tn

    I have worked in afaith based inter demoninational organizations my entire working career. I created a support group for teenage mothers, after realizing that people of faith were definitely anti abortion, but often critical of girls who became pregnant. Once they had a opportunity to have a relationship with a teenage mother, it was amazing how judgement changed into compassion. I am so happy that President Obama is committed to this cause.

    February 6, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  18. Luis

    Anderson Cooper is an empty suit. He gets payed to read the teleprompter, that's it.

    CNN = Communist News Network

    February 6, 2009 at 5:45 pm |
  19. jarrod

    i think with our first half african american president is hard for some people to grasp but give it time and he will get respect he is deserved but i think if people keep pressing this issue it going to become a race issue and where is that going get us?

    February 6, 2009 at 5:43 pm |
  20. Sheri

    Dear Anderson,

    Why are so many CNN reporters/hosts still calling President Obama, by name and not using his title? Our country elected him President of the United States of America. Regardless of personal opinion, it's time to give President Obama, and our country, the respect he deserves. Please encourage CNN to refer to him as 'President Obama'.

    Thank you,

    February 6, 2009 at 5:02 pm |
  21. Kathleen McKinley

    Think of what divides us most in this country. If we don't understand or value the sanctity of human life, born and unborn, then we don't understand what is the most important thing..life.

    You can't reduce abortions when you promote it. You can't reduce abortions when you send money overseas to pay for abortion.

    Obama talks one way, but acts another.

    "The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion" -Mother Teresa

    February 6, 2009 at 4:57 pm |
  22. Isabel Abreu, Brazil

    The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will work on behalf of Americans, to improve the communities, no matter their religion or political beliefs. It will be a resource for nonprofits and community organizations,

    Excellent initiative of the First Sector (Public sector, the State), but the State should make sure that the generation of profits or financial surplus should be reinvested in the organization entirely. The non-profit organizations can't distribute dividends from profits to its leaders.

    However, the Second Sector (private, the market), where possible, despite the economic crisis, should also help. The Government alone isn't supporting all the non-profit organizations.

    February 6, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  23. jm

    I have been trying to follow the happenings in DC this month and have 3 comments.

    1. It seems that President Obama his earmarks are the largest and most obvious of all. He seems to be using the stimulus package to push through some of his pet projects and thereby circumvent the legislative process.

    2. He and his team have not been vetting people carefully enough and, thereby, are slowing down the process. If he cannot find proper candidates among his friends, perhaps he needs to use a wider net to find honest and capable people.

    3. His Economic Advisory Board has everyone represented except the people who are paying for this fiasco, both in terms of lost wages and tax money–the common man. I'd like to see 5 Joe/Jane Blows on the committe–believe me, they understand what's what.

    February 6, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  24. Maria

    Dear Mr. Patel,

    Congratulation, you are really gain for the Advisory Council for the Office.

    February 6, 2009 at 4:40 pm |