Who is Reverend Joseph Lowery?
The biggest topic of conversation surrounding Obama’s upcoming Presidential Inauguration is undoubtedly the selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation. Do a Google search for “Warren Obama” and you’ll get roughly 10 million results.
So, Warren is giving the opening prayer; very controversial, blah blah blah. Enough already. But what about the pastor giving the benediction, the closing prayer? He is Joseph Lowery, of course. Warren may grab all the headlines and have a mega-selling book, but it’s Lowery who has the resume.
Who is he?
Simply put, Reverend Joseph Lowery is a civil rights icon. He co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King in 1957. Since then, he has devoted his life to civil rights and social activism.
Ebony Magazine called him “the consummate voice of biblical social relevancy, a focused voice, speaking truth to power.” Whatever that means, his resume speaks louder:
- helped lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott after Rosa Park’s arrest in 1955
- led the Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights in 1965
- co-founder of the Black Leadership Forum, which fought to end apartheid
- built a 240-unit apartment building for low and moderate income families while pastor of the United Methodist congregation in Atlanta
- has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights
The 87 year old Methodist minister has truly lived “a purpose driven life“, to borrow a phrase.
Why Obama chose him
One theory as to why Obama chose Lowery to delivery the benediction at his inauguration could be that he wanted to level out the playing field; to provide a counter to Rick Warren: the older, black, gay rights advocate and the younger, white, Prop 8 supporter. Obama has repeatedly stressed his belief in dialogue between people of contrasting viewpoints. Warren and Lowery are truly a contrast.
Although that might be one reason for Obama’s choices, there’s another, more obvious reason. Could it be that if it weren’t for Lowery’s lifelong commitment to civil rights, Obama wouldn’t be in the position he is in today: the first black President of the United States.
In an interview with NPR, Lowery said:
“I’m very proud that people across this country, even in Southern states, chose to vote for an African-American. That’s the sign of real progress, and I’m so grateful that I lived long enough to see it come to pass.”