Pope Francis, I love. He is a good man, with a warm heart and a big moral imagination. And I think he had such an impact on his visit here as he’s had around the world because he cares so deeply about the least of these. And in that sense, expresses what I consider to be as a Christian the essence of Christianity.
…I think it’s really useful that he makes us uncomfortable in his gentle way. That he’s constantly prodding people’s consciences and asking everybody all across the political spectrum, what more you can do to be kind, and to be helpful, and to love, and to sacrifice, and to serve. —President Barack Obama on Pope Francis, October 2, 2015
I understand the sentiment. I was glued to the television during Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. I was amazed and inspired by his interactions with so many people, from the President to prisoners. So I took a few days to really consider what I could learn from him on both a personal and a professional level.
Clearly, he has much to teach from a religious and spiritual aspect. For example, I found myself asking what more I could do to serve. Is my busy schedule a valid concern, or am I hiding behind that as an excuse, and merely need to organize my schedule in a tighter way? And speaking of the aforementioned prisoners–does everyone have the capacity to change–even the most hardened prisoner? I’m not sure I agree. But his words persuaded me to at least consider the possibility.
That persuasive ability is not only the hallmark of a great religious leader, but also is the hallmark of a great speaker. Pope Francis excelled in that regard. So his addresses and remarks also can teach us about the power of speaking and connecting with an audience.
Among my personal three highlights? First, the remarks he delivered during his White House welcoming ceremony.
Courtesy The White House
But as I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. —President Obama
Everything has its place. Anger rarely does. “Rarely,” however doesn’t mean never.
Speaking with anger before an audience should be limited to only the most extreme and extraordinary circumstances. Another mass shooting, this time at Umqpua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon that left 10 dead and seven injured, would be one of those times.
Such excitement surrounds His Holiness’ visit. I feel it, too. President Obama and the First Lady will greet the Pope at Joint Base Andrews, along with Vice President and Dr. Biden, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia and Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.
That type of welcome to the United States rarely happens.
I especially await the message he will bring to Capitol Hill during a joint session of Congress on September 24. (I will post the speech as soon as transcripts and video are available.)
So, before he lands on North American soil, watch a “virtual visit” Pope Francis made a couple of weeks ago to parishioners in cities he wouldn’t have time to visit. Watch especially at the 2:25 mark, as he encouraged a girl who had once been bullied to sing for him. Of course, she was nervous. Truth be told, I’d be nervous, too.
But he–speaking in English–encouraged her to be courageous. The moment was pure magic. It was also another example of how the Pontiff connects with his audience: using the power of his moral authority; speaking with warmth; and showing a bit of humility by speaking in English, which is not his strongest language. He was demonstrating some courage, too.
Be courageous, everyone! Speak, and act, with courage.
And welcome, Pope Francis.
Watch the eulogy in its entirety below.
Courtesy PBS NewsHour
Last week, I planned to post about Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s Investiture Ceremony. Great speeches were made, of course, but the image of President Obama, Attorney General Lynch, her family and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomoyor was so powerful. It was a beautiful site to behold.
I planned to talk about how the ceremony was worthy of the woman who now holds the office of Attorney General of the United States. From dealing with police brutality allegations to tackling corruption at the highest levels of FIFA, it seems the Attorney General scarcely had time for niceties like a formal welcome ceremony. I’d want to hit the ground running too, after the shameless runaround courtesy of the United States Senate.
I planned to write about how proud she looked, flanked by her husband and her parents, praised by President Obama, and sworn in by Justice Sotomayor, using a bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass. I planned to write that the speeches were as powerful as the image.
And I planned to write that I thought that Douglass, in spirit, would approve.
It is always right and proper to acknowledge and thank soldiers for their valiant service to our country.
Even if it takes nearly 100 years.
Two heroes of World War I, Private Henry Johnson and Sergeant William Shemin–one African American, one Jewish–displayed remarkable feats of courage in action fighting on French battlefields while battling the Germans.
Their bravery was unmistakable. But the full measure of their valor largely went unrecognized. Until today.
Today President Obama posthumously awarded them the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House, in a show of gratitude that is long overdue.
Courtesy White House
It promises to be a seriously funny time. Crafting remarks with all the funny lines and zingers audience have come to expect is no laughing matter. You can’t guarantee giggles on the fly. It’s no wonder presidents often enlist high-powered help for their remarks.
But more about that later. Let’s warm-up by watching President Obama deliver remarks during last year’s dinner.
Courtesy of the White House
If you’re like most in our country, then you’re hunkering down and trying to stay warm during our current deep freeze.
While doing so, take a few minutes to honor the holiday by reading (or listening to) a few presidential speeches.
This post isn’t meant to deify the presidents who have served our nation, but rather, to remind ourselves of their policies during their presidential terms–and how they expressed those policies through their speeches. We can appreciate George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address, while also remembering that he was a not-reluctant slave owner. We can appreciate Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, while also remembering his “evolution” regarding slavery, seen here in his 1854 Peoria Speech. Continue reading