Rick Steps Up, Caroline Steps Down

January 23, 2009

It’s been an important few days. Let’s revisit two key protagonists, Rick Warren and Caroline Kennedy.

Caroline has exited, with varying amounts of grace, depending on which version of the story you believe. She decided this was not her moment, likely at the urging of a governor who is very sensitive to not being treated like one. Paterson was the wrong guy to try to push around with an inevitability narrative. He and/or she made the right call, and I hope this is the beginning, not the end, of a more public career for her. The world is hungry for role models of smart, strong women who can compete and win on their ideas and talent. I think she has it in her, and now we may find out.

Rick rose to occasion. He spoke with a degree of humility he rarely reveals in his public persona, and his passion for the moment electrified the crowd. He used his controversial platform to clarify that “we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.” He asked for forgiveness “when we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve,” and for “a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ.”

His message moved me on the deepest level, and I was not the only one holding back tears in a packed auditorium in the People’s Republic of Cambridge, Massachusetts. He lost a few people with the overtly Christian Lord’s Prayer, but his personal framing of the prayer and his overall message of inclusion invited the crowd to give him the benefit of the doubt. He seemed like an altered man to me, and I hope that this is the version of him that emerges from this controversy. Like I said, he could be a truly righteous force in the world.

Oh, and we have a new president, who in an instant may have healed the nation’s deepest wound and created a sense of possibility on a global scale. Not bad for a few days.

Unsolicited Advice for Rick Warren

January 2, 2009

Obama and Warren

  1. Your generosity of spirit betrays your divisive posturing — be who you are.
  2. We all have small and large versions of ourselves. Rise to the size of your growing platform.
  3. Eat right and exercise. You can be a righteous force in the world if you stick around for a while.
  4. Love your neighbor as yourself.
  5. I am a gay woman, with a wife and child to protect from the politics of fear you used to undermine my family’s citizenship and dignity — and even I respond to your core decency. There’s something there.
  6. Make my son proud to be part of your America on January 20th.
  7. Believe the hype — the world is hanging on your words right now. We will move on, but you have our attention for the moment. Honor it.
  8. Do not bear false witness. Unless you really can’t distinguish between gay marriage and pedophilia, this one may be the most helpful.
  9. Gay people don’t eat donuts. Consider building bridges with scones next time, maybe a nice fruit plate, cocktails.
  10. Ask yourself what would Jesus do.