The inaugural benediction delivered by the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 20, 2009
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou, who has brought us thus far along the way,
Thou, who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray,
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee,
Shadowed beneath thy hand,
May we forever stand
True to thee, oh God, and
True to our native land.
[- from “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson, the Black National Anthem, with a slight change to the next to last line – originally, True to our God – ed.]
We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we’ve shared this day.
We pray now, oh Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration.
He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national, and indeed the global, fiscal climate. But because we know you’ve got the whole world in your hands, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations.
Our faith does not shrink, though pressed by the flood of mortal ills. For we know that, Lord, you are able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.
And while we have sown the seeds of greed – the wind of greed and corruption – and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.
And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.
And as we leave this mountain top, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques or wherever we seek your will.
Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia.
We go now to walk together as children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone.
With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when Black will not be asked to get in back, when Brown can stick around, when Yellow will be mellow, when the Red man can get ahead, man; and when White will embrace what is right. Let all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen, say Amen and Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery was, with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and, in 1957, they founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which Rev. Lowery led as president from 1977 to 1997. In 2006, at Coretta Scott King’s funeral, Dr. Lowery received a standing ovation when he remarked before four U.S. presidents in attendance, including George W. Bush: “We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here: Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war, billions more, but no more for the poor!” The benediction was transcribed by CQ Transcriptions for the Associated Press; Bay View staff made minor corrections.