A former member of President Obama’s Executive Office recently accepted a position teaching at New York University. The former Executive Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Joshua DuBois resigned from Obama’s office in February 2013 to write a book of presidential devotionals (The President's Devotional: The Daily Readings That Inspired President Obama, published by HarperOne) and to found an organization to form church partnerships with public, private, and nonprofit organizations called Values Partnerships. He also writes a column for The Daily Beast. DuBois was also the religious affairs director for Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, as well as working for him during his term in the Senate.
DuBois was one of the longest serving aides to Obama, and was responsible for nonprofit and faith-based organizations around the U.S. He is an expert on the intersection of religion and public life. He has been written about in many news sources, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, and others. He also expanded the office to do more than it had previously; he began tackling issues such as teen pregnancy, child poverty, absentee fathers, and the economy.
DuBois’ father, Antoni Sinkfield, is a Methodist Episcopal pastor, and he grew up in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Nashville, TN. Before working for Obama, DuBois served as the Associate Pastor at a Pentecostal church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He holds a Masters degree in Public Affairs from Princeton and a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Boston University. The story of DuBois is unique, because he decided he would like to work for Obama while watching the Senator’s 2004 Democratic convention speech, which was concluded by Obama saying that we worship “an awesome God.” DuBois drove to Chicago from New Jersey and met with people until someone introduced him to Obama. He was hired on as a legislative aide, and began advising him on faith-based issues. At one point, he asked Obama if he would like DuBois to send him daily devotionals, and Obama said yes.
During his time working for Obama, DuBois would send daily devotionals via phone to Obama, which included scripture. These devotionals are what will make up the book being published. When he resigned, the President said of DuBois at the National Prayer Breakfast:
“Joshua has been at my side, in work and in prayer, for years now. He is a young reverend, but wise in years...Every morning he sends me via email a daily meditation—a snippet of Scripture for me to reflect on. And it has meant the world to me. And despite my pleas, tomorrow will be his last day in the White House.”
In an interview with Christianity Today (2009), DuBois told about Obama’s faith-based initiatives, which expanded on those of former President George W. Bush. The mission of the Obama administration was “reducing poverty, reducing the need for abortion, encouraging responsible fatherhood, and working with the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue around the world.” A change that Obama made in the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives was creating a 25-member cabinet of advisors. Some of these advisors include Rev. Frank Page, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Bishop Vashti McKenzie, first female Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; Rev. Joel Hunter, the senior pastor of Northland church in Orlando, Florida; Judith Vredenburgh, CEO of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America; and Rabbi David Saperstein, head of the DC Religious Action Center of Reform Judiasm.
In an ABC News interview, DuBois said described Obama as "a deeply faithful president [who] didn't need a whole bunch of help cultivating that faith." While Obama’s faith practice is not overly publicized, the President attends church as often as possible, as well as holding private sessions with pastors. He also tries to live out his faith in the way he does his job and lives his life, by spending quality time with his family. Obama not only read the devotionals sent via BlackBerry, but also requested of DuBois scripture to help him in making specific decisions; for instance, reading the book of Job and reflecting on trails. The President also read Isaiah and the prophets, as well as books by Christian authors like C.S. Lewis. The most difficult time spiritually for Obama was the experience of the Newton, Connecticut shooting during the President’s first term. He used 2 Corinthians 4:16-21 to help him in comforting the families.
While there are many critics and skeptics of the faith and beliefs of the President, Obama knows people will believe all kinds of things and simply tries to live out his faith in the best way possible. DuBois said, "All the president can do is live out his Christian walk every single day. The detractors will do their detracting, but at the end of the day it's about his relationship with God and that relationship, from all that I can tell, is strong." Many people believe that Washington, D.C. is full of people who are not only non-Christians, but against Christianity and religion in general. This, DuBois writes, is completely untrue; people who work in government try to balance their faith with their careers. There are many people of strong faith in the capitol; read DuBois’ article The Secret Faith of Washington.
Find out more about DuBois, his past and more about his office for the President.