Rhyming reverend gets last word at Obama inaugural
WASHINGTON – Rev. Joseph Lowery was back on stage with a president, but on Tuesday the civil-rights pioneer used his wry rhymes to welcome the U.S. leader, not skewer him as he did three years ago.
Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr., delivered the benediction at Barack Obama’s inauguration as first black U.S. president.
Lowery prayed for healing from a era of “greed and corruption,” and asked, in verse, for divine help toward a new beginning of racial harmony:
“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,” Lowery said to laughter from the vast audience.
In 2006, speaking before then-president George W. Bush and three former presidents at the funeral of King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, Lowery delivered a stern rebuke to Bush’s conduct of the Iraq war and domestic policy.
“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,” he said then.
Critics charged that the remarks were out of place at a funeral. Lowery defended them as relevant to Mrs. King’s life.
Also speaking at the inauguration was evangelical pastor Rick Warren, who said in his invocation that “Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in Heaven” over Obama’s historic presidency.
Gay-rights supporters had criticized Obama for awarding the inaugural showcase to Warren, an influential supporter of a successful ballot measure to ban gay marriage in California.
But Lowery got the last word, and a chorus of Amens.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed (Lowery speaks at Obama inauguration, Jan. 20)
For more Reuters political coverage, click here.