THE BLOG
09/25/2013 02:59 pm ET Updated Nov 25, 2013

President Obama: What Is Your Spiritual Side?

I wonder: how do you handle the daily and endless influx of global and local crises, with apparently limited time for spiritual reflection and personal peace?

I supported you from the start to become the first black president of the U.S. I hope you realize that you've won spectacularly in the fact that, because of your precedence, future years will usher in women presidents, a Latino and Asian chief executive, perhaps a Native American in the White House. Isn't that great? I certainly think so.

As an activist who was a 1961 Freedom Rider, your presidential victory was a clarion call for me. It meant among other things that the American dream was alive and real, genuinely operative, and a reality to grasp.

Yet I want to point out a couple of things. I don't support you without criticism or finding faults. I'm not a cheerleader. I've had to catch my breath a few times when I sharply disagreed with you. A number of times various questions about your performance as president crossed my mind. So I wasn't looking for celebrity worship or the morality of power as compassion. However, I didn't feel you asked me to do that. Your intellect showed. So did your grasp of history.

Looking at a portrait gallery of former U.S. presidents, one is struck by startling contrasts. There is no perfection! (Is that a surprise?) Motives are highly visible along with deep shades of vanity and ego. Different presidents have clearly tried to wrestle with political issues. They have also (even if they didn't want to) struggled with cultural no-man's-land nightmare dilemmas that would never go away.

Clearly, you've struggled too. Simply by accepting the regimen of chief executive, you've had your feet held to the fire on numerous issues. May I discuss one such occasion when I sharply disagreed with you? Remember, you were addressing the Congress. As generally indicative of highly obvious divisions in that august body, members of the opposition remained seated while the other half whooped it up by standing and cheering. This was utterly predictable behavior. However, on that particular occasion a member of Congress who didn't agree with you (or support you) chose to shout that you -- as President of the United States -- were a liar. This was a low moment in U.S. politics. The person had crossed the line. Why? Because the fact that you said what you believed did not, in fact, constitute a lie. It was your opinion. I wished -- and still do -- that you said something like "Sir, in my view I did not tell a lie. However, this occasion is not constituted as an occasion for a dialogue -- or, certainly, a debate. Tonight I am simply here as elected chief executive. I am delivering what is called a presidential address. Many chief executives have gone before me. Many will follow. May we move forward together in acknowledging this tradition that we honor? This is not a personal matter. Instead it is a part of our shared tradition where we honor our respective roles and enable one another to perform them. May we honor one another while disagreeing?"

Isn't that the point? If we don't honor the office, don't we bring down the entire system? Isn't the entire system more significant than we are as individuals? Here is precisely where we stand spiritually. You have respected our spiritual lives and quietly witnessed to the integrity of our own. Some day, further up the line, you may write a good book about this. One that shares but does not dominate. Compares your experience with ours -- but does not substitute your own views without listening intently to ours. It could be the ultimate "how-to" book.

Maybe this is the title: Odyssey of a Spiritual Seeker in the White House.

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