The past election was filled with words and images that propelled a relatively unknown junior senator to the Presidency. The image of candidate Obama in Berlin, with tens of thousands cheering, gave him the credibility of an international leader. The words with which he communicated his vision for America and inspired millions of people to become involved in their democracy, many for the first time, were powerful. The clarion call of "Yes We Can" motivated the apathetic, energized the faithful and gave the powerless the audacity of (and to) hope.
And while any first-year communications student can tell you that words and images matter, they would also tell you that actions matter more. Nonverbal communication is perceived to be more reliable than verbal communication. Actions really do speak louder than words.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the action of choosing Rick Warren to deliver the first words and be the first image at the inauguration of this Administration -- the Administration of Hope -- outrages and demoralizes many of us who are Gay and Lesbian. We are, to say the least, confused. There is an irresolvable disconnect -- a cognitive dissonance -- between the words President-Elect Obama uses and the words Rick Warren uses when speaking about us. How do we reconcile 'hope,' 'diversity,' 'dialogue' and 'equality' with 'pedophile,' 'unnatural,' 'sinner' and 'Christophobe'?
It is important for "America to come together" as President-Elect Obama said in defense of choosing Warren to give the invocation -- and therein lies the solution.
I propose an alternate image that respects the choice of the President-Elect and affirms the dignity of those Gay and Lesbian Americans who have stood with him.
The President-Elect should extend an additional invitation to the Reverend Troy Perry to share the invocation with Pastor Warren. Reverend Perry established the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in October of 1968. The church that began forty years ago with twelve people and initially ministered to Gays and Lesbians who had been alienated by mainstream religious denominations has grown to serve over 43,000 members in 250 churches across 23 countries.
The image of both Pastor Warren and Reverend Perry delivering the invocation communicates a powerful image of respect and inclusiveness. It is the right first image for the Administration of Hope. It is the change that I, as a Gay American, can believe in. And perhaps, after the inauguration, both men can spend time together and begin the dialogue the President wants us so desperately to have.
Actions do speak louder than words.