During the summer of 2005 I received a full scholarship to participate in the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Those three weeks in Cambridge, Massachusetts constitute one of the top learning experiences of my life.

One of our teachers was Marty Linsky. His sessions encouraged deep reflection and contemplation. In his book, Leadership on the Line, he wrote:

To lead is to live dangerously because when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear–their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking–with nothing more to offer perhaps than a possibility.


People push back when you disturb the personal and institutional equilibrium they know.

Barack Obama has chosen Pastor Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church (he hosted both Obama and John McCain in a two-hour, nationally televised forum during the presidential campaign) to offer one of the two prayers at his inauguration. The other will be given by Civil Rights icon Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The choice of Warren has many Obama supporters up in arms. If Obama is really going to change things what is he doing spotlighting a right-wing, conservative Christian who opposes several of the positions Obama supports?

It’s called leadership. He’s pushing his supporters toward places they are uncomfortable going. He’s also inviting people “into the tent” who are uncomfortable with him. Yikes! What’s that all about?

I read an article today in the Huffington Post that encapsulates my thinking well enough that I’ll quit writing about it and encourage you to read Lee Stranahan’s article.  Here’s an excerpt:

There’s something bigger at play here and you can’t say Obama didn’t warn you. He talked about reaching out, about expanding our politics and that crazy bastard actually meant it. Nobody on the left or right quite knows what to make of it. We want to cram Obama into our old, divisive, two toned ideological and political frame and if he doesn’t fit, we’ll attack him too. Attacking is what we’re used to doing.

But in the long run this new politics benefits us all. …the truth is that this sort of symbol is what America needs. Not seeing just Warren on stage or just Lowery but seeing both of them there at once.

Obama said it in the abstract time and again during the campaign. Now he’s showing us. Seeing the things that Pastor Rick Warren and Reverend Joseph Lowery have in common is more important than seeing the things that separate them. America needs to see that.