On Wednesday, December 20, I sat down with a small circle of American religious leaders to talk with President-elect George W. Bush. He flew us into Austin, Texas, to talk with him for about one and a half hours about how his administration can strengthen the contribution of faith-based organizations (FBOs) in overcoming poverty in America. In light of all we have been doing in Evangelicals for Social Action and all I said in Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America to promote an expanded role for FBOs, I was obviously delighted to be present.
The group included folk as diverse as Marvin Olasky and Jim Wallis, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and a Muslim Imam. The Washington Post wrongly announced the day before that the meeting was only for African-American pastors and was designed as an end run around the older "civil-rights" leaders. There were a large number of African-American leaders there (Floyd Flake, John Perkins, Tony Evans, Bishop Charles Blake), but almost two-thirds of the group were white or Latino. President Bush brought his chief of staff Andrew Card, a key domestic policy advisor, former Indianapolis mayor Stephen Goldsmith, and his top speech writer, Michael Gerson.
Often, during the campaign, Bush promised to place great emphasis on FBOs if he became President. The fact that he decided to devote the first of a series of policy-focused meetings with key leaders on different topics to the issue of FBOs' overcoming poverty demonstrates that Bush intends to make this a high priority early in his new administration. Even after his chief of staff announced that the President-elect needed to leave for another meeting to announce a cabinet appointee, Bush stayed another ...1
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