Joshua DuBois led President Obama’s faith-based initiative in the White House during the president’s first term and was his longtime spiritual adviser. He now leads a consulting company, Values Partnerships, that works with foundations, nonprofit groups and private corporations to build faith and community partnerships for the common good. We asked him what advice he would give President-elect Donald Trump.
Harris: As President-Elect Donald Trump prepares to enter the White House, could you reflect on how you helped President Obama prepare for this moment? What advice do you have for the new president?
DuBois: My advice to President-Elect Trump is to swiftly address the deep concerns that many have about his policy agenda, from mass deportations to stop-and-frisk policing to the existential threat of a warming climate. People around the country are not just looking for superficial reconciliation; they are fearful because of the very real agenda that the president-elect put forth over 18 months during his historically divisive campaign. I hope Mr. Trump takes these concerns seriously and speaks directly to them. First he must address the harm; only then can we have any chance of moving forward into hope.
Harris: Many said the election exposed how racially polarized this country is. Why is it so polarized and what can we do to bring people together?
DuBois: We are dealing with racial polarization as a country because we are a nation that has still not fully processed our difficult history on race. We have had roughly 350 years of really tough stuff — from slavery to post-Reconstruction to Jim Crow to civil rights — and roughly 50 years when we are just beginning to emerge. Far from being a post-racial society, we have just begin to figure out how shaped by race we truly are. If we are going to come together, we first have to know and be informed by that history, which really means knowing our own, personal, American stories.
Harris: During your White House years you offered scriptures every day to the president. Are there any passages that you would offer to a President Trump at this time?
DuBois: I would encourage the president-elect to meditate on Zechariah 7:9-10: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”
Harris: What message do you have for young African Americans who may feel discouraged about the results of this election?
DuBois: Take some time to mourn, and then with great hope, bounce back. You were built for this moment — for joyful resistance, for innovation, for determined, prophetic witness. Not only will you survive, you will thrive.
Harris: In terms of moving forward, what is your vision for President Obama’s future?
DuBois: I am confident that President Obama will build upon one of the most successful presidencies in history with one of the most successful post-presidencies as well. Communities need them, and they will respond. I am excited to support him and the first lady wherever I can.