January 20th, 2009
12:57 PM ET
13 years ago

Rev. Joseph Lowery delivers benediction at inaugural ceremony

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Rev. Joseph Lowery, a leader during the civil rights movement and former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, delivered the inaugural ceremony's benediction Tuesday on the west front of the U.S. Capitol.

Reverend Joseph Lowery.

"We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day," Lowery, 87, said in delivering the prayer.

He asked that Americans cling to the spirit of fellowship embodied at the inauguration.

"We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right," Lowery said.

Filed under: Inauguration
soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. chris

    This is a prayer I think God enjoyed very much! The good reverand doctor's speech and aretha's channeling of Dr. King were my two proudest moments of the 72 hours of coverage.

    January 20, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  2. O.G.

    I know he's an old man, but his comments were racially insensitive. He should apologize. I haven't ever seen any "yellow" people walking around. Who are they?

    January 20, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  3. Sarah

    I was insulted, being white, by what he said. Obama would not be president if most of the country did not vote for him. Therefore, white and black democrats and maybe some republicans voted for him but, the point is WHITE people voted for him.

    I am insulted because, I always try to do what is right. I am not racist. I do not discriminate. I have my beliefs and I have respect for those who have theirs. I am insulted that this person thinks he needs to pray for me to do what is right just because of race. He should be praying for EVERYONE to do what is right. Just the same it is not okay for blacks, browns, reds, yellows, and whites to be racist.

    January 20, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  4. Jared

    I can only imagine the outrage if a white man said "and when blacks will embrace what is right". I'm not too offended, but it's ridiculous to suggest it wasn't racist because it was and everyone knows it.

    January 20, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  5. Chris

    Doesn't anyone know how to spell?

    January 20, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  6. Tallwriter

    I was shocked at the comment about "whites getting it right." True, not all whites are accepting of other races, but neither are all African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, etc. When will the past stopped being thrown in our face? If you want someone to change, you can't keep bringing up the past, you have to forgive and go on. It concerns me that Obama would have approved of the content of Lowery's benediction. Besides, it's just irreverent, racial comments aside, to "joke" while praying.

    January 20, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  7. Kevin Ticked off

    I didn't vote for Obama because he wasn't the right MAN for the job. This proves that I was right about his poor character.

    January 20, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  8. Anon

    Thank you Laura. Seems that most of you are looking for something to fight against and be a "white victim" as opposed to listening for a second and realizing what was really said and why it was said. Thanks again Laura.

    January 20, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  9. Yoli

    I looked at the benediction differently and was not offended. My family happens to be a blend of a number of ethic groups and that's a blessings.

    However, I feel that many of us are looking for a time when color will no longer be an issue at all. Unfortunately, there are many who have not eleavated to the level that some of the rest of us have, where race is not an issue. Some of you missed Rev. Lowery's key words before he broke down the color ryhme. The words are "We ask that you help us work for a day when..." (simply meaning a day when 'the color barrier is no more).

    As a woman that is viewed as African American when looking at the color of my skin I've faced racism since the Obama -Biden where voted in as President & Vice President Elect.

    I live in NJ and was visiting VA during the December holidays and a mgr. of a well known restaurant chain spoke to my guest and I as if we were still back in the 40s, 50s and 60s. It was disheartening to say the least. He may as well have called us the N-word as well.

    However, I did not allow the above incident to break my spirit, I wrote a letter to the headquaters of the chain and alerted them to what occured. I received a call back from the regional and district mgr. and they are handling the matter.

    I say all this to say, the door is opening and yes many of us are looking at character and not color, but some still find it difficult to embrace the paradigm shift.

    To my brothers and sisters who have the lighter complexions, I hope you read my story and undertstand that Rev. Lowery's comments are not a slap in the face, it's keeping hope that we can one day move beyond this color issue for good. I feel one day it will occur for good, but in the mean time we must continue to embrace our similarities and respect our differences.

    January 20, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  10. Rochester

    What's sad about Jae's comment is that nearly all white people acknowledge the evil of slavery and racism from the past yet still get bashed for it as though slavery still exists today. Racism is really a card that will be played forever. Read Chris Rocks's interview with CNN this week; even he admits it (not that he's the authority on the subject). The reality is that there is no such thing as equality. Rather, it is a mask for the search for power and advantage from any group claiming equality is what it seeks. If this were not true, then a benchmark could be set upon which, once achieved, the claims of inequality would be required to cease. The most we can do is attempt to coexist without hatred, tension, and pointing the finger at each other's differences. Rev. Lowery's comments used a term ("black") that our schools and universitys teach is offensive and racist, while pointing a finger at the white man. I've been told that his comments are a common prayer in "black" churches, which I find even MORE offensive. At 87 yrs of age...he should know better and choose his words more carefully. Then again, maybe he really said what he meant.

    January 20, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  11. Tom

    The funny thing is that many black, brown, red and yellow people actually believe that our white ancestors where the only ones participating in slavery and discrimination. Throughought history people of every color have been committing these acts. In fact it is still going on in many parts of the world even today. Whites are not the only people capable of evil. Instead of more divisive comments we need to move forwad in a color blind way. Peace out!

    January 20, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  12. Steph

    For such a historic day Rev. Lowrey's prayer was completely disappointing and uninspiring. If Pastor Warren referred to people as 'yellow', 'red', and 'brown' and then proceeded to adhere stereotypes to each race, people would have started rioting right there. If Obama truly wants to be a post-racial leader he needs to stop permitting racist language from minorities. A double standard for and divisive rhetoric from black leaders will only slow progress. MLK would not have been proud of that prayer, what a low note to end that historic, beautiful ceremony.

    January 20, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  13. Iam

    For goodness sake, the reason it was amusing and made people smile is because he was looking backward and paraphrasing old song lyrics. He wasn't trying to offend all us super sensitive white folks at all. Get a grip.

    January 20, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  14. HELLO!

    You white folks who voted for Obama deserve every word Rev. Lowrey said. You had been had!

    January 20, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  15. kat

    Now that an african american is in the White House, I think it is time for me, a white woman, to be offended by comments regarding my race. Doesn't this imply that "we" don't embrace things that are right? Would other races be offended by this inference? You bet! This is the change we need?

    January 20, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  16. David

    Absolutely divisive and racist comments. Completely inappropriate.

    January 20, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  17. The Transfer Racism

    If you don't see anything at all racist about his comments then you have racist views for sure and are most likely a racist yourself.

    If his intent was to unite people in his prayer, it is not evident as you see by the comments of people here. So he fell short, very short, if that were the case.

    Racism is racism is racism! No matter who said it, or how old they are!

    Rev. Joseph Lowery prayed a prayer that included his beliefs, which are apparent to all people now. Call it whatever you want, but it belongs in the following category of racism.

    January 20, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  18. MBM

    For those who were so offended & upset by Rev. Lowery's benediction, get over it! We've had 400 years to get to this day. And if you can't take hearing a few comments from an 80+ year old man who has been cursed and beaten and arrested and has had to tolerate some of the worst treatment for simply asking to be treated as an equal, then you've got some work to do. Yes, enough white people voted for Obama, and we've come a long way...but don't ask people to forget where we've come from.

    January 20, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  19. KWL

    I am very offended. How many black people have jobs because of the Federal Gov. How many black people have benefited from Affirmative Action–and how large is the single mother, no father in the home, to collect welfare number and what is the % of blacks that have earned prison and jail time? I do not need to be told to do what is right–I as a hard working, tax paying, law abiding, self-made person do what is right. This is offensive to ALL.

    January 20, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  20. Matt

    I am offended as a White man, because I feel we were singled out. Is the only discrimination in this country White against everyone else? Why can't we all "embrace what is right". We are all Americans no matter what color you are. When are we going to stop pointing fingers and just work together?

    January 20, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  21. Offended!

    "and when white will embrace what is right".

    Just a question, would this sound a little racist?

    I guess my time working for civil rights in the 60's doesn't count because I am white? I thought I was doing what was right?

    January 20, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  22. anon57


    January 20, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  23. Cat

    Sad that race had to be brought up yet again, no matter what color you are, you should be offended. It's shameful and I think Rev. Lowery was just looking for his opportuity. Pitiful, and I am sad to have witnessed such irreverance on a historical day.

    January 20, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |

    Best benediction I've ever heard!!! Unless you are a racist there was no HARM done. I thought it was cute...so all of you conservative John Mccain and Bush lovers please note you are officially the minority.
    It's a new Dawn and a New day!!!!!

    January 20, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  25. Rob

    I was was really enjoying the Reverend's speech, until he added the racist spin. I do believe that his view stems from a different perspective, but I honestly expected more from a mature, educated leader, chosen to speak at such an event. Unfortunately for him, and President Obama, this phrase will likely create an indelible shadow over this historic event. Very sad.

    January 20, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
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