Joshua DuBois: Obama's Pastor-in-Chief

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Barack Obama Campaign

Director of Religious Affairs Joshua DuBois talks with a supporter.

Young people put Barack Obama in the White House, and the President hasn't been shy about bringing them with him. So it wasn't a surprise that Obama — who entrusted 27-year-old speechwriter Jon Favreau with crafting the soaring oratory that became his campaign's hallmark — would tap a relative neophyte to lead the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Joshua DuBois, the 26-year-old Pentecostal pastor who served as director of religious affairs for Obama's Presidential campaign, will oversee an office with a broader mission than it held under George W. Bush. Obama has charged DuBois — who will lead a council of 25 influential religious and nonprofit leaders — with helping both faith-based and secular groups galvanize their communities by providing everything from social services to job training. His appointment is a gamble for Obama, who risks lending ammunition to critics who say religion remains a secondary issue for the Democratic party. DuBois, who campaigned heavily for Obama's controversial selection of Evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his Inauguration, will also need to deftly navigate the Constitutional separations between church and state that limn his new position. Supporters say the young pastor has an uncanny ability for building relationships with religious leaders of various stripes. He's certainly built one with the President.

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Fast Facts:

• Born in Bar Harbor, Me. and raised in Nashville, Tenn. and Xenia, Ohio. DuBois' stepfather is a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church; his grandmother took part in the 1960 Nashville sit-ins

• Received his undergraduate degree in political science from Boston University in 2003 and a master's in public affairs from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. Suspended his pursuit of a J.D. at the Georgetown University Law Center to join Obama's campaign

• As a 17-year-old freshman at Boston University, DuBois — armed with a placard inscribed with the words "NO MORE" — stood before a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Boston for 41 hours as a way to commemorate the 41 bullets New York City policemen used to kill unarmed Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo

• Became an associate pastor at a Massachusetts church while still an undergraduate

• Worked as an aide to U.S. Representative Rush Holt and served as a fellow in the office of U.S. Representative Charles Rangel

• Received a form letter rejecting his application to join Obama's U.S. Senate campaign. Undeterred, he drove to Obama's office to pursue and interview, and was hired as a Senatorial aide working on faith-based outreach

• During Obama's presidential bid, DuBois rose to become national director of religious affairs, leading a team of up to eight campaign staffers and hundreds of volunteers

• Helped engineer Obama's participation in Rick Warren's Presidential Forum during the campaign, as well as the decision to tap the Saddleback church pastor for Obama's Inaugural invocation. The choice of Warren, who has espoused controversial views on topics ranging from gay marriage to political assassination, was maligned by many Democrats

Quotes about:

• "He's a young guy, but folks should not be fooled by that. After the Kerry-Bush race, when a handful of us were taking up the cause of expanding the faith conversation in the Democratic party, Joshua was one of those with us. He has a lot of knowledge and toughness, is focused on his job, and does it quite well."
— Burns Strider, DuBois' counterpart on Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. (Boston Globe, July 10, 2008)

"He's very bright and very hardworking. He's a good relationship builder, and he's reached out across the political spectrum and cares about policy."
— Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine. (ABC News, Feb. 5, 2009)

• "He is sobered by the responsibility. His word to me was 'blessed.' It will be riskier with a 26-year-old, but Joshua has matured a lot in the past year. Part of Obama's appeal in the campaign was to that younger generation. I think he wants to engage that community now."
— Rev. Joel Hunter, a pastor based in Longwood, Fla., who says DuBois' experience with grass-roots outreach could serve as a counterweight to his short resume. (Washington Times, Jan. 30, 2009)

Quotes by:

• "The big picture is that President Obama believes faith-based and smaller secular neighborhood organizations can play a role in American renewal. They can work with the federal government to address big problems. We're also going to make sure we have a keener eye toward the separation of church and state."
— Articulating his office's mission. (Associated Press, Feb. 5, 2009)

• "I was completely disconnected from social activism, or the world around me — I was almost devoid of a social consciousness before then. But I was struck by the injustice."
— Explaining how Diallo's killing spurred his spiritual journey. (Boston Globe, July 10, 2008)

• "Some folks on the left are uncomfortable with [religious] topics. There is a constitutional and clear separation between church and state embedded in the fabric of our country. And some folks think that means we have to be separate not only in our legal approach to policy but also who we talk to, who we engage with, whose concerns we can listen to."
— On integrating religion and policy. (World Magazine, Jan. 27, 2007)

• "We leap into the right but not to the very far end of the right. We have to work on those we can persuade." — Explaining the campaign's approach to outreach. (Wall Street Journal, Aug. 16, 2008)

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