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2009-01-20

Openly Gay Episcopal Bishop Eugene Robinson Silenced on HBO Broadcast of Lincoln Memorial Inauguration Concert

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While the hundreds of thousands on the National Mall heard Gene Robinson’s opening prayer on Sunday, millions around the country missed it, because HBO did not televise his remarks. Obama’s inaugural committee is apologizing, saying they had intended for Robinson’s remarks to be included in the televised portion of yesterday’s program, and they "regret the error." Robinson had been given the slot after gay advocates protested Obama’s selection of Rick Warren, a leading evangelical opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage, to give the invocation at today’s inauguration. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s January 20th, 2009. We’re broadcasting from Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, on this historic day. We’re just across from the Capitol, where Barack Hussein Obama will take his oath of office today at noon to become the forty-fourth president of the United States and the first African American president in US history.

A record number of people are expected to turn out on the National Mall to watch Obama’s inaugural address. D.C. police have projected crowds of around two million. Thousands of charter buses have been arriving over the past few days, bringing people from around the country. People are coming in from around the world. Subway trains are packed. There are lines for hours. Traffic is bumper-to-bumper. Dozens of balls and events have been held across the city in the lead-up to the inauguration of Barack Obama.

On Saturday, the President-elect retraced the route of Abraham Lincoln on his way to his own inauguration, an historic train ride which began in Philadelphia. The Obama family then rode the vintage Amtrak train to Wilmington, where they picked up the Bidens. And then they moved on to Baltimore. When Abraham Lincoln took this ride, he quietly slipped through Baltimore at an unscheduled early hour because of death and bomb threats in the secessionist state of Maryland. Obama and Biden spoke in Baltimore to a capacity crowd of tens of thousands. And then they rode on to Union Station, not far from where we are right now. It was Michelle Obama’s forty-fifth birthday.

The biggest event so far was a free inauguration celebration and concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday. It came on the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King Day, the federal holiday. Half a million people turned out on the National Mall for the two-hour event that featured celebrities including Jamie Foxx and Marisa Tomei, Denzel Washington, Queen Latifah, Tom Hanks, Stevie Wonder, Shakira and many, many more. There were special performances by Stevie Wonder, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Bono of U2, and, well, Bishop Gene Robinson led the invocation at the event.

Robinson is the first openly gay Episcopal bishop. He had been given the slot after gay advocates protested Obama’s selection of Rick Warren, a leading evangelical opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage, to give the invocation at today’s inauguration. While the hundreds of thousands on the National Mall watched and heard Robinson’s opening prayer on Sunday, millions around the country missed it, because HBO did not release his remarks. HBO was broadcasting the event. Obama’s inaugural committee is apologizing, saying they had intended for Robinson’s remarks to be included in the televised portion of the program. They said they “regretted the error.”

Well, today, we’ll broadcast Gene Robinson’s invocation. It was captured by someone in the crowd and put on YouTube. This is Bishop Gene Robinson.

    BISHOP EUGENE ROBINSON: O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears, tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

    Bless this nation with anger, anger at discrimination at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

    Bless us with discomfort, at the easy, simplistic answers we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

    Bless us with patience and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be fixed any time soon and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

    Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

    Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.

    And bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion’s god judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.

    And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States. Give him wisdom beyond his years. Inspire him with President Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for all people.

    Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady, calm captain.

    Give him stirring words. We will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

    Make him colorblind, reminding him of his own words, that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

    Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

    Give him strength to find family time and privacy. And help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

    And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we are asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand, that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

AMY GOODMAN: Bishop V. Gene Robinson, giving the invocation at Sunday’s "We Are One" inaugural event — again, not seen on HBO, though they broadcast the event for the country and for the world. The Obama team has apologized.

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