Obama's First Days According to Rev. Gene Robinson
BY Kerry Eleveld
January 30 2009 12:00 AM ET
Did you ever get clear on how it happened that your comments weren’t included in HBO’s production of the opening ceremony? No, so here’s what I decided about that. First, there was probably no way to determine where and with whom that decision got made. Second of all, it was over, and I think the last thing the gay community needs to be doing right now is picking a fight with the new president or his inaugural committee. My feeling was, it was done, it was over, let’s move on. I received formal apologies from both the inaugural committee and HBO. And I was just willing to let that go.
And as much I would have liked the viewing audience to have heard it, the attention that was drawn to the words I had spoken because of the controversy about why it had been eliminated, probably gave it more attention than it would have gotten if it had been included in the broadcast. The video of my prayer on YouTube, has had a quarter of a million hits and I’m getting feedback from all over the country about people who printed out my prayer and used it at a meeting, or used it at a church service, or whatever.
Is it true, as the London Times reported, that President Obama sought your counsel during the election, on what it was like to be a first? Partly true, partly not true. The headline gave people that impression that Barack had sought me out about that. Well, that’s ludicrous. Barack Obama is quite his own person, and I’m the last person he needs to seek out about anything.
However, early on in the New Hampshire primary, we did get a chance to meet several times, and once we had quite a lengthy conversation about being the first. That’s sort of a special bond I feel that I have with him because there are particular joys and especially particular burdens that come with being the first at anything. The very first thing he said to me when we met for the first time was, 'Well, you’re a trouble maker,' and I said something like, 'It takes one to know one,' and we both laughed. Of course, at that point, he was on nobody’s radar screen, in April or May of 2007.
Do you have anything to add? I continue to be confident that the new president understands us and our issues and that this will be the friendliest president to LGBT people that we have ever had in the White House. At the same time, I was very critical of his decision to invite Rick Warren and I really do believe that just because we are feeling positive, doesn’t mean we can stop being vigilant or stop holding his feet to the fire about our issues.
In moments of disappointment, like when you first heard about Rick Warren, what spiritual concepts do you turn to in order to temper that disappointment? Right off the bat what I thought and what I often think is, no one of us always gets it right. That’s just the human condition. Not even the best of us will always get it right.