Obama Names 26-Year-Old Director of Faith-Based Office

Obama appoints Josh DuBois, 26, to broaden religious and community outreach.

ByABC News
February 4, 2009, 6:57 PM

Feb. 5, 2009— -- President Barack Obama has named a 26-year-old Pentecostal minister to head the White House office that coordinates outreach to religious and community organizations.

The White House will announce formally today that Josh DuBois will head the revamped White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, created by an executive order to be signed by President Obama this morning.

DuBois directed the religious outreach for the Obama campaign. Previously, he worked as an associate pastor at a Pentecostal church in Massachusetts and received a master's degree in public affairs from Princeton University.

With this announcement, Obama continues an initiative created by an executive order signed by President George W. Bush in his first month in office.

In the Bush administration, the office was designed to work with faith-based and community organizations on social service issues and to advise them on applying for and receiving federal funding.

The Obama administration will seek to expand the role of this office as it relates to policy issues where religious and local leaders can be effective. DuBois will coordinate with faith-based and community organizations on social service outreach and will work to utilize these organizations' efforts to advance the administration's policies, with a primary focus on poverty.

One prominent progressive evangelical leader said DuBois represents a "new generation of faith leaders."

"He's very bright and very hardworking," said the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners. "He's a good relationship builder, and he's reached out across the political spectrum and cares about policy."

Obama pledged on the campaign trail last year to effectively deliver social services through religious and community organizations because the problems are too big for just the federal government.

"The fact is, the challenges we face today -- from saving our planet to ending poverty -- are simply too big for government to solve alone. We need all hands on deck," Obama said last summer. "I'm not saying that faith-based groups are an alternative to government or secular nonprofits. And I'm not saying that they're somehow better at lifting people up. What I'm saying is that we all have to work together -- Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim; believer and non-believer alike -- to meet the challenges of the 21st century."

Obama's experience as a community organizer in Chicago is evident in his administration's approach to aiding those who need it most, according to Sally Steenland, the senior policy adviser for Faith and Progressive Policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.

"As a community organizer, he saw up close what faith-based and community groups could do in helping the poor, in helping working-class families. Very often these groups are the first responders within a community because they are nimble, they are flexible," Steenland said. "President Obama wants to harness that capacity with his dedication to effective social service on behalf of the poor."

Wallis, who was part of a group of religious and secular leaders that advised Obama's team during the transition period, said that religious and community groups are the natural first stop when looking for solutions to improve conditions for those in need.

"If you look at the poorest places in the country, who knows the kid, the family, the streets better than the religious community? We're there; we're working on the ground. When you're there, you get perspective on what works and what doesn't," Wallis said.