White House staff flocked on Tuesday to Chicago, where President Obama first sprouted his political roots, seeking to form a tight relationship between the federal government and religious leaders.
They participated in a conference titled “Connecting Communities for the Common Good,” the sixth event of its kind in the country sponsored by the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The forum was an all-day event and sought answers to the question of how the government can successfully partner with nonprofit organizations in order to provide for the underprivileged, create jobs, and prevent youth violence. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Special Assistant to the President Joshua DuBois, who heads the faith based office, spoke at the event.
According to The Chicago Tribune, Emanuel said that many families are “falling through the cracks” between programs run by the government and those run by nonprofits. He said he hoped that forums like “Connecting Communities” would help generate ideas on how to close that gap.
"I need the ministers to come outside the door of the church where there is warmth and bring that warmth out into the streets," said Emanuel, who met with local ministers last week, according to ABC News. "I cannot achieve the goal without the partnership of people of faith. … I want the spirit of what you are doing to be part of building the city that we call home."
According to DuBois, the White House is “partnering with local groups to serve people in need in the most effective manner possible.”
“President Obama has long believed in the role of faith based and neighborhood organizations in helping those who need help most,” DuBois told The Christian Post. “Through his first job as a community organizer funded by a faith-based organization, the President has seen first-hand the importance of community-based groups in solving our country's most pressing challenges.”
“We want to come alongside and help those groups in their good work, whether that work is feeding hungry children in the summer, helping fathers reconnect to their families, or assisting impoverished communities abroad.”
DuBois echoed President Obama when he said that government cannot alone solve our nation’s problems.
“Faith-based and neighborhood organizations are often on the front lines of some of the most pressing challenges we're facing. They're on the street corners, they're among immigrants, they're serving the poor, they're reaching out to folks who may have been left behind. If we want to reach vulnerable populations and American families who need help most, we have to partner with faith-based and neighborhood groups.”
Some critics of the Obama administration have wondered whether or not the president’s efforts to work with churches around the country are sincere. Many opponents say that this is just a political ploy of Obama’s during an election season where he needs to court the Christian vote.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” DuBois responded, saying the government’s willingness to partner with nonprofits is genuine.
“I don’t think hungry kids who have food in their stomach because of the government's partnerships with faith-based groups, or families who were formerly homeless and how have a place to call home because of our partnerships with religious organizations, have any questions about political parties, partisan politics, or the president's motivations,” he noted.
“Those folks, and many others who are impacted by faith groups' partnerships with the government, understand where our motivation lies. Our motivation is to help those who need it the most.”