We wanted to take a minute to introduce you to Rev. Dr. Mary E. Westfall, who'll lead the invocation before President Obama's speech in Durham this afternoon. Rev. Westfall's ties to the community are incredibly deep - she's the senior minister at the Community Church of Durham, prior to which she was the chaplain at the University of New Hampshire.
If that weren't enough, her husband Dale is an educator at Oyster River High School and coaches basketball in the same school gym where President Obama will speak today. Their daughter Emma is currently a student at the school, as well.
We're honored to have Rev. Dr. Westfall to open the proceedings today. She answered some questions about what she'll be saying, here's what she told us:
Is there additional significance for you in performing the invocation for President Obama today?
The event today actually falls on my wedding anniversary - 29 years! My husband Dale will be in the audience, and this seems like a fitting way to spend the day, since we are both big supporters of our President! It is certainly an honor to be asked to offer words at an event such as this and it is something I take very seriously.
You don't have to reveal too much, but how did you approach writing today's invocation?
Aware of the religious diversity of our nation and my own community, and in my commitment to be inclusive and accessible, I tend to be drawn to the larger themes that connect people of many different spiritual paths and traditions. The invocation at a public event such as this is an opportunity to pause in the rush and flurry of daily life, and to be reminded of the great human values that have created, sustained and nurtured the best of community, culture and human progress. Those themes — justice, peace, compassion, creativity, commitment, courage — are at the heart of most religious/spiritual traditions and are what I will draw upon to gather the hearts of minds of listeners.