April 25, 2014
President Obama added his voice to Time‘s list of “The 100 Most Influential People” by penning a tribute to Pope Francis. By implication, Obama associated himself with the pontiff and ultimately to Jesus.
Obama called the pope “a moral leader in word and deed,” equating Francis’s message of inclusion with Jesus’s “essence.” Sprinkled within this panegyric was Obama’s own familiar refrain heard throughout his presidency: “alleviate poverty…reduce inequality…open new doors of opportunity and visions of possibility for everyone.”
Obama’s social agenda is nothing he has kept secret. Nor has the president ever shied away from comparing himself to other influential leaders: Lincoln, Gandhi, Mandela, or Reagan. In 2008, candidate Obama compared himself to John F. Kennedy with another familiar refrain saying, “Kennedy moved the country in a fundamentally different direction…I think we are in one of those fundamentally different times right now.”
Here is Obama’s full entry to Time:
Rare is the leader who makes us want to be better people. Pope Francis is such a leader.
His Holiness has moved us with his message of inclusion, especially for the poor, the marginalized and the outcast. But it has been his deeds, his bearing, the gestures at once simple and profound — embracing the sick, ministering to the homeless, washing the feet of young prisoners — that have inspired us all.
Pope Francis reminds us in ways that words alone cannot that no matter our station in life, we are bound by moral obligations to one another. His example challenges us to live out those obligations through work — to alleviate poverty, reduce inequality and promote peace; to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and open new doors of opportunity and visions of possibility for everyone. His message of love and inclusion, his regard for “the least of these,” distills the essence of Jesus’ teachings and is a tonic for a cynical age. May we heed his humble example.