Evers-Williams, widow of a slain civil rights icon, Medgar Evers, may be the first woman and non clergy member to deliver the public prayer.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the murder of Evers, who was the NAACP’s Mississippi field secretary at the time of his death.
Evers-Williams spent the majority of her adult life fighting to win a conviction of her late husband’s shooter.
“I would imagine that even people who are made somewhat uncomfortable by the allusions to religion in such public moments will find an invocation by the widow of a martyr to be moving and poignant,” said author Jon Meacham, who has written on religion in American history. “This is as unifying a gesture as a president could make, it seems to me.”
Conservative evangelical pastor Louie Giglio, founder of the student-focused Passion Conferences, is slated to give the benediction. The inaugural committee will make the official announcement Tuesday. Giglio draws tens of thousands of people at his events world-wide.
“During these days it is essential for our nation to stand together as one,” Giglio said in a statement. “And, as always, it is the right time to humble ourselves before our Maker.”
The president’s choice of contrasting speakers is puzzling to many, but his attempts to be inclusive to so many lead to the critics’ chatter.
The president believes that the careers of Evers-Williams and Giglio “reflect the ideals that the Vice President and I continue to pursue for all Americans — justice, equality and opportunity,” according to a statement released by the inaugural committee.
President Obama will privately take the oath of office for his second term on January 20th and the public inauguration will be held on January 21, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
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