Tony Campolo’s Inauguration Speech

Tony Campolo is a well-known pastor and public speaker. His speeches are always interesting and wise. He speaks about important things and significant topics in life in a very simple way. However, there is always a hidden message in his words. Sometimes this subtle implication is easy to be understood; sometimes it is necessary to think over and over his words. Very often in his speeches Tony Campolo covers urgent political topics.

If to analyze Tony Campolo’s speech delivered on the inauguration day of Bill Clinton on the 20th of January, 1997, we can approach it from different aspects. He begins his speech in a quite ironic way. “It’s hard to be a clean up hitter when there is nothing left to clean up. Everybody has hit a homerun” (Campolo). However, at once he refers to the Bible and admonishes people to think about their life here and now. He calls upon people to care about their life, not to wait for someone to do everything for them but to create conditions of living by their own hands. However, Tony Campolo emphasizes that praying to God for the daily bread, we should not be selfish. We should think about our neighbors, about our children and about those who go hungry and live in absolute poverty. In this abstract of Campolo’s speech we meet the first reference to political situation in the world. By the words “we must not forget the people in the third world on this day when we celebrate America” (Campolo) the pastor means that today America is on the course of rapid development, while there are many countries in the world, particularly the countries of the third world, which are poorly developed. For example in countries of Africa the economy is on a very low level ”“ people starve and live in appalling conditions. In support of his words, Tony Campolo gives the example of a woman from one of the countries of the third world, Haiti, who tried to give her child to the pastor, because she could not feed it.

The next part of the sermon is devoted to Campolo’s reflections about this woman, whose tragedy stroke him much.

Here it is necessary to highlight the pastor’s skill to interweave moral principles with the biblical precepts and to refer to the role of politicians in the life of common people. His imagined dialogue between a politician and a child strikes and moves us. “I was hungry; did you feed me?” And I said, “But I balanced the budget!” “I was naked; did you clothe me?” “But you don’t understand; I took care of the affairs of state.” “I was naked; did you clothe me? I was in prison; did you visit me? I was a stranger; did you take me in?” (Campolo). Citing the Bible, Tony Campolo shows that these words are topical nowadays as well. We see all the absurdity of the situation and the impossibility of such life in future. We see that in fact politicians do not care about people, being busy with some general affairs of the country while the population suffers.

From material things Tony Campolo turns to spiritual values in our life. He attracts people’s attention to the importance of their inner world and their intellectual wealth. All people are sinners and they should pray God for absolution. We need to aim to purify ourselves, to become free from vices. Therefore, we should address to the Bible, which teaches us humanity, kindness and forgiveness. In the sermon, Campolo never speaks of people separately from America. He unites people and their country, highlighting that from the deeds of the nation, of every particular citizen, the life of the whole country depends. Moreover, the politics of the country, including its relations with other countries, is the reflection of the whole image of people in the country. Thus, the pastor speaks about the way of life of America on the whole and how it influences common citizens. “Across party lines, across religious lines, across national lines, America is tired of the politics of bile; America is tired with partisan acrimony; America is looking for a new day when people come together and let their sins be blotted out and buried in the deepest sea, and remembered no more” (Campolo). He persuades people to forget about differences between them and treat everybody equally. He insists that our prejudice is evil, which we should avoid. Here he also supports Bill Clinton by arguing against principles of fundamentalists, who opposed Clinton at the elections.

In my opinion, the most important message of Campolo’s speech is his appeal to eliminate discrimination of others, which is apparent in persecution of homosexuals, in the increase of children pornography, in the infringement of women’s rights. However, much attention in the sermon is devoted to the problem of racism. Racism is a phenomenon that has existed in the world for many centuries, taking diverse forms and appearing in different parts of the planet. Being today a democratic country, once the USA was a hotbed of slavery and racism. Slaves, brought from African continent, served as a cheap labor force in the newly created country. Abolishment of slavery did not resolve the problem of racism and discrimination. Intolerance of the people toward other people and feeling of superiority, where some believed that some definite group of people could be regarded as chosen and superior by birth, did not disappear in the United States after the abolishment of slavery. Race still creates a big abyss in the relations between the black and white people in the country. The slavery was cancelled but a new social model has not been built yet and African Americans have to find their way to survive and their place in the social ladder.

Therefore, many African Americans struggle against prejudices and for the equality. Tony Campolo tells people about the church for African Americans where he preached.

He ends his sermon with the words from the Bible “It’s Friday, but Sundays coming!” (Campolo). With the help of this reference to the Bible the pastor tries to give hope to people that despite all difficulties there will be happy future, that despite today’s difference of opinions American people will be able to solve their problems, to get rid of discrimination and build a healthy and spiritual society.

To make a conclusion, having analyzed Tony Campolo’s speech, we might say that in his sermon he expressed his point of view on the political situation in the country, referring to the Bible. Being guided by the citations from the Scripture, he called people to change the situation themselves, to aim at happy future for their children and to create a humane American society.

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