On Tuesday, Dr. David L. Holmes presented “From Truman to Obama: The Religious Faiths of the Postwar Presidents, with Special Emphasis on Presidents Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Obama” in the Stouffer Hall’s Beard Auditorium.
This lecture was in conjunction with Constitution Day, and brought to Indiana University of Pennsylvania by The College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the departments of history, political science and religious studies.
Dr. David L. Holmes has taught at the College of William & Mary for 45 years, is an author of three acclaimed books, “A Brief History of the Episcopal Church,” “The Faiths of the Founding Fathers” and “The Faiths of The Postwar Presidents: From Truman to Obama.”
He has received a number of teaching awards, including the Graves Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching, The Outstanding Faculty Award of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Award.
The lecture lasted roughly 45 minutes, and finished with a 15-minute Q&A session. It went in chronological order, and discussed the private and public lives of the 12 presidents after World War II.
These presidents include Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
He was soon to point out that the public and private faiths did not always seem to correlate.
However, he also implied that it is a nuanced topic, and that it is impossible to decide on whether or not they lied about their faith.
The most visible example was that of Clinton.
Holmes referred to the 42nd president’s multiple affairs, though Clinton also invoked the Bible when it was opportune.
With that being said, he also made sure to point out the role of religion in Clinton’s childhood.
During his early years, he would attend church for hours a day. Although, some would argue that he only did that to get away from his abusive father.
Holmes made sure to make it clear that a third-person perspective is not a perfect vantage point.
The topic that received the most attention in the Q&A portion was that of Obama’s faith.
Holmes mentioned that Obama has attended church only 20 times throughout his presidency.
Nonetheless, he also mentioned that Obama’s faith life is less public than that of his predecessors.
While George W. Bush would start staff meetings with prayer, Obama would only discuss religion when asked.
Current events, including the debate on Kim Davis and some oppositionists’ insistence that Obama is a “secret muslim,” make lectures like this even more poignant.