January 8th, 2013
07:56 AM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor
(CNN)– The widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers and an Atlanta pastor will deliver the invocation and benediction at President Barack Obama's inauguration January 21, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Tuesday.
The committee said in a statement that the president was involved in selecting Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of Medgar Evers, to deliver the invocation and the Rev. Louie Giglio, pastor of the Passion City Church, to deliver the benediction.
Obama said he and Vice President Joe Biden are honored to have the two participate in the inaugural ceremony.
"Their voices have inspired many people across this great nation within the faith community and beyond. Their careers reflect the ideals that the vice president and I continue to pursue for all Americans - justice, equality, and opportunity," the president's statement continued.
Evers-Williams' work and life is an example for the nation, said a source close to the planning of the inauguration. "Following her husband's murder she worked tirelessly not only for justice for his murder but for justice for the nation as well," the source said.
Giglio, a pastor and the leader of the Passion Movement, was chosen because he's a "powerful voice for ending human trafficking and global sex slavery" and due to his work in mobilizing young people in that effort, said the source.
The official swearing-in of the president and the vice president will take place on Sunday, January 20, in keeping with the constitutional requirement. A public ceremonial swearing-in will take place Monday, January 21 on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol.
This year, the inauguration falls on the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which officials told CNN played into the selections of Evers-Williams and Giglio.
Evers-Williams' husband, Medgar Evers, was the NAACP's Mississippi field secretary when he gunned down in the driveway of their Jackson, Mississippi, home in 1963. Evers-Williams went on to chair the NAACP from 1995-1998 and has remained a tireless advocate for civil rights.
"I am humbled to have been asked to deliver the invocation for the 57th inauguration of the President of the United States - especially in light of this historical time in America when we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement," she said in a statement from the inaugural committee. "It is indeed an exhilarating experience to have the distinct honor of representing that era."
Giglio is a rising voice in evangelical Christianity. Friday, the Passion conference wrapped up its annual event for college students in Atlanta, with more than 60,000 students attending and vowing to end global slavery. They raised $3 million for charities that work to stop slavery and aid its victims.
"It is my privilege to have the opportunity to lead our nation in prayer at the upcoming inauguration," Giglio said.
"During these days it is essential for our nation to stand together as one. And, as always, it is the right time to humble ourselves before our Maker. May we all look up to our God, from whom we can receive mercy, grace and truth to strengthen our lives, our families and our nation. I am honored to be invited by the President to lead our nation as we look up to God, and as we look ahead to a future that honors and reflects the One who has given us every good and perfect gift," he added, in the statement released by the committee.
An official close to the inauguration speaking on background said the president viewed the selections as "spiritual and not political."
"I think it's a poignant thing for the ceremony to open with someone who to many folks in the country symbolizes courage but also some of the rough times we've been through as a country," the official said. "To close with a pastor from the South who is fighting modern slavery in this generation, I think there's a poignancy to that that shouldn't be missed."
"Both individuals meet the moment," the source said.
Obama has highlighted Giglio's Passion movement several times in the past year. He mentioned the movement of young evangelicals against slavery in his 2012 speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. Giglio was also a participant at Obama's annual Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House. Most recently, the president noted the work of Passion in a speech at the Clinton Global Initiative.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.