Wilberforce grad’s inauguration benediction stresses ‘we will make friends of our enemies’

A graduate of both Wilberforce University and Payne Theological Seminary emphasized healing, unity and a path forward for America during a benediction that served as the last word of the 59th Presidential Inauguration.

The Rev. Silvester Beaman, a longtime confidant of and spiritual adviser to the Biden family, prayed for “divine favor” upon President Joe Biden and his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, and their family, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and their family.

“More than ever ... they and our nation need you,” said Beaman, referring to God. “We need you, for in you we discover our common humanity.”

During the nearly 5-minute benediction, Beaman, who has served as pastor at Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware, since 1993, said that Americans, in their common humanity, will “seek out the wounded and bind their wounds.”

“We will seek healing of those who are sick and diseased,” he said. “We will mourn our dead. We will befriend the lonely, the least and the left out. We will share our abundance with those who are hungry. We will do justly to the oppressed, acknowledge sin and seek forgiveness, thus grasping reconciliation.”

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In discovering our humanity, Beaman said, “we will seek the good in and for all our neighbors,” loving the unlovable, removing the stigma of the so-called untouchables and caring for our most vulnerable: our children, the elderly, the emotionally challenged and the poor.

“We will seek rehabilitation beyond correction,” he said. “We’ll extend opportunity to those locked out of opportunity. We will make friends of our enemies”

Part of Beaman’s prayer seemed to relate directly to unifying the country following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol and the often tumultuous two weeks that followed.

People, he prayed, will no longer raise up weapons against one another.

“We would rather use our resources for the national good and become a beacon of life and goodwill to the world and neither shall we learn hatred anymore,” he said. “We will lie down in peace and not make our neighbors afraid.”

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In God, Beaman said, “we discover our humanity and in our humanity, we discover our commonness beyond the difference of color and creed, origin, political party, ideology, geography and personal preferences.”

Beaman, who said he came from a poor neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York, earned a Bachelor’s degree from Wilberforce and a Master’s degree from Boston University before returning to Greene County to attend Payne Theological Seminary, where he earned a doctorate in 2012.

He prayed that Americans become “greater stewards” of the environment, “preserving the land, reaping from it a sustainable harvest, and securing its wonder and miracle-giving power for generations to come.”

Beaman said the benediction was delivered on “hallowed grounds, where slaves labored to build the U.S. Capitol, which he called “a shrine and citadel to liberty and democracy.”

“Let us all acknowledge from the indigenous Native Americans to those who recently received their citizenship, from the African-American to those whose foreparents came from Europe and every corner of the globe, from the wealthy to those struggling to make it, from every human being regardless of their choices, that this is our country.”

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Wilberforce University is “exceedingly proud” of Beaman, said its president, Elfred Anthony Pinkard,

“Rev. Beaman’s remarks reflected the Wilberforce University tradition of valuing the diversity of humanity and centering love, grace, and acceptance as important and essential human behaviors to assure a more perfect American Union,” said Pinkard. “His moving words inviting us, as people of faith, to gather in prayer under the grace and favor of God and seek the good in all of our neighbors, to love the unlovable and make friends of our enemies are a forceful urging for the work we must, as one nation, be committed to doing.”

Pinkard, a graduate of Morehouse College and Howard University, two historically black colleges and universities, said that Harris and Beaman are “wonderful, living embodiments” of what HBCUs are capable of doing in the lives of their students.

“I am proud that now, before the nation and the world, HBCUs are finally being acknowledged and recognized as significant institutions of higher learning with a rich and proud history of educating generations of African Americans and other students of color who have become thought-leaders, social change agents, entrepreneurs, scholars, scientists, artists and now, Vice President of the United States of America,” he said.

HBCUs have been important cultural institutions and sources of great pride and achievement for not only African Americans, “but for all Americans as symbols of the diversity of American higher education and centers for critical discussions about social and racial justice,” said Pinkard.

“Rev. Beaman’s words underscored those important values, which have been part of Wilberforce’s institutional saga and legacy,” he said.

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