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Jim Towey on Politics and Ministry

William Cooper & Jim Towey
William Cooper & Jim Towey
Jim Towey never imagined he'd be Assistant to the President when he worked as a full-time volunteer with Mother Teresa's home for people with AIDS in Washington D.C. But in February of 2002, President Bush appointed Towey as Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and Deputy Assistant to the President. He was later promoted to Assistant to the President. His credentials shaped him for the role.

He served as legislative director for U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield for seven years, directed Florida's health and social services agency, and acted as legal counsel to Mother Teresa for 12 years. Towey also founded a non-profit agency, Aging with Dignity, in 1996 to promote better care for people facing the end of life. Now Towey faces two great commissions. One, he says, comes from the President and one from the Lord. "So obviously, my first responsibility is my relationship with the Lord and my relationship with my wife and five children," Towey said. "Then it comes to my work here in the government with the President and he has been very supportive of my married and family life."

His work in the government, in the Office of Faith Based Initiatives, has been challenging from day one. "There were a number of misconceptions and fears surrounding the Faith-Based Community Initiative when President Bush first launched it," Towey said. "I think a lot of the miscommunication was intentional, attempting to undermine what the President was trying to do, so we had to spend a good amount of time dismantling those fears and correcting the misconceptions."

Towey battles outside forces, like the hostile, mainstream media each day, but his goal of taking the President's message of compassionate conservatism "out to the country where communities know the importance of their faith-based groups and they don't fear faith" has been effective. "So I feel like the President made a lot of progress in the midst of relentless opposition," Towey said.

The President and Towey have worked to bring the exiled faith-based groups back into the public square. Organizations that previously had no chance of acquiring government funding, now have the opportunity to be on equal footing with secular social programs. And Jim Towey and the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives aren't hiding whose grant applications receive approval. A grants list is always published showing what groups obtain government funding from the Federal government.

Towey said the Office is criticized and scrutinized daily, but they welcome it. His faith in the Office's purpose and ultimately in assisting the poor makes him bold. "I've never feared the light and scrutiny," Towey said. "Because we knew that our efforts not only had integrity, but they were ultimately going to benefit the poor."

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