Full Text Political Transcripts February 2, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech at National Prayer Breakfast

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 2-2-17

Washington Hilton

9:11 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mark.  So nice.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  It’s a great honor to be here this morning.  And so many faith leaders — very, very important people to me — from across our magnificent nation, and so many leaders from all across the globe.

Today we continue a tradition begun by President Eisenhower some 64 years ago.  This gathering is a testament to the power of faith, and is one of the great customs of our nation, and I hope to be here seven more times with you.  (Laughter and applause.)

I want very much to thank our co-chairs, Senator Bowzman and Senator Coons, and all of the congressional leadership — they’re all over the place.  We have a lot of very distinguished guests.

And we have one guest who was just sworn in last night — Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State.  (Applause.)  Going to do a great job.  Some people didn’t like Rex because he actually got along with leaders of the world.  I said, no, you have to understand, that’s a good thing.  (Laughter.)  That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.  He’s respected all over the world, and I think he’s going to go down as one of our great, great secretaries.  We appreciate it.  Thank you, thank you, Rex.  (Applause.)

Thank you as well to Senate Chaplain Barry Black for his moving words.  And I don’t know, Chaplain, whether or not that’s an appointed position.  Is that an appointed position?  I don’t even know if you’re a Democrat or if you’re a Republican, but I’m appointing you for another year — the hell with it.  (Laughter and applause.)  And I think it’s not even my appointment, it’s the Senate’s appointment, but we’ll talk to them.  Your son is here.  Your job is very, very secure, okay?  (Laughter.)  Thank you, Barry.  Appreciate it very much.

I also want to thank my great friends, though, Roma.  Where’s Roma?  Beautiful Roma Downey.  The voice of an angel.  She’s got the voice — every time I hear it, that voice is so beautiful.  Everything is so beautiful about Roma, including her husband because he’s a special, special friend, Mark Burnett — for the wonderful introduction.  So true.  So true.  I said to the agent, I’m sorry.  The only thing more — I actually got on the phone and fired him myself because he said, you don’t want to do it, it’ll never work, it’ll never, ever work.  You don’t want to do it.  I said, listen — but I really fired him after it became the number-one show.  It became so successful, and he wanted a commission, and he didn’t want to do it.  That’s what I really said.  (Laughter.)

But we had tremendous success on “The Apprentice.”  And when I ran for President, I had to leave the show.  That’s when I knew for sure I was doing it.  And they hired a big, big movie star — Arnold Schwarzenegger -– to take my place.  And we know how that turned out.  (Laughter.)  The ratings went right down the tubes.  It’s been a total disaster.  And Mark will never, ever bet against Trump again.  And I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings, okay?  (Laughter.)

But we’ve had an amazing life together, the last 14, 15 years.  And an outstanding man, and thank you very much for introducing me.  Appreciate it.  It’s a great honor.  (Applause.)

I also want to thank my dear friend, Vice President Mike Pence, who has been incredible.  (Applause.)  And incredible wife, Karen.  And every time I was in a little trouble with something, where they were questioning me, they’d say, but he picked Mike Pence — (laughter) — so he has to know what he’s doing.  And it’s true, he’s been — you know, on the scale of 0 to 10, I rate him a 12, okay?  So I want to thank you.  Thank you very much.  Apprentice it.  (Applause.)

But most importantly today, I want to thank the American people.  Your faith and prayers have sustained me and inspired me through some very, very tough times.  All around America, I have met amazing people whose words of worship and encouragement have been a constant source of strength.  What I hear most often as I travel the country are five words that never, ever fail to touch my heart.  That’s:  “I am praying for you.”  I hear it so often — “I am praying for you, Mr. President.”  (Applause.)

No one has inspired me more in my travels than the families of the United States military, men and women who have put their lives on the line every day for their country and their countrymen.  I just came back yesterday from Dover Air Force Base to join the family of Chief William “Ryan” Owens, as America’s fallen hero was returned home.  Very, very sad, but very, very beautiful.  Very, very beautiful.  His family was there.  Incredible family, loved him so much.  So devastated — he was so devastated.  But the ceremony was amazing.  He died in defense of our nation.  He gave his life in defense of our people.  Our debt to him and our debt to his family is eternal and everlasting.

“Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  We will never forget the men and women who wear the uniform, believe me.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  From generation to generation, their vigilance has kept our liberty alive.  Our freedom is won by their sacrifice, and our security has been earned with their sweat and blood and tears.  God has blessed this land to give us such incredible heroes and patriots.  They are very, very special, and we are going to take care of them.  (Applause.)

Our soldiers understand that what matters is not party or ideology or creed, but the bonds of loyalty that link us all together as one.  America is a nation of believers.  In towns all across our land, it’s plain to see what we easily forget — so easily we forget this — that the quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success.  I will tell you that.  And I tell you that from somebody that has had material success and knows tremendous numbers of people with great material success — the most material success.  Many of those people are very, very miserable, unhappy people.  And I know a lot of people without that, but they have great families, they have great faith.  They don’t have money — at least not nearly to the extent — and they’re happy.  Those to me are the successful people, I have to tell you.  (Applause.)

I was blessed to be raised in a churched home.  My mother and father taught me that to whom much is given much is expected.  I was sworn in on the very bible from which my mother would teach us as young children.  And that faith lives on in my heart every single day.

The people in this room come from many, many backgrounds.  You represent so many religions and so many views.  But we are all united by our faith in our Creator and our firm knowledge that we are all equal in His eyes.  We are not just flesh and bone and blood.  We are human beings, with souls.  Our Republic was formed on the basis that freedom is not a gift from government, but that freedom is a gift from God.  (Applause.)

It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty.”  Jefferson asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”

Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs.  That is why I will get rid of, and totally destroy, the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.  I will do that — remember.  (Applause.)

Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us, and the world is under serious, serious threat in so many different ways.  And I’ve never seen it so much and so openly as since I took the position of President.  The world is in trouble, but we’re going to straighten it out.  Okay?  That’s what I do.  I fix things.  We’re going to straighten it out.  (Applause.)  Believe me.  When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it.  Just don’t worry about it.  (Laughter.)  They’re tough.  We have to be tough.  It’s time we’re going to be a little tough, folks.  We’re taken advantage of by every nation in the world, virtually.  It’s not going to happen anymore.  It’s not going to happen anymore.

We have seen unimaginable violence carried out in the name of religion.  Acts of wanton slaughter against religious minorities.  Horrors on a scale that defy description.  Terrorism is a fundamental threat to religious freedom.  It must be stopped, and it will be stopped.  It may not be pretty for a little while.  It will be stopped.  (Applause.)

We have seen — and, by the way, General, as you know, James “Mad Dog” — I shouldn’t say it in this room — Mattis.  Now, there’s a reason they call him “Mad Dog Mattis” — he never lost a battle.  Always wins them and always wins them fast.  He’s our new Secretary of Defense who will be working with Rex.  He’s right now in South Korea, going to Japan, going to some other spots.  And I’ll tell you what, I’ve gotten to know him really well.  He’s the real deal.  We have somebody who’s the real deal working for us, and that’s what we need.  So, you watch.  You just watch.  (Applause.)  Things will be different.

We have seen peace-loving Muslims brutalized, victimized, murdered and oppressed by ISIS killers.  We have seen threats of extermination against the Jewish people.  We have seen a campaign of ISIS and genocide against Christians, where they cut off heads.  Not since the Middle Ages have we seen that.  We haven’t seen that, the cutting off of heads.  Now they cut off their heads, they drown people in steel cages.  Haven’t seen this — I haven’t seen this.  Nobody has seen this for many, many years.

All nations have a moral obligation to speak out against such violence.  All nations have a duty to work together to confront it and to confront it viciously, if we have to.  So I want to express clearly today to the American people that my administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land.  America must forever remain a tolerant society where all faiths are respected, and where all of our citizens can feel safe and secure.  We have to feel safe and secure.

In recent days, we have begun to take necessary action to achieve that goal.  Our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world.  But these are those and there are those that would exploit that generosity to undermine the values that we hold so dear.  We need security.  There are those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle.  Not right.  We will not allow a beachhead of intolerance to spread in our nation.  You look all over the world and you see what’s happening.

So in the coming days, we will develop a system to help ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty, and that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination.  We want people to come into our nation, but we want people to love us and to love our values — not to hate us and to hate our values.  We will be a safe country.  We will be a free country.  And we will be a country where all citizens can practice their beliefs without fear of hostility or fear of violence.  America will flourish as long as our liberty and, in particular, our religious liberty is allowed to flourish.  (Applause.)

America will succeed as long as our most vulnerable citizens — and we have some that are so vulnerable — have a path to success.  And America will thrive as long as we continue to have faith in each other and faith in God.  (Applause.)

That faith in God has inspired men and women to sacrifice for the needy, to deploy to wars overseas, and to lock arms at home, to ensure equal rights for every man, woman and child in our land.  It’s that faith that sent the pilgrims across the oceans, the pioneers across the plains, and the young people all across America to chase their dreams.  They are chasing their dreams.  We are going to bring those dreams back.  As long as we have God, we are never, ever alone.  Whether it’s the soldier on the night watch or the single parent on the night shift, God will always give us solace and strength and comfort.

We need to carry on and to keep carrying on.  For us here in Washington, we must never, ever stop asking God for the wisdom to serve the public according to his will.  That’s why — (applause) — thank you.  That’s why President Eisenhower and Senator Carlson had the wisdom to gather together 64 years ago to begin this truly great tradition.  But that’s not all they did together.  Let me tell you the rest of the story.  Just one year later, Senator Carlson was among the members of Congress to send to the President’s desk a joint resolution that added “under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance.  That’s a great thing.  (Applause.)  Because that’s what we are and that is what we will always be, and that is what our people want:  one beautiful nation, under God.

Thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
9:30 A.M. EST

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Political Musings February 7, 2015: Obama historically right about Christianity ISIS comparison at National Prayer Breakfast

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Obama historically right about Christianity ISIS comparison at Prayer Breakfast

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama caused quite the controversy at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015 when he discussed extremism in religion and then proceeded to make comparisons between the Christian Crusades, Inquisition and ISIS, the Islamic State of…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 5, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech at National Prayer Breakfast

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH,  2-5-15

Washington Hilton
Washington, D.C.

9:13 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Well, good morning.  Giving all praise and honor to God.  It is wonderful to be back with you here.  I want to thank our co-chairs, Bob and Roger.  These two don’t always agree in the Senate, but in coming together and uniting us all in prayer, they embody the spirit of our gathering today.

I also want to thank everybody who helped organize this breakfast.  It’s wonderful to see so many friends and faith leaders and dignitaries.  And Michelle and I are truly honored to be joining you here today.

I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama — who is a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion, who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings.  (Applause.)  I’ve been pleased to welcome him to the White House on many occasions, and we’re grateful that he’s able to join us here today.  (Applause.)

There aren’t that many occasions that bring His Holiness under the same roof as NASCAR.  (Laughter.)  This may be the first.  (Laughter.)  But God works in mysterious ways.  (Laughter.)   And so I want to thank Darrell for that wonderful presentation.  Darrell knows that when you’re going 200 miles an hour, a little prayer cannot hurt.  (Laughter.)  I suspect that more than once, Darrell has had the same thought as many of us have in our own lives — Jesus, take the wheel.  (Laughter.) Although I hope that you kept your hands on the wheel when you were thinking that.  (Laughter.)

He and I obviously share something in having married up.  And we are so grateful to Stevie for the incredible work that they’ve done together to build a ministry where the fastest drivers can slow down a little bit, and spend some time in prayer and reflection and thanks.  And we certainly want to wish Darrell a happy birthday.  (Applause.)  Happy birthday.

I will note, though, Darrell, when you were reading that list of things folks were saying about you, I was thinking, well, you’re a piker.  I mean, that — (laughter.)  I mean, if you really want a list, come talk to me.  (Laughter.)  Because that ain’t nothing.  (Laughter.)  That’s the best they can do in NASCAR?  (Laughter.)

Slowing down and pausing for fellowship and prayer — that’s what this breakfast is about.  I think it’s fair to say Washington moves a lot slower than NASCAR.  Certainly my agenda does sometimes.  (Laughter.)  But still, it’s easier to get caught up in the rush of our lives, and in the political back-and-forth that can take over this city.  We get sidetracked with distractions, large and small.  We can’t go 10 minutes without checking our smartphones — and for my staff, that’s every 10 seconds.  And so for 63 years, this prayer tradition has brought us together, giving us the opportunity to come together in humility before the Almighty and to be reminded of what it is that we share as children of God.

And certainly for me, this is always a chance to reflect on my own faith journey.  Many times as President, I’ve been reminded of a line of prayer that Eleanor Roosevelt was fond of. She said, “Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength.”  Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength.  I’ve wondered at times if maybe God was answering that prayer a little too literally.  But no matter the challenge, He has been there for all of us.  He’s certainly strengthened me “with the power through his Spirit,” as I’ve sought His guidance not just in my own life but in the life of our nation.

Now, over the last few months, we’ve seen a number of challenges — certainly over the last six years.  But part of what I want to touch on today is the degree to which we’ve seen professions of faith used both as an instrument of great good, but also twisted and misused in the name of evil.

As we speak, around the world, we see faith inspiring people to lift up one another — to feed the hungry and care for the poor, and comfort the afflicted and make peace where there is strife.  We heard the good work that Sister has done in Philadelphia, and the incredible work that Dr. Brantly and his colleagues have done.  We see faith driving us to do right.

But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon.  From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it.  We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism  — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.

We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.

So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.  Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.

So this is not unique to one group or one religion.  There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.  In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try.  And in this mission, I believe there are a few principles that can guide us, particularly those of us who profess to believe.

And, first, we should start with some basic humility.  I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt — not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.

Our job is not to ask that God respond to our notion of truth — our job is to be true to Him, His word, and His commandments.  And we should assume humbly that we’re confused and don’t always know what we’re doing and we’re staggering and stumbling towards Him, and have some humility in that process.  And that means we have to speak up against those who would misuse His name to justify oppression, or violence, or hatred with that fierce certainty.  No God condones terror.  No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives, or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number.

And so, as people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends.  And here at home and around the world, we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom — freedom of religion — the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.

There’s wisdom in our founders writing in those documents that help found this nation the notion of freedom of religion, because they understood the need for humility.  They also understood the need to uphold freedom of speech, that there was a connection between freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  For to infringe on one right under the pretext of protecting another is a betrayal of both.

But part of humility is also recognizing in modern, complicated, diverse societies, the functioning of these rights, the concern for the protection of these rights calls for each of us to exercise civility and restraint and judgment.  And if, in fact, we defend the legal right of a person to insult another’s religion, we’re equally obligated to use our free speech to condemn such insults — (applause) — and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with religious communities, particularly religious minorities who are the targets of such attacks.  Just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t question those who would insult others in the name of free speech.  Because we know that our nations are stronger when people of all faiths feel that they are welcome, that they, too, are full and equal members of our countries.

So humility I think is needed.  And the second thing we need is to uphold the distinction between our faith and our governments.  Between church and between state.  The United States is one of the most religious countries in the world — far more religious than most Western developed countries.  And one of the reasons is that our founders wisely embraced the separation of church and state.  Our government does not sponsor a religion, nor does it pressure anyone to practice a particular faith, or any faith at all.  And the result is a culture where people of all backgrounds and beliefs can freely and proudly worship, without fear, or coercion — so that when you listen to Darrell talk about his faith journey you know it’s real.  You know he’s not saying it because it helps him advance, or because somebody told him to.  It’s from the heart.

That’s not the case in theocracies that restrict people’s choice of faith.  It’s not the case in authoritarian governments that elevate an individual leader or a political party above the people, or in some cases, above the concept of God Himself.  So the freedom of religion is a value we will continue to protect here at home and stand up for around the world, and is one that we guard vigilantly here in the United States.

Last year, we joined together to pray for the release of Christian missionary Kenneth Bae, held in North Korea for two years.  And today, we give thanks that Kenneth is finally back where he belongs — home, with his family.  (Applause.)

Last year, we prayed together for Pastor Saeed Abedini, detained in Iran since 2012.  And I was recently in Boise, Idaho, and had the opportunity to meet with Pastor Abedini’s beautiful wife and wonderful children and to convey to them that our country has not forgotten brother Saeed and that we’re doing everything we can to bring him home.  (Applause.)  And then, I received an extraordinary letter from Pastor Abedini.  And in it, he describes his captivity, and expressed his gratitude for my visit with his family, and thanked us all for standing in solidarity with him during his captivity.

And Pastor Abedini wrote, “Nothing is more valuable to the Body of Christ than to see how the Lord is in control, and moves ahead of countries and leadership through united prayer.”  And he closed his letter by describing himself as “prisoner for Christ, who is proud to be part of this great nation of the United States of America that cares for religious freedom around the world.”  (Applause.)

We’re going to keep up this work — for Pastor Abedini and all those around the world who are unjustly held or persecuted because of their faith.   And we’re grateful to our new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Rabbi David Saperstein — who has hit the ground running, and is heading to Iraq in a few days to help religious communities there address some of those challenges.  Where’s David?  I know he’s here somewhere.  Thank you, David, for the great work you’re doing.  (Applause.)

Humility; a suspicion of government getting between us and our faiths, or trying to dictate our faiths, or elevate one faith over another.  And, finally, let’s remember that if there is one law that we can all be most certain of that seems to bind people of all faiths, and people who are still finding their way towards faith but have a sense of ethics and morality in them — that one law, that Golden Rule that we should treat one another as we wish to be treated.  The Torah says “Love thy neighbor as yourself.”  In Islam, there is a Hadith that states: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”  The Holy Bible tells us to “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  Put on love.

Whatever our beliefs, whatever our traditions, we must seek to be instruments of peace, and bringing light where there is darkness, and sowing love where there is hatred.  And this is the loving message of His Holiness, Pope Francis.  And like so many people around the world, I’ve been touched by his call to relieve suffering, and to show justice and mercy and compassion to the most vulnerable; to walk with The Lord and ask “Who am I to judge?”  He challenges us to press on in what he calls our “march of living hope.”  And like millions of Americans, I am very much looking forward to welcoming Pope Francis to the United States later this year.  (Applause.)

His Holiness expresses that basic law:  Treat thy neighbor as yourself.  The Dalai Lama — anybody who’s had an opportunity to be with him senses that same spirit.  Kent Brantly expresses that same spirit.  Kent was with Samaritan’s Purse, treating Ebola patients in Liberia, when he contracted the virus himself. And with world-class medical care and a deep reliance on faith — with God’s help, Kent survived.  (Applause.)

And then by donating his plasma, he helped others survive as well.  And he continues to advocate for a global response in West Africa, reminding us that “our efforts needs to be on loving the people there.”  And I could not have been prouder to welcome Kent and his wonderful wife Amber to the Oval Office.  We are blessed to have him here today — because he reminds us of what it means to really “love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Not just words, but deeds.

Each of us has a role in fulfilling our common, greater purpose — not merely to seek high position, but to plumb greater depths so that we may find the strength to love more fully.  And this is perhaps our greatest challenge — to see our own reflection in each other; to be our brother’s keepers and sister’s keepers, and to keep faith with one another.  As children of God, let’s make that our work, together.

As children of God, let’s work to end injustice — injustice of poverty and hunger.  No one should ever suffer from such want amidst such plenty.  As children of God, let’s work to eliminate the scourge of homelessness, because, as Sister Mary says, “None of us are home until all of us are home.”  None of us are home until all of us are home.

As children of God, let’s stand up for the dignity and value of every woman, and man, and child, because we are all equal in His eyes, and work to send the scourge and the sin of modern-day slavery and human trafficking, and “set the oppressed free.”  (Applause.)

If we are properly humble, if we drop to our knees on occasion, we will acknowledge that we never fully know God’s purpose.  We can never fully fathom His amazing grace.  “We see through a glass, darkly” — grappling with the expanse of His awesome love.  But even with our limits, we can heed that which is required:  To do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

I pray that we will.  And as we journey together on this “march of living hope,” I pray that, in His name, we will run and not be weary, and walk and not be faint, and we’ll heed those words and “put on love.”

May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may He bless this precious country that we love.

Thank you all very much.  (Applause.)

END
9:37 A.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency February 6, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at National Prayer Breakfast

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Praises Freedom of Religion at the National Prayer Breakfast

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the National Prayer BreakfastPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., Feb. 6, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

This morning, the President, the First Lady, and the Vice President attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. The annual event brings together legislators, officials, and clergy from all faiths and political ideologies….READ MORE

Remarks by the President at National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 2-6-14 

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks at the 2014 National Prayer Breakfast
February 06, 2014 6:57 PM

President Obama Speaks at the 2014 National Prayer Breakfast

Washington Hilton
Washington, D.C.

9:11 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Please, everyone have a seat. Giving all praise and honor to God, who brought us here this morning.

Thank you so much for our two outstanding co-chairs, Louie and Jan.  And I have to say, I would have enjoyed a behind-the-scenes look at the two of these folks getting this breakfast organized this morning.  (Laughter.)  But there does seem to be that sibling thing a little bit, Louie.  (Laughter.)  They love each other, but they’ve got to go at each other a little bit.  I, by the way, have always found Louie to be unbelievably gracious every time I’ve seen him.  Now, I don’t watch TV, I’ve got to admit.  (Laughter.)  But he is a good man and a great storyteller, and Janice was just reminding me the first time we saw each other was at one of my first events when I first ran for office.

It’s wonderful to see all of the dignitaries and friends who are here today.  To the Presidents, and Prime Ministers, the leaders of business and the nonprofit community; to my incredible friend and Vice President, Joe Biden; to my Cabinet members who are here and members of the administration who do such great work every single day; to my fellow Hawaiian, it is wonderful to see you.  I should tell you that my surfing is not that good.  (Laughter.)  I just want to be clear.  But my bodysurfing is pretty good.

SENATOR HIRONO:  Bodysurfing is fun.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It is.  (Laughter.)  And to Raj Shah, who is just such an incredible young leader and is out there every single day, I could not be more proud of his outstanding leadership at USAID.  And it’s a good reminder — (applause) — it’s a good reminder of the dedicated public servants that I have the chance to interact with every single day.  And they do great work, don’t always get a lot of credit, sometimes get subject to the sort of criticism that you do when you’re in public life, but Raj is single-minded in terms of trying to help as many people as possible all around the world and is an extraordinary representative for our country.  So I’m very, very proud of him — although he does always make me feel like an underachiever whenever I listen to him.  (Laughter.)  I’m thinking, I should have been working harder and not slouching.  (Laughter.)

Dale Jones and everyone else who worked on this breakfast this morning, thank you, and obviously I’m thrilled to be joined by my extraordinary wife and she does a great job every single day keeping me in line.  (Applause.)

Just two other thank-yous.  To our men and women in uniform all around the world, we pray for them.  (Applause.)  Many of them doing such great work to keep us safe.  And then there is one colleague of mine who is missing today.  A great friend of mine who I came into the Senate with, Senator Tom Coburn.  Tom is going through some tough times right now but I love him dearly even though we’re from different parties.  He’s a little closer to Louie’s political perspective than mine but he is a good man and I’m keeping him and his family in my prayers all the time.  So just a shout-out to my good friend, Tom Coburn.  (Applause.)

So each time we gather, it’s a chance to set aside the rush of our daily lives; to pause with humility before an Almighty God; to seek His grace; and, mindful of our own imperfections, to remember the admonition from the Book of Romans, which is especially fitting for those of us in Washington:  “Do not claim to be wiser than you are.”

So here we put aside labels of party and ideology, and recall what we are first:  all children of a loving God; brothers and sisters called to make His work our own.  But in this work, as Lincoln said, our concern should not be whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God’s side.

And here we give thanks for His guidance in our own individual faith journeys.  In my life, He directed my path to Chicago and my work with churches who were intent on breaking the cycle of poverty in hard-hit communities there.  And I’m grateful not only because I was broke and the church fed me, but because it led to everything else.  It led me to embrace Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  It led me to Michelle — the love of my life — and it blessed us with two extraordinary daughters.  It led me to public service.  And the longer I serve, especially in moments of trial or doubt, the more thankful I am of God’s guiding hand.

Now, here, as Americans, we affirm the freedoms endowed by our Creator, among them freedom of religion.  And, yes, this freedom safeguards religion, allowing us to flourish as one of the most religious countries on Earth, but it works the other way, too — because religion strengthens America.  Brave men and women of faith have challenged our conscience and brought us closer to our founding ideals, from the abolition of slavery to civil rights, workers’ rights.

So many of you carry on this good work today — for the child who deserves a school worthy of his dreams; for the parents working overtime to pull themselves out of poverty; for the immigrants who want to step out of the shadows and become a full member of our American family; for the young girl who prays for rescue from the modern slavery of human trafficking, an outrage that we must all join together to end.

Through our Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, led by Melissa Rogers, we’re proud to work with you on this and many other issues.  And I invite you to join us in a new initiative that I announced in my State of the Union address — an effort to help more young men of color overcome the odds, because so many boys in this country need that mentor to help them become a man and a good father.

I’ve felt the love that faith can instill in our lives during my visits to the Holy Land and Jerusalem — sacred to Jews and Christians and Muslims.  I’ve felt it in houses of worship — whether paying my respects at the tomb of Archbishop Romero in San Salvador, or visiting a synagogue on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul or a Buddhist temple in Bangkok.  And I’ve felt the compassion of so many faith leaders around the world, and I am especially looking forward to returning to the Vatican next month to meet His Holiness, Pope Francis, whose message about caring for the “least of these” is one that I hope all of us heed.  Like Matthew, he has answered the call of Jesus, who said “follow me,” and he inspires us with his words and deeds, his humility, his mercy and his missionary impulse to serve the cause of social justice.

Yet even as our faith sustains us, it’s also clear that around the world freedom of religion is under threat.  And that is what I want to reflect on this morning.  We see governments engaging in discrimination and violence against the faithful.  We sometimes see religion twisted in an attempt to justify hatred and persecution against other people just because of who they are, or how they pray or who they love.  Old tensions are stoked, fueling conflicts along religious lines, as we’ve seen in the Central African Republic recently, even though to harm anyone in the name of faith is to diminish our own relationship with God.  Extremists succumb to an ignorant nihilism that shows they don’t understand the faiths they claim to profess — for the killing of the innocent is never fulfilling God’s will; in fact, it’s the ultimate betrayal of God’s will.

Today, we profess the principles we know to be true.  We believe that each of us is “wonderfully made” in the image of God.  We, therefore, believe in the inherent dignity of every human being — dignity that no earthly power can take away.  And central to that dignity is freedom of religion — the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith if they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do this free from persecution and fear.

Our faith teaches us that in the face of suffering, we can’t stand idly by and that we must be that Good Samaritan.  In Isaiah, we’re told “to do right.  Seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.”  The Torah commands:  “Know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.” The Koran instructs:  “Stand out firmly for justice.”   So history shows that nations that uphold the rights of their people — including the freedom of religion — are ultimately more just and more peaceful and more successful.  Nations that do not uphold these rights sow the bitter seeds of instability and violence and extremism.  So freedom of religion matters to our national security.  (Applause.)

As I’ve said before, there are times when we work with governments that don’t always meet our highest standards, but they’re working with us on core interests such as the security of the American people.  At the same time, we also deeply believe that it’s in our interest, even with our partners, sometimes with our friends, to stand up for universal human rights.  So promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy.  And I’m proud that no nation on Earth does more to stand up for the freedom of religion around the world than the United States of America.  (Applause.)

It is not always comfortable to do, but it is right.  When I meet with Chinese leaders — and we do a lot of business with the Chinese, and that relationship is extraordinarily important not just to our two countries but to the world — but I stress that realizing China’s potential rests on upholding universal rights, including for Christians, and Tibetan Buddhists, and Uighur Muslims.  (Applause.)

When I meet with the President of Burma, a country that is trying to emerge out of a long darkness into the light of a representative government, I’ve said that Burma’s return to the international community depends on respecting basic freedoms, including for Christians and Muslims.  I’ve pledged our support to the people of Nigeria, who deserve to worship in their churches and mosques in peace, free from terror.  I’ve put the weight of my office behind the efforts to protect the people of Sudan and South Sudan, including religious minorities.

As we support Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in direct talks, we’ve made clear that lasting peace will require freedom of worship and access to holy sites for all faiths.  I want to take this opportunity to thank Secretary Kerry for his extraordinary passion and principled diplomacy that he’s brought to the cause of peace in the Middle East.  Thank you, John.  (Applause.)

More broadly, I’ve made the case that no society can truly succeed unless it guarantees the rights of all its peoples, including religious minorities, whether they’re Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan, or Baha’i in Iran, or Coptic Christians in Egypt.  And in Syria, it means ensuring a place for all people — Alawites and Sunni, Shia and Christian.

Going forward, we will keep standing for religious freedom around the world.  And that includes, by the way, opposing blasphemy and defamation of religion measures, which are promoted sometimes as an expression of religion, but, in fact, all too often can be used to suppress religious minorities.  (Applause.) We continue to stand for the rights of all people to practice their faiths in peace and in freedom.  And we will continue to stand against the ugly tide of anti-Semitism that rears it’s ugly head all too often.

I look forward to nominating our next ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom to help lead these efforts.  And we’re moving ahead with our new strategy to partner more closely with religious leaders and faith communities as we carry out our foreign policy.  And I want to thank Shaun Casey, from the Wesley Theological Seminary, for leading this work at the State Department.  Shaun I think is here today and we want to thank him for the outstanding work that he’s doing.  (Applause.) Thank you, Shaun.  (Applause.)

So around the world we’re elevating our engagement with faith leaders and making it a regular part of our diplomacy.  And today, I invite you to join us in focusing on several pressing challenges.  Let’s do more together to advance human rights, including religious freedom.  Let’s do more to promote the development that Raj describes — from ending extreme poverty to saving lives, from HIV/AIDS to combating climate change so that we can preserve God’s incredible creation.  On all these issues, faith leaders and faith organizations here in the United States and around the world are incredible partners, and we’re grateful to them.

And in contrast to those who wield religion to divide us, let’s do more to nurture the dialogue between faiths that can break cycles of conflict and build true peace, including in the Holy Land.

And finally, as we build the future we seek, let us never forget those who are persecuted today, among them Americans of faith.  We pray for Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary who’s been held in North Korea for 15 months, sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.  His family wants him home.  And the United States will continue to do everything in our power to secure his release because Kenneth Bae deserves to be free.  (Applause.)

We pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini.  He’s been held in Iran for more than 18 months, sentenced to eight years in prison on charges relating to his Christian beliefs.  And as we continue to work for his freedom, today, again, we call on the Iranian government to release Pastor Abedini so he can return to the loving arms of his wife and children in Idaho.  (Applause.)

And as we pray for all prisoners of conscience, whatever their faiths, wherever they’re held, let’s imagine what it must be like for them.  We may not know their names, but all around the world there are people who are waking up in cold cells, facing another day of confinement, another day of unspeakable treatment, simply because they are affirming God.  Despite all they’ve endured, despite all the awful punishments if caught, they will wait for that moment when the guards aren’t looking, and when they can close their eyes and bring their hands together and pray.

In those moments of peace, of grace, those moments when their faith is tested in ways that those of us who are more comfortable never experience; in those far-away cells, I believe their unbroken souls are made stronger.  And I hope that somehow they hear our prayers for them, that they know that, along with the spirit of God, they have our spirit with them as well, and that they are not alone.

Today we give humble thanks for the freedoms we cherish in this country.  And I join you in seeking God’s grace in all of our lives.  I pray that His wisdom will give us the capacity to do right and to seek justice, and defend the oppressed wherever they may dwell.

I want to thank all of you for the extraordinary privilege of being here this morning.  I want to ask you for your prayers as I continue in this awesome privilege and responsibility as President of the United States.  May God bless the United States of America, and God bless all those who seek peace and justice.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
9:51 A.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency February 7, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast Discusses His Faith & Calls for Humility

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Calls for Humility at the National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 2-7-13

President Obama addresses the National Prayer Breakfast (February 7, 2013)President Barack Obama addresses the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., Feb. 7, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In discussing his faith at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama made a call for humility — a trait which, he noted, Washington could embrace more fully.

“In a democracy as big and as diverse as ours, we will encounter every opinion,” he said. “And our task as citizens — whether we are leaders in government or business or spreading the word — is to spend our days with open hearts and open minds; to seek out the truth that exists in an opposing view and to find the common ground that allows for us as a nation, as a people, to take real and meaningful action. And we have to do that humbly, for no one can know the full and encompassing mind of God. And we have to do it every day, not just at a prayer breakfast.”

Presidential attendance at the breakfast is a long-standing tradition, and this is President Obama’s fifth appearance.

Read his full remarks here.

Remarks by the President at the National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 2-6-13

Washington Hilton
Washington, D.C.

9:03 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Please have a seat.
Mark, thank you for that introduction. I thought he was going to talk about my gray hair. (Laughter.) It is true that my daughters are gorgeous. (Laughter.) That’s because my wife is gorgeous. (Applause.) And my goal is to improve my gene pool.

To Mark and Jeff, thank you for your wonderful work on behalf of this breakfast. To all of those who worked so hard to put this together; to the heads of state, members of Congress, and my Cabinet, religious leaders and distinguished guests. To our outstanding speaker. To all the faithful who’ve journeyed to our capital, Michelle and I are truly honored to be with you this morning.

Before I begin, I hope people don’t mind me taking a moment of personal privilege. I want to say a quick word about a close friend of mine and yours, Joshua Dubois. Now, some of you may not know Joshua, but Joshua has been at my side — in work and in prayer — for years now. He is a young reverend, but wise in years. He’s worked on my staff. He’s done an outstanding job as the head of our Faith-Based office.

Every morning he sends me via email a daily meditation — a snippet of Scripture for me to reflect on. And it has meant the world to me. And despite my pleas, tomorrow will be his last day in the White House. So this morning I want to publically thank Joshua for all that he’s done, and I know that everybody joins me in wishing him all the best in his future endeavors — including getting married. (Applause.)

It says something about us — as a nation and as a people — that every year, for 61 years now, this great prayerful tradition has endured. It says something about us that every year, in times of triumph and in tragedy, in calm and in crisis, we come together, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as brothers and sisters, and as children of God. Every year, in the midst of all our busy and noisy lives, we set aside one morning to gather as one community, united in prayer.

We do so because we’re a nation ever humbled by our history, and we’re ever attentive to our imperfections — particularly the imperfections of our President. We come together because we’re a people of faith. We know that faith is something that must be cultivated. Faith is not a possession. Faith is a process.

I was struck by the passage that was read earlier from the Book of Hebrews: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” He rewards those who diligently seek Him — not just for one moment, or one day, but for every moment, and every day.

As Christians, we place our faith in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus Christ. But so many other Americans also know the close embrace of faith — Muslims and Jews, Hindus and Sikhs. And all Americans — whether religious or secular — have a deep and abiding faith in this nation.

Recently I had occasion to reflect on the power of faith. A few weeks ago, during the inauguration, I was blessed to place my hand on the Bibles of two great Americans, two men whose faith still echoes today. One was the Bible owned by President Abraham Lincoln, and the other, the Bible owned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As I prepared to take the sacred oath, I thought about these two men, and I thought of how, in times of joy and pain and uncertainty, they turned to their Bibles to seek the wisdom of God’s word — and thought of how, for as long as we’ve been a nation, so many of our leaders, our Presidents, and our preachers, our legislators and our jurists have done the same. Each one faced their own challenges; each one finding in Scripture their own lessons from the Lord.

And as I was looking out on the crowd during the inauguration I thought of Dr. King. We often think of him standing tall in front of the endless crowds, stirring the nation’s conscience with a bellowing voice and a mighty dream. But I also thought of his doubts and his fears, for those moments came as well — the lonely moments when he was left to confront the presence of long-festering injustice and undisguised hate; imagined the darkness and the doubt that must have surrounded him when he was in that Birmingham jail, and the anger that surely rose up in him the night his house was bombed with his wife and child inside, and the grief that shook him as he eulogized those four precious girls taken from this Earth as they gathered in a house of God.

And I was reminded that, yes, Dr. King was a man of audacious hope and a man of relentless optimism. But he was always — he was also a man occasionally brought to his knees in fear and in doubt and in helplessness. And in those moments, we know that he retreated alone to a quiet space so he could reflect and he could pray and he could grow his faith.

And I imagine he turned to certain verses that we now read. I imagine him reflecting on Isaiah, that we wait upon the Lord; that the Lord shall renew those who wait; that they shall mount up with wings as eagles, and they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.

We know that in Scripture, Dr. King found strength; in the Bible, he found conviction. In the words of God, he found a truth about the dignity of man that, once realized, he never relinquished.

We know Lincoln had such moments as well. To see this country torn apart, to see his fellow citizens waging a ferocious war that pitted brother against brother, family against family — that was as heavy a burden as any President will ever have to bear.

We know Lincoln constantly met with troops and visited the wounded and honored the dead. And the toll mounted day after day, week after week. And you can see in the lines of his face the toll that the war cost him. But he did not break. Even as he buried a beloved son, he did not break. Even as he struggled to overcome melancholy, despair, grief, he did not break.

And we know that he surely found solace in Scripture; that he could acknowledge his own doubts, that he was humbled in the face of the Lord. And that, I think, allowed him to become a better leader. It’s what allowed him in what may be one of the greatest speeches ever written, in his second Inaugural, to describe the Union and the Confederate soldier alike — both reading the same Bible, both prayed to the same God, but “the prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

In Lincoln’s eyes, the power of faith was humbling, allowing us to embrace our limits in knowing God’s will. And as a consequence, he was able to see God in those who vehemently opposed him.

Today, the divisions in this country are, thankfully, not as deep or destructive as when Lincoln led, but they are real. The differences in how we hope to move our nation forward are less pronounced than when King marched, but they do exist. And as we debate what is right and what is just, what is the surest way to create a more hopeful — for our children — how we’re going to reduce our deficit, what kind of tax plans we’re going to have, how we’re going to make sure that every child is getting a great education — and, Doctor, it is very encouraging to me that you turned out so well by your mom not letting you watch TV. I’m going to tell my daughters that when they complain. (Laughter.) In the midst of all these debates, we must keep that same humility that Dr. King and Lincoln and Washington and all our great leaders understood is at the core of true leadership.

In a democracy as big and as diverse as ours, we will encounter every opinion. And our task as citizens — whether we are leaders in government or business or spreading the word — is to spend our days with open hearts and open minds; to seek out the truth that exists in an opposing view and to find the common ground that allows for us as a nation, as a people, to take real and meaningful action. And we have to do that humbly, for no one can know the full and encompassing mind of God. And we have to do it every day, not just at a prayer breakfast.

I have to say this is now our fifth prayer breakfast and it is always just a wonderful event. But I do worry sometimes that as soon as we leave the prayer breakfast, everything we’ve been talking about the whole time at the prayer breakfast seems to be forgotten — on the same day of the prayer breakfast. (Laughter.) I mean, you’d like to think that the shelf life wasn’t so short. (Laughter.) But I go back to the Oval Office and I start watching the cable news networks and it’s like we didn’t pray. (Laughter.)

And so my hope is that humility, that that carries over every day, every moment. While God may reveal His plan to us in portions, the expanse of His plan is for God, and God alone, to understand. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Until that moment, until we know, and are fully known, all we can do is live our lives in a Godly way and assume that those we deal with every day, including those in an opposing party, they’re groping their way, doing their best, going through the same struggles we’re going through.

And in that pursuit, we are blessed with guidance. God has told us how He wishes for us to spend our days. His Commandments are there to be followed. Jesus is there to guide us; the Holy Spirit, to help us. Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. See in everyone, even in those with whom you disagree most vehemently, the face of God. For we are all His children.

That’s what I thought of as I took the oath of office a few weeks ago and touched those Bibles — the comfort that Scripture gave Lincoln and King and so many leaders throughout our history; the verses they cherished, and how those words of God are there for us as well, waiting to be read any day that we choose. I thought about how their faith gave them the strength to meet the challenges of their time, just as our faith can give us the strength to meet the challenges of ours. And most of all, I thought about their humility, and how we don’t seem to live that out the way we should, every day, even when we give lip service to it.

As President, sometimes I have to search for the words to console the inconsolable. Sometimes I search Scripture to determine how best to balance life as a President and as a husband and as a father. I often search for Scripture to figure out how I can be a better man as well as a better President. And I believe that we are united in these struggles. But I also believe that we are united in the knowledge of a redeeming Savior, whose grace is sufficient for the multitude of our sins, and whose love is never failing.

And most of all, I know that all Americans — men and women of different faiths and, yes, those of no faith that they can name — are, nevertheless, joined together in common purpose, believing in something that is bigger than ourselves, and the ideals that lie at the heart of our nation’s founding — that as a people we are bound together.

And so this morning, let us summon the common resolve that comes from our faith. Let us pray to God that we may be worthy of the many blessings He has bestowed upon our nation. Let us retain that humility not just during this hour but for every hour. And let me suggest that those of us with the most power and influence need to be the most humble. And let us promise Him and to each other, every day as the sun rises over America that it will rise over a people who are striving to make this a more perfect union.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
END
9:21 A.M. EST

White House Recap January 28 February 3, 2012: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Unveiled Programs for Lowering Tuition & Refinancing Mortgages as Part of the Blueprint for an America Built to Last — Interviewed by Google+ & Spoke at 2012 National Prayer Breakfast

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: JANUARY 28 – February 3, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: Hanging Out with America

Source: WH, 2-3-12

Talking Tuition with the Wolverines: Shortly after delivering his State of the Union address, the President took his Blueprint for making college more affordable straight to the people at the frontlines of the issue—students. Speaking from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the President noted that a college degree “will be the best tool you have to achieve that basic American promise.”

A Georgian Visitor: Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili met with the President in the Oval Office on Monday, discussing relations between our two countries—including Georgia’s contributions to the military operation in Afghanistan and the potential for a free trade agreement between the United States and Geogia—and marked the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between both countries.

Hanging Out on Google+: The President participated in the first-ever virtual interview from the White House on Monday from the Roosevelt Room. After more than 227,000 people submitted questions or voted for their favorites, the President sat down for a discussion with a group of Americans from across the country in a Google+ Hangout. In case you missed it, you can watch the full video here.

The Cabinet Convenes: On Tuesday, the President held a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House to discuss the ideas he laid out in the State of the Union. A top priority mentioned by the President during the State of the Union was the need to promote small business throughout the country, which was echoed in the meeting, where a new Cabinet member and the head of the Small Business Administration, Karen Mills, joined the discussion and ensured that entrepreneurs were represented.

In the Showroom: With Detroit’s newest vehicles on display at the Washington Auto Show, the President took a trip across town to get a glimpse of the outstanding work produced within the U.S. auto industry. He was impressed by what he saw, saying, “Because of folks coming together, we are now back in a place where we can compete with any car company in the world.”

Fairness, Responsibility and Housing: One way the President plans to achieve his Blueprint for an America Built to Last is by taking action to help responsible borrowers and support a housing market recovery. On Wednesday, he expanded on the ideas he presented in the State of the Union—including a proposal for a Homeowners Bill of Rights—at the James Lee Community Center in Falls Church, Virginia, where home values have fallen by about a quarter from their peak.

The National Prayer Breakfast: At the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., the President spoke about how his faith and values guide the difficult decisions he makes as he leads the country.

Full Text February 2, 2012: President Obama’s Speech at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Barack Obama at National Prayer Breakfast (February 2, 2012)

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2012. First Lady Michelle Obama attended the event with the President. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 2-2-12

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (186MB) | mp3 (18MB)

This morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama gave a speech where he described how his faith as a Christian informs his thinking as a leader.

And he talked about the importance of our shared set of values as Americans:

We can’t leave our values at the door. If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries, and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Abraham Heschel — the majority of great reformers in American history did their work not just because it was sound policy, or they had done good analysis, or understood how to exercise good politics, but because their faith and their values dictated it, and called for bold action — sometimes in the face of indifference, sometimes in the face of resistance.

This is no different today for millions of Americans, and it’s certainly not for me.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at the National Prayer Breakfast

Washington Hilton
Washington, D.C.

9:10 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Please, please, everybody have a seat.  Well, good morning, everybody.  It is good to be with so many friends united in prayer.  And I begin by giving all praise and honor to God for bringing us together here today.

I want to thank our co-chairs Mark and Jeff; to my dear friend, the guy who always has my back, Vice President Biden.  (Applause.)  All the members of Congress –- Joe deserves a hand –- all the members of Congress and my Cabinet who are here today; all the distinguished guests who’ve traveled a long way to be part of this.  I’m not going to be as funny as Eric — (laughter) — but I’m grateful that he shared his message with us.  Michelle and I feel truly blessed to be here.

This is my third year coming to this prayer breakfast as President.  As Jeff mentioned, before that, I came as senator.  I have to say, it’s easier coming as President.  (Laughter.)  I don’t have to get here quite as early.  But it’s always been an opportunity that I’ve cherished.  And it’s a chance to step back for a moment, for us to come together as brothers and sisters and seek God’s face together.  At a time when it’s easy to lose ourselves in the rush and clamor of our own lives, or get caught up in the noise and rancor that too often passes as politics today, these moments of prayer slow us down.  They humble us.  They remind us that no matter how much responsibility we have, how fancy our titles, how much power we think we hold, we are imperfect vessels.  We can all benefit from turning to our Creator, listening to Him.  Avoiding phony religiosity, listening to Him.

This is especially important right now, when we’re facing some big challenges as a nation.  Our economy is making progress as we recover from the worst crisis in three generations, but far too many families are still struggling to find work or make the mortgage, pay for college, or, in some cases, even buy food.  Our men and women in uniform have made us safer and more secure, and we were eternally grateful to them, but war and suffering and hardship still remain in too many corners of the globe.  And a lot of those men and women who we celebrate on Veterans Day and Memorial Day come back and find that, when it comes to finding a job or getting the kind of care that they need, we’re not always there the way we need to be.

It’s absolutely true that meeting these challenges requires sound decision-making, requires smart policies.  We know that part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone can’t dictate our response to every challenge we face.

But in my moments of prayer, I’m reminded that faith and values play an enormous role in motivating us to solve some of our most urgent problems, in keeping us going when we suffer setbacks, and opening our minds and our hearts to the needs of others.

We can’t leave our values at the door.  If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries, and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union.  Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Abraham Heschel — the majority of great reformers in American history did their work not just because it was sound policy, or they had done good analysis, or understood how to exercise good politics, but because their faith and their values dictated it, and called for bold action — sometimes in the face of indifference, sometimes in the face of resistance.

This is no different today for millions of Americans, and it’s certainly not for me.

I wake up each morning and I say a brief prayer, and I spend a little time in scripture and devotion.  And from time to time, friends of mine, some of who are here today, friends like Joel Hunter or T.D. Jakes, will come by the Oval Office or they’ll call on the phone or they’ll send me a email, and we’ll pray together, and they’ll pray for me and my family, and for our country.

But I don’t stop there.  I’d be remiss if I stopped there; if my values were limited to personal moments of prayer or private conversations with pastors or friends.  So instead, I must try — imperfectly, but I must try — to make sure those values motivate me as one leader of this great nation.

And so when I talk about our financial institutions playing by the same rules as folks on Main Street, when I talk about making sure insurance companies aren’t discriminating against those who are already sick, or making sure that unscrupulous lenders aren’t taking advantage of the most vulnerable among us, I do so because I genuinely believe it will make the economy stronger for everybody.  But I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years, and I believe in God’s command to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”  I know the version of that Golden Rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs -– from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writings of Plato.

And when I talk about shared responsibility, it’s because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone.  And I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense.

But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.”  It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who’ve been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others.

When I talk about giving every American a fair shot at opportunity, it’s because I believe that when a young person can afford a college education, or someone who’s been unemployed suddenly has a chance to retrain for a job and regain that sense of dignity and pride, and contributing to the community as well as supporting their families — that helps us all prosper.

It means maybe that research lab on the cusp of a lifesaving discovery, or the company looking for skilled workers is going to do a little bit better, and we’ll all do better as a consequence.  It makes economic sense.  But part of that belief comes from my faith in the idea that I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper; that as a country, we rise and fall together.  I’m not an island.  I’m not alone in my success.  I succeed because others succeed with me.

And when I decide to stand up for foreign aid, or prevent atrocities in places like Uganda, or take on issues like human trafficking, it’s not just about strengthening alliances, or promoting democratic values, or projecting American leadership around the world, although it does all those things and it will make us safer and more secure.  It’s also about the biblical call to care for the least of these –- for the poor; for those at the margins of our society.

To answer the responsibility we’re given in Proverbs to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”  And for others, it may reflect the Jewish belief that the highest form of charity is to do our part to help others stand on their own.

Treating others as you want to be treated.  Requiring much from those who have been given so much.  Living by the principle that we are our brother’s keeper.  Caring for the poor and those in need.  These values are old.  They can be found in many denominations and many faiths, among many believers and among many non-believers.  And they are values that have always made this country great — when we live up to them; when we don’t just give lip service to them; when we don’t just talk about them one day a year.  And they’re the ones that have defined my own faith journey.

And today, with as many challenges as we face, these are the values I believe we’re going to have to return to in the hopes that God will buttress our efforts.

Now, we can earnestly seek to see these values lived out in our politics and our policies, and we can earnestly disagree on the best way to achieve these values.  In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Christianity has not, and does not profess to have a detailed political program.  It is meant for all men at all times, and the particular program which suited one place or time would not suit another.”

Our goal should not be to declare our policies as biblical.  It is God who is infallible, not us.  Michelle reminds me of this often.  (Laughter.)  So instead, it is our hope that people of goodwill can pursue their values and common ground and the common good as best they know how, with respect for each other.  And I have to say that sometimes we talk about respect, but we don’t act with respect towards each other during the course of these debates.

But each and every day, for many in this room, the biblical injunctions are not just words, they are also deeds.  Every single day, in different ways, so many of you are living out your faith in service to others.

Just last month, it was inspiring to see thousands of young Christians filling the Georgia Dome at the Passion Conference, to worship the God who sets the captives free and work to end modern slavery.  Since we’ve expanded and strengthened the White House faith-based initiative, we’ve partnered with Catholic Charities to help Americans who are struggling with poverty; worked with organizations like World Vision and American Jewish World Service and Islamic Relief to bring hope to those suffering around the world.

Colleges across the country have answered our Interfaith Campus Challenge, and students are joined together across religious lines in service to others.  From promoting responsible fatherhood to strengthening adoption, from helping people find jobs to serving our veterans, we’re linking arms with faith-based groups all across the country.

I think we all understand that these values cannot truly find voice in our politics and our policies unless they find a place in our hearts.  The Bible teaches us to “be doers of the word and not merely hearers.”  We’re required to have a living, breathing, active faith in our own lives.  And each of us is called on to give something of ourselves for the betterment of others — and to live the truth of our faith not just with words, but with deeds.

So even as we join the great debates of our age — how we best put people back to work, how we ensure opportunity for every child, the role of government in protecting this extraordinary planet that God has made for us, how we lessen the occasions of war — even as we debate these great issues, we must be reminded of the difference that we can make each day in our small interactions, in our personal lives.

As a loving husband, or a supportive parent, or a good neighbor, or a helpful colleague — in each of these roles, we help bring His kingdom to Earth.  And as important as government policy may be in shaping our world, we are reminded that it’s the cumulative acts of kindness and courage and charity and love, it’s the respect we show each other and the generosity that we share with each other that in our everyday lives will somehow sustain us during these challenging times.  John tells us that, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Mark read a letter from Billy Graham, and it took me back to one of the great honors of my life, which was visiting Reverend Graham at his mountaintop retreat in North Carolina, when I was on vacation with my family at a hotel not far away.

And I can still remember winding up the path up a mountain to his home.  Ninety-one years old at the time, facing various health challenges, he welcomed me as he would welcome a family member or a close friend.  This man who had prayed great prayers that inspired a nation, this man who seemed larger than life, greeted me and was as kind and as gentle as could be.

And we had a wonderful conversation.  Before I left, Reverend Graham started praying for me, as he had prayed for so many Presidents before me.  And when he finished praying, I felt the urge to pray for him.  I didn’t really know what to say.  What do you pray for when it comes to the man who has prayed for so many?  But like that verse in Romans, the Holy Spirit interceded when I didn’t know quite what to say.

And so I prayed — briefly, but I prayed from the heart.  I don’t have the intellectual capacity or the lung capacity of some of my great preacher friends here that have prayed for a long time.  (Laughter.)  But I prayed.  And we ended with an embrace and a warm goodbye.

And I thought about that moment all the way down the mountain, and I’ve thought about it in the many days since.  Because I thought about my own spiritual journey –- growing up in a household that wasn’t particularly religious; going through my own period of doubt and confusion; finding Christ when I wasn’t even looking for him so many years ago; possessing so many shortcomings that have been overcome by the simple grace of God.  And the fact that I would ever be on top of a mountain, saying a prayer for Billy Graham –- a man whose faith had changed the world and that had sustained him through triumphs and tragedies, and movements and milestones –- that simple fact humbled me to my core.

I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment — asking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong.  I know that He will guide us.  He always has, and He always will.  And I pray his richest blessings on each of you in the days ahead.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
9:30 A.M. EST

Political Highlights February 7, 2010: Obama Addresses on Egypt, Prayer & Commerce

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama Addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

President Barack Obama addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., February 7, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

STATS & POLLS

  • Obama or George W Bush — who is more polarizing?: Is President Obama or predecessor George W. Bush the more polarizing president? It depends on how you look at the numbers from Gallup. Over the past year, Obama had an 81% approval rating from Democrats and a 13% approval rating from Republicans — a 68-point gap that is easily the largest of any second-year president in the modern year.
    This gap comes 12 months after Obama’s 65% gap set a record for first year presidents. But Bush — whose approval ratings from both parties went up in the aftermath of 9/11 during his first year in office — had polarizing gaps of 70% or more in three different years: 2004, 2005 and 2006.
    In fact, four of the five most polarized modern presidential years, according to Gallup, were led by George W. Bush; Obama had the other one…. – USA Today, 2-4-11

CRISIS IN EGYPT & MIDDLE EAST

 

The President Discusses the Situation in Egypt
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 2/1/11

 

  • Egypt News— The ProtestsNYT
  • Hosni MubarakNYT
  • Latest Updates on Day 10 of Egypt ProtestsNYT
  • White House, Egypt Discuss Plan for Mubarak’s Exit: The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, turning over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday.
    Even though Mr. Mubarak has balked, so far, at leaving now, officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which Mr. Suleiman, backed by Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.
    The proposal also calls for the transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country’s electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials said.
    Senior administration officials said that the proposal was one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mr. Mubarak in an effort to persuade the president to step down now…. – NYT, 2-3-11
  • Kerry-McCain resolution calls on Mubarak to step down: Senator John F. Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Senator John McCain are calling on embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to immediately begin a peaceful transition to a new democratic government. The two former presidential candidates, Kerry in 2004 and McCain in 2008, have been among the leading voices of their parties on international affairs in general and the violent unraveling of Egypt’s power structure specifically. The two co-wrote a resolution, passed by the Senate on a voice vote tonight, that calls on Mubarak to hand over power to a caretaker government…. – Boston Globe, 2-3-11Resolution Copy
  • Obama Continues to Monitor Tense Egypt Situation: President Obama returned to the White House after a brief trip to Pennsylvania on Thursday, and has been holding more consultations with his advisers on the situation in Egypt. The United States pressed harder on the Egyptian government and military to stop a wave of violence.
    The president moved quickly past members of the press corps without comment, and into the Oval Office where over the past few days of the Egyptian crisis he has met with advisers and spoken twice by telephone with President Hosni Mubarak.
    In an interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, Mr. Mubarak referred to those conversations and said, according to excerpts, while he is a “very good man” Mr. Obama didn’t understand the culture of Egypt. In the same interview, Mr. Mubarak said he was “very unhappy” with violence in Egypt, which he blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, but said he could not step down and risk the chaos he says would ensue…. – VOA, 2-3-11
  • US, UK condemn attacks on journalists in Egypt: The United States and Britain condemned the intimidation of foreign reporters covering protests against President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday and said the Egyptian government must not target journalists.
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned assaults on American journalists in Cairo as concern rose about the possibility of an intensified round of rioting on Friday.
    “This is a violation of international norms that guarantee freedom of the press and it is unacceptable under any circumstances,” she said, reading a statement…. – Reuters, 2-3-11
  • GOP divided over Obama response to Egypt: As chaos roils Egypt, Republican lawmakers and the GOP’s potential presidential candidates are divided over President Barack Obama’s response though united in concern that an Islamic regime could rise to power in a nation that is an important U.S. ally in the precarious Middle East.
    Trying to set the tone for their party, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the country’s two top elected Republicans, have deferred to the Democratic president. They are signaling an unwillingness among the GOP leadership in Congress to pick a fight, in line, at least on this issue, with the tradition that politics stops at the waters’ edge in the midst of foreign crises. “America ought to speak with one voice,” said McConnell…. –
  • The Pentagon View of Egypt: What the Uprising Means for the U.S. MilitaryABC News, 2-3-1
  • Why Obama’s position on Egypt’s Mubarak was too little, too late: The images that have come out of Egypt over the past week are stunning: tens of thousands of largely unarmed protestors facing tanks, teargas, and live ammunition and who are still demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down. But throughout the upheaval, the United States response has been guarded, if not inadequate. After days of tepid statements and measured acknowledgements of the Egyptian people’s “legitimate grievances,” even an eventual call for “free and fair elections,” the Obama administration would still not publicly call for Mr. Mubarak’s departure…. – CS Monitor, 2-2-11
  • Uprising in Egypt Splits U.S Conservatives: Glenn Beck blasts the uprising in Cairo as a threat to our way of life. Michelle Goldberg on how the rebellion is splitting U.S. conservatives—and the fallout for the 2012 presidential campaign. Plus, full coverage of Egypt’s protests…. – The Daily Beast, 2-1-11
  • Obama Urges Quick Transition in Egypt: President Obama declared on Tuesday night that an “orderly transition” in Egypt “must begin now,” but he stopped short of demanding that President Hosni Mubarak leave office immediately. Mr. Obama used his four-and-a-half minute speech from the Cross Hall of the White House to embrace the cause of the protestors in Egypt far more fully than he has at any previous moment since the uprising against Mr. Mubarak’s 30-year-rule began.
    He praised the Egyptian military for refusing to fire on the protestors. And by declaring that Mr. Mubarak had to begin the process of transition immediately, he seemed to be signaling that the United States would not stand by if Mr. Mubarak tried to slow-walk the process, or manipulate its results.
    But if he pushed Mr. Mubarak, he did not shove him. Mr. Obama said there would be “difficult days ahead,” a clear signal of recognition that the transition period could be messy. Only a few hours before, Mr. Mubarak had declared he would not run for re-election, but planned to stay in office through September. Mr. Obama never discussed that timetable in his public response, and he did not declare exactly what steps he wants the Egyptian leader to take to start the process of transition.
    But he made clear that the process started by the protestors could not be reversed. “We’ve born witness to the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country,” Mr. Obama said, casting it as a natural successor to other moments of transition in a society that goes back thousands of years…. – NYT, 2-1-11
  • Clinton Calls for ‘Orderly Transition’ in Egypt: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Sunday for “an orderly transition” to a more politically open Egypt, stopping short of telling its embattled president, Hosni Mubarak, to step down but clearly laying the groundwork for his departure. Mrs. Clinton, making a round of Sunday talk shows, insisted that Mr. Mubarak’s future was up to the Egyptian people. But she said on “State of the Union” on CNN that the United States stood “ready to help with the kind of transition that will lead to greater political and economic freedom.” And she emphasized that elections scheduled for this fall must be free and fair. President Obama reinforced that message in phone calls on Saturday and Sunday to other leaders in the region, including King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, as the administration tried to contain the regional reverberations…. – NYT, 1-30-11
  • U.S. cautiously prepares for post-Mubarak era: Mindful of other allies in the region, U.S. officials have been careful not to abandon the Egyptian leader, urging him to implement a transition to democracy. But they are also preparing for the possibility of his ouster…. – LAT, 1-30-11

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama Addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Pete Souza, 2/7/11
  • Obama and business community seek to ease tensions: When President Barack Obama named Gene Sperling as his chief economic adviser, two of Sperling’s early calls went to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue. Known for his pugilistic style, Donohue wasted no time. Come on over, he said. When Sperling crossed Lafayette Square, the park that separates the White House from the business lobby’s headquarters, Donohue welcomed him with characteristic bluntness:
    “Glad to have someone over there I’m comfortable sparring with at 10 a.m. and sitting down with at 2 p.m. to work on policy.” The story, confirmed by White House and Chamber officials, helps illustrate the 2011 version of this relationship.
    After two years of vociferous conflict over health care and financial regulations, the two have entered into something of a détente. President Barack Obama has scheduled a speech Monday at the Chamber, a first for him. Not four months ago, he had attacked the huge, Republican-leaning trade organization for failing to disclose donors to its $32 million congressional political campaign, “Their lips are sealed,” Obama said at the time, “but the floodgates are open.”… – AP, 2-6-11
  • Obama to address U.S. Chamber of Commerce: When President Obama addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for the first time today, he will face hundreds of business leaders happier about his recent rhetoric but still dissatisfied with his record. The business community that felt burned during Obama’s first two years in office is now divided over several policy and personnel changes, from tax cuts and a major trade agreement to the appointments of business leaders to key posts. Big business is warming to the president; small business, not so much…. – USA Today, 2-6-11
  • Palin & the press: Learn from Reagan’s playbook: Sarah Palin offered an extended tribute to Ronald Reagan in Santa Barbara Friday night, praising him specifically for not being bothered by criticism. Then, in an interview the CBN’s David Brody following the speech, she said that if she ran for president she’d follow the same course of ignoring the naysayers.
    But she couldn’t help but get in a jab at the press in the same interview, telling Brody that “much of the mainstream media is already becoming irrelevant.”
    Such shots have, of course, become staples of Palin’s repertoire. They illustrate that, despite her claims, criticism plainly does get to her…. – Politico, 2-6-11
  • Obama’s jobs plan: On a collision course with GOP budget cuts?: The Obama administration outlined an ‘innovation strategy’ Friday. But GOP plans for budget cuts would fall in some of the same general categories that Obama hopes to target for investment…. – CS Monitor, 2-4-11
  • White House pushes innovation agenda: President Obama has five basic ideas for spurring a new American revolution in innovation, according to a new White House report: Following up on proposals Obama made in last month’s State of the Union address and trips he made since then to Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to promote green energy initiatives, the report promotes… – USA Today, 2-4-11
  • Rites for Gen. Vang Pao a crossroads of Hmong tradition and modern U.S.: Hmong who immigrated to the Central Valley give leader a somber funeral that recalls his days heading forces that gave clandestine aid to the U.S. during the Vietnam War…. – LAT, 2-4-11
  • Loughner to be tried first in federal court: State and federal prosecutors agreed that the suspect in the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others will be tried first in federal court before any prosecution begins on state charges. The agreement reached in the case of suspect Jared Loughner was announced Friday by Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall and Dennis Burke, the U.S. Attorney for Arizona. In a written statement, the prosecutors say federal law requires all state prosecutions to be suspended while a federal case is pending…. – AP, 2-4-11
  • Obama provides insights into his faith at National Prayer Breakfast: President Obama tells lawmakers and religious leaders gathered at the National Prayer Breakfast that his faith sustains him during the trials of his job. He also offers prayers for the nation and the people of Egypt…. – LAT, 2-3-11
  • Leaders pray for nation’s, Giffords’ recovery: Mark Kelly, the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, closed the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday and offered a few words about the Arizona lawmaker’s recovery from a gunshot wound…. – USA Today, 2-3-11
  • Obama tells prayer breakfast of deeper faith — Washington Times, 2-3-11
  • Obama’s prayers: charity, humility, and longer skirts for Malia: At the National Prayer Breakfast, he admitted that his ‘faith journey has had its twists and turns,’ but he also said a frequent prayer is that he ‘might walk closer with God.’
    Obama said the call of civil rights leaders “to fix what was broken in our world, a call rooted in faith, is what led me just a few years out of college to sign up as a community organizer for a group of churches on the south side of Chicago.” He went on, “It was through that experience – working with pastors and lay people, trying to heal the wounds of hurting neighborhoods – that I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace him as my lord and savior.”
    There was fatherly humor when Obama said that one subject for prayer was his 12-year-old daughter Malia. “Lord, give me patience as I watch Malia go to her first dance. Where there will be boys. Lord, have that skirt get longer as she travels – to that dance,” he said to widespread audience laughter… – CS Monitor, 2-3-11
  • Bernanke warns of catastrophe if debt limit not raised: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Thursday issued a stern warning to Republican lawmakers that delays in raising the United States’ $14.3 trillion debt limit could have “catastrophic” consequences.
    “Beyond a certain point … the United States would be forced into a position of defaulting on its debt. And the implications of that on our financial system, our fiscal policy and our economy would be catastrophic,” he told the National Press Club…. – Reuters, 2-3-11
  • Did bill try to redefine rape? GOP backs down after public outcry: A GOP-backed House bill aimed at limiting federal funding of abortions used the phrase ‘forcible rape,’ suggesting that abortions for other kinds of rape would not be covered… – CS Monitor, 2-3-11
  • Virginia to seek expedited Supreme Court review of suit over health-care law: Virginia will ask that the U.S. Supreme Court immediately review the state’s constitutional challenge to the federal health-care overhaul, a rare legal request to bypass appeals and ask for early intervention from the nation’s highest court, Attorney General Ken T. Cuccinelli II said Thursday.
    Cuccinelli (R) said that conflicting court decisions about the law’s constitutionality have created sufficient uncertainty about implementation of the sweeping law to justify speeding Supreme Court review.
    The Justice Department will oppose the motion, saying that the case should be fully heard by lower courts before the Supreme Court takes action.
    The high court has granted such requests infrequently, and many experts said they think Cuccinelli’s filing is a longshot. Supporters of the law said that the provision at the heart of the legal dispute – a requirement that individuals buy health insurance – will not go into effect until 2014…. – WaPo, 2-3-11
  • Senators criticize FBI and Pentagon in Ft. Hood shooting case: Senators say the agencies failed to act on warning signs about Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of killing 13 in the Ft. Hood shooting rampage…. – LAT, 2-3-11
  • The long (and rocky) relationship of Barack Obama and John McCain: President Obama will meet with Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain at the White House today, their first one-on-one summit since the immediate aftermath of the 2008 election. Obama reached out to McCain after the senator penned an editorial praising the president for his speech in Arizona, which came in the wake of the shootings in Tucson.
    The stated topics of discussion will be the Egypt uprising, trade, earmark reform, the economy and immigration, according to a source familiar with the agenda.
    But, the real focus of the meeting will almost certainly be repairing a relationship between the two men that has fallen on hard times in the wake of the 2008 presidential campaign. That relationship has never been easy and its rockiness has often played out in public — before, during, and after the 2008 election. A brief history of the highlights — and lowlights — of Obama/McCain (or McCain/Obama)… – WaPo, 2-2-11
  • US judge: oil claims official not independent of BP: The administrator of BP’s $20 billion oil spill compensation fund has been influenced by the British oil giant and must stop telling victims he is independent, a US federal judge said. US District Judge Carl Barbier of New Orleans ordered BP to refrain from referring to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) — a fund set up by the oil firm at the White House’s urging — or its administrator Ken Feinberg as independent.
    The firm must also inform those filing claims for compensation from the disastrous spill that they have the right to consult with an attorney of their choice and can join some of the hundreds of lawsuits pending against BP if they do not accept a final payment, according to the ruling. “After reviewing the facts and submissions by the parties, the court finds that BP has created a hybrid entity, rather than one that is fully independent of BP,” Barbier wrote in his ruling… – AFP, 2-2-11 AFP, 2-2-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Meant to Be Broken? Maybe Not This Time: The mechanics of legislating should be simple: bring a bill to the floor, fight over amendments, vote the measure up or down and move on to the next one. But that by-the-civics-book approach has been largely nonexistent in the Senate as Democrats and Republicans instead engaged in partisan procedural brawls that tied the place in knots and left lawmakers in both parties frustrated and fuming. Now, though, it appears the Senate may be turning over a new leaf by going back to the basics, an approach that a very preliminary review indicates might have merit. NYT, 2-5-11
  • House Republicans move to slash domestic programs: Republicans now controlling the House promised Thursday to slash domestic agencies’ budgets by almost 20 percent for the coming year, the first salvo in what’s sure to be a bruising battle over their drive to cut spending to where it was before President Barack Obama took office.
    “Washington’s spending spree is over,” declared Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman who announced the plan. “The spending limits will restore sanity to a broken budget process,” he said, returning “to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels.”
    Republicans won’t get everything they want. Democrats are in charge of the White House and the Senate, and even House Republicans may have second thoughts when the magnitude of the cuts sinks in… – AP, 2-3-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • It’s official Rehberg tells crowd he’ll better represent state of Montana 2012 US senate race is on: Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg made it official Saturday night, telling a packed GOP dinner he is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Jon Tester in 2012. A crowd of 400 people stood and cheered loudly when Rehberg declared he would run for the Senate. Rehberg, a six-term congressman, said he is challenging Tester for several reasons, including the Montana Democrat’s steadfast support for President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
    “The truth is that Jon Tester has been a reliable ‘yes man’ for Barack Obama and Harry Reid – and he’s voted for the Obama administration 97 percent of the time,” Rehberg told a crowd at the Lewis and Clark County Republican Party Lincoln/Reagan Day dinner… – 2-6-11
  • Mont. Senate Race Could Ignite Debate Over Natural Resources: Montana Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg’s expected announcement tomorrow that he will run for Senate in 2012 promises to shine a spotlight on wilderness in a state known for fiery debates over natural resource policy. Rehberg, a six-term congressman, has firmly opposed a proposal by incumbent Sen. Jon Tester (D) to create new wilderness in the state while boosting the timber industry and promoting motorized recreation…. – NYT, 2-4-11
  • Alaska House GOP wants to ditch ‘uneconomic’ AGIA: House GOP leaders submitted a measure this morning placing the state’s contract with TransCanada, the firm preparing plans for a long-discussed natural gas pipeline, under a tough microscope. The proposed pipeline would, as envisioned, be the largest construction project ever in North America. But many say it faces severe hurdles. The bill, from House Speaker Mike Chenault and three colleagues, suggests it is “uneconomic” unless the developers prove otherwise by mid-July. The state is nonetheless locked into reimbursing TransCanada for 90 percent of its preparatory work. The contract places a $500 million ceiling on those reimbursements and the House Republicans’ bill could serve as a vehicle to halt the flow of money…. – Fairbanks Daily News Miner, 2-4-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • A crowded (but empty) 2012 Republican presidential field: The Iowa caucuses are 364 days away. (But who’s counting?) And yet there is only one candidate – pizza magnate Herman Cain – who has gone so far as to even form an exploratory committee to begin raising money for the Republican primary race.
    While there is considerable agreement among the Republican professional class that the 2012 race is late-starting, there’s little consensus on why things are slow to form or who the first candidate to break the silence will be. In conversations with a number of Republican operatives – those working for would-be candidates and those staying on the sidelines (for now) – a few major reasons emerge for the slow start…. – WaPo, 2-6-11
  • Democratic National Committee: No corporate cash at Charlotte convention: For the first time ever, the Democratic National Convention will not accept donations from corporations, PACs or federal lobbyists in 2012. Individual contributions also will be capped — another first — at $100,000, according to the contract governing the convention.
    Democrats say the policy is in keeping with the fundraising focus that powered President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. “From the very beginning, President Obama has placed a high priority on increasing the influence of grassroots and individual donors, and this convention will go further in that direction than any convention ever,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse said…. – Politico, 2-5-11
  • George Will serenades Santorum: George Will sprinkles some fairy dust on Rick Santorum in his Thursday Washington Post column. The influential conservative pundit says that there’s a big opening in the field for someone who can appeal to social conservatives, especially after Mike Pence opted not to run and if Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin don’t jump in. “Social conservatives are much of that base, are feeling neglected and are looking for someone like Santorum,” Will writes….. – Politico, 2-2-11
  • George Will: Rick Santorum’s appeal to the GOP base: In 1994, when Rick Santorum was a second-term Pennsylvania congressman seeking a U.S. Senate seat, a columnist asked him how he was going to win. “Guns,” he replied serenely. Pennsylvania’s legions of deer hunters do not use assault weapons, which President Bill Clinton was trying to ban, but the hunters suspected that this, like Clinton’s wife’s health-care plan, reflected a pattern of assaults on liberty. Santorum, then 36, won by 87,210 votes – 87,210 hunters? – out of 3,384,172 cast, becoming the first conservative elected senator from Pennsylvania since 1952. “Never,” he says today, “underestimate the power of the social issues.” He probably will test that power – and the theory, which he rejects, that economic anxieties have marginalized those issues – by seeking the Republicans’ 2012 presidential nomination…. – WaPo, 2-2-11
  • 2012 Convention Pick Charlotte Gave Obama $1.4 Million Charlotte locals gave Obama $2 for $1 they gave John McCain in 2008: So was it just Charlotte, N.C.’s barbecue, sweet people, friendly mayor, and status as the nation’s emerging big city that won the Democrats over in the competition to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention? Or did the area’s generosity to Barack Obama in 2008 donations push it over the line?….
    But there are no guarantees that Obama will even win the state in which he’ll almost assuredly be renominated: he barely won North Carolina in 2008, and the state has generally trended Republican in recent election cycles…. – US News, 2-2-11

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 2/4/11
  • President Obama to Business: “Now is the Time to Invest in America”: So if I’ve got one message, my message is now is the time to invest in America. Now is the time to invest in America. (Applause.) Today, American companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets. And I know that many of you have told me that you’re waiting for demand to rise before you get off the sidelines and expand, and that with millions of Americans out of work, demand has risen more slowly than any of us would like.
    We’re in this together, but many of your own economists and salespeople are now forecasting a healthy increase in demand. So I just want to encourage you to get in the game. As part of the bipartisan tax deal we negotiated, with the support of the Chamber, businesses can immediately expense 100 percent of their capital investments. And as all of you know, it’s investments made now that will pay off as the economy rebounds. And as you hire, you know that more Americans working will mean more sales for your companies. It will mean more demand for your products and services. It will mean higher profits for your companies. We can create a virtuous circle…. – WH, 2-7-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Weekly Address: If Business and Government Fulfill Their Responsibilities, America Will Win the Future Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address, Washington DC, Saturday, February 5, 2011: This week, we received a report on jobs and unemployment that told us we’re continuing to move in the right direction. But we need to get there faster. In the short-term, the bipartisan tax cut we passed in December will give an added boost to job creation and economic growth. This is a tax cut that is already making Americans’ paychecks a little bigger and giving businesses more incentive to invest and hire.
    But ultimately, our true measure of progress has to be whether every American who wants a job can find one; whether the jobs available pay well and offer good benefits; whether people in this country can still achieve the American Dream for themselves and their children. That’s the progress we’re after.
    To get there, we have to realize that in today’s global, competitive economy, the best jobs and newest industries will take root in the countries with the most skilled workers, the strongest commitment to research and technology, and the fastest ways to move people, goods, and information. To win the future, America needs to out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build the rest of the world.
    On Thursday, I went to Penn State University, whose students and researchers are poised to lead the way on innovation and job creation. They’re taking up the challenge we’ve issued to scientists and engineers all across the country: if you assemble teams of the best minds in your field, and focus on tackling the biggest obstacles to providing America with clean, affordable energy, we’ll get behind your work. Your government will support your research.
    The folks in Pennsylvania have decided to focus on designing buildings that save more energy – everything from more efficient lighting and windows to heating and cooling. This won’t just cut down on energy pollution, it can save us billions of dollars on our energy bills.
    Most of all, discovering new ways to make buildings more energy-efficient will lead to new jobs and new businesses. Over the last two years, we’ve seen a window manufacturer in Maryland boost business by 55%. A lighting company in North Carolina hired hundreds of workers. A manufacturer in Pennsylvania saw business increase by $1 million.
    All we did for these companies was provide some tax credits and financing opportunities. And that’s what we want to do going forward, so that it’s profitable for American businesses to sell the discoveries made by the scientists at Penn State and other hubs of innovation. If businesses sell these discoveries – if they start making windows and insulation and buildings that save more energy – they will hire more workers. And that’s how Americans will prosper. That’s how we’ll win the future.
    Our government has an obligation to make sure that America is the best place on Earth to do business – that we have the best schools, the best incentives to innovate, and the best infrastructure. Next week, I’ll see that kind of infrastructure when I visit Marquette, Michigan – a place where high-speed broadband is connecting a small town to the larger world.
    Supporting businesses with this kind of 21st century infrastructure and cutting-edge innovation is our responsibility. But businesses have a responsibility, too. If we make America the best place to do business, businesses should make their mark in America. They should set up shop here, and hire our workers, and pay decent wages, and invest in the future of this nation. That’s their obligation. And that’s the message I’ll be bringing to American business leaders at the Chamber of Commerce on Monday – that government and businesses have mutual responsibilities; and that if we fulfill these obligations together, it benefits us all. Our workers will succeed. Our nation will prosper. And America will win the future in this century just like we did in the last. – WH, 2-5-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • White House Releases New Report on American Innovation Report outlines importance of investing in innovation to promote growth, create jobs and win the future: Today, the White House released “A Strategy for American Innovation: Securing Our Economic Growth and Prosperity,” an update to the administration’s innovation report from September 2009. The report outlines the importance of investing in innovation to grow our economy, create jobs and win the future. The full report onlineA fact sheet on the report’s findingsWH, 2-4-11
  • Remarks by the President on the Situation in Egypt: Good evening, everybody. Over the past few days, the American people have watched the situation unfolding in Egypt. We’ve seen enormous demonstrations by the Egyptian people. We’ve borne witness to the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country, and a long-time partner of the United States.
    And my administration has been in close contact with our Egyptian counterparts and a broad range of the Egyptian people, as well as others across the region and across the globe. And throughout this period, we’ve stood for a set of core principles.
    First, we oppose violence. And I want to commend the Egyptian military for the professionalism and patriotism that it has shown thus far in allowing peaceful protests while protecting the Egyptian people. We’ve seen tanks covered with banners, and soldiers and protesters embracing in the streets. And going forward, I urge the military to continue its efforts to help ensure that this time of change is peaceful.
    Second, we stand for universal values, including the rights of the Egyptian people to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and the freedom to access information. Once more, we’ve seen the incredible potential for technology to empower citizens and the dignity of those who stand up for a better future. And going forward, the United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve, in Egypt and around the world.
    Third, we have spoken out on behalf of the need for change. After his speech tonight, I spoke directly to President Mubarak. He recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that a change must take place. Indeed, all of us who are privileged to serve in positions of political power do so at the will of our people. Through thousands of years, Egypt has known many moments of transformation. The voices of the Egyptian people tell us that this is one of those moments; this is one of those times.
    Now, it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders. Only the Egyptian people can do that. What is clear — and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak — is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.
    Furthermore, the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties. It should lead to elections that are free and fair. And it should result in a government that’s not only grounded in democratic principles, but is also responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
    Throughout this process, the United States will continue to extend the hand of partnership and friendship to Egypt. And we stand ready to provide any assistance that is necessary to help the Egyptian people as they manage the aftermath of these protests.
    Over the last few days, the passion and the dignity that has been demonstrated by the people of Egypt has been an inspiration to people around the world, including here in the United States, and to all those who believe in the inevitability of human freedom.
    To the people of Egypt, particularly the young people of Egypt, I want to be clear: We hear your voices. I have an unyielding belief that you will determine your own destiny and seize the promise of a better future for your children and your grandchildren. And I say that as someone who is committed to a partnership between the United States and Egypt.
    There will be difficult days ahead. Many questions about Egypt’s future remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt will find those answers. That truth can be seen in the sense of community in the streets. It can be seen in the mothers and fathers embracing soldiers. And it can be seen in the Egyptians who linked arms to protect the national museum — a new generation protecting the treasures of antiquity; a human chain connecting a great and ancient civilization to the promise of a new day. – WH, 2-1-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Time for Mubarak to ‘step down’: US Senator McCain: Top US Senator John McCain, shortly after talks with President Barack Obama, urged embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday to “step down and relinquish power.” “Regrettably the time has come 4 Pres Mubarak 2 step down (and) relinquish power,” McCain said in a post on the microblogging site Twitter roughly an hour after discussing the bloody political crisis in Egypt with Obama. “It’s in the best interest of Egypt, its people (and) its military,” said the lawmaker, Obama’s rival for the US presidency in 2008 and the top Republican on the US Senate Armed Services Committee…. – AFP, 2-2-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • The Role Model: What Obama Sees in Reagan: In May 2010, Barack Obama invited a small group of presidential historians to the White House for a working supper in the Family Dining Room. It was the second time he’d had the group in since taking office, and as he sat down across the table from his wife Michelle, the President pressed his guests for lessons from his predecessors. But as the conversation progressed, it became clear to several in the room that Obama seemed less interested in talking about Lincoln’s team of rivals or Kennedy’s Camelot than the accomplishments of an amiable conservative named Ronald Reagan, who had sparked a revolution three decades earlier when he arrived in the Oval Office. Obama and Reagan share a number of gifts but virtually no priorities. And yet Obama was clearly impressed by the way Reagan had transformed Americans’ attitude about government. The 44th President regarded the 40th, said one participant, as a vital “point of reference.” Douglas Brinkley, who edited Reagan’s diaries and attended the May dinner, left with a clear impression that Obama had found a role model. “There are policies, and there is persona, and a lot can be told by persona,” he says. “Obama is approaching the job in a Reaganesque fashion.”… – Time, 1-27-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Can Republicans cut defense spending?”: Republicans are divided over what to do about the defense budget. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wants to reduce it by $78 billion over the next five years.
    In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama reminded Congress that Gates had agreed to cut out billions that “he and his generals believe our military can do without.”
    Some Republicans have acted reflexively, insisting on no cuts to the military budget. Howard McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and an establishment Republican, said: “I cannot say it strongly enough: I will not support any measures that stress our forces and jeopardize the lives of our men and women in uniform.”…
    While Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson called Sputnik a disaster “comparable to Pearl Harbor,” Eisenhower insisted limits must be put on how much the country spent on weapons. A frustrated Eisenhower privately said to legislators that the nation could “choke itself to death with military force as well as protect itself.” He warned, “There is no defense of any country that busts its own economy.” The president feared that the United States faced the risk of “destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.” – CNN, 2-1-11
  • ObamaCare’s Repeal Has Begun This week’s Senate vote to scrap an IRS reporting requirement is the start of a piece by piece approach: Mark this date: On Feb. 2, 2011, a Democratic Senate killed the first piece of the health-care law it passed less than a year ago. Bowing (finally) to reality, 34 Democrats rushed to be among the 81 senators who axed the bill’s odious 1099 tax reporting requirement. Let the ObamaCare dismantling begin.
    The White House and Democrats have worked hard in recent weeks to suggest that this first casualty of their signature legislative achievement was no big deal. President Obama went so far as to make the idea his own in his State of the Union address, offering up the end of 1099 as an example of his willingness to “improve” his health legislation. And the death of 1099 was indeed overshadowed by this week’s headlines that the Senate GOP had failed to repeal the larger bill.
    It is nonetheless worth recalling the 1099 saga. The entire arc of this tale—from Democrats’ initial defense of the provision, to this week’s full-scale rout—is an example of how dramatically politics has shifted. It has also starkly laid out the real threat that the White House faces over ObamaCare in the coming year. It’s not full repeal. With 1099, Republicans have shown they intend to rip it up piece by piece…. – WSJ, 2-2-11
  • Bush daughter adds to Obama’s problems: Now, I’m not so cynical as to believe Barbara Bush does not believe in the words she said in her PSA supporting marriage equality in New York. Maybe George W. Bush’s daughter has always supported marriage equality and finally feels strong enough to say it; maybe she has gay friends; maybe she downloaded the first season of “Modern Family” and decided gay people are not as scary as she thought. Who knows? I’m just happy to see her use her platform to introduce civility and fairness. But I am also aware that her little revelation follows roughly 18 months of gay rights support coming from the mouths of some fairly surprising sources. People such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, former first lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain. I also see that despite Obama doing more for the GLBT community than any other president in this country’s history, it only took a 22-second PSA to suggest he is still somehow behind the eight ball when it comes to gay rights. After all, if Bush’s daughter supports gay marriage, what’s Obama’s problem? If Cheney supports gay marriage, what’s Obama’s problem?… – CNN, 2-2-11
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