Sideline: For Obama, Prayer and a Faith in God Are a Guiding Force to Build a Better World

Excerpts of Remarks by the President at the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast

President Obama Speaking at the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast. White House Photo

President Obama Speaking at the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast. White House Photo

J.W. Marriott

Washington, D.C.

June 19, 2009
9:32 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Buenos días.

AUDIENCE: Buenos días.

THE PRESIDENT: It is good to see everybody here….. I want to thank Reverend Cortes for the wonderful introduction and the wonderful prayer for me and my family. I want to thank Esperanza, and all of you who worked so hard to put together the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference….. Through your service to your communities, you represent the very best in our country. And I’m honored to join you in prayer this morning.

At a time when there’s no shortage of challenges to occupy our time, it’s even more important to step back, and to give thanks, and to seek guidance from each other — but most importantly, from God. That’s what we’ve come here to do.

We can begin by giving thanks for the legacy that allows us to come together. For it was the genius of America’s Founders to protect the freedom of all religion, and those who practice no religion at all. So as we join in prayer, we remember that this is a nation of Christians and Muslims and Jews and Hindus and non-believers. It is this freedom that allows faith to flourish within our borders. It is this freedom that makes our nation stronger.

For those of us who draw on faith as a guiding force in our lives, prayer has many purposes. For many, it is a source of support when times are hard. President Lincoln, who Reverend Cortes mentioned, once said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” And while the challenges that I’ve faced pale in comparison to Lincoln’s, I know that more than once I’ve been filled with the same conviction over the last five months.

But prayer is more than a last resort. Prayer helps us search for meaning in our own lives, and it helps us find the vision and the strength to see the world that we want to build. And that’s what I’d like to talk about for just a few minutes today.

As I look out at this audience, I’m reminded of the power of faith in America — faith in God, and a faith in the promise of this great country. Each of us come from many different places. We trace our roots back to different nations, and we represent a broad spectrum of personal and political beliefs. But all of us pray to God. All of us share a determination to build a better future for our children and grandchildren. And that must be a starting point for common ground, and for the America that we want to build.

….But we know there is much more work to be done to extend the promise of a better life to all our children and grandchildren. In all that we do, we must be guided by that simple command that binds all great religions together: Love thy neighbor as thyself.

In the 21st century, we’ve learned that this truth is central not just to our own lives, but to our success as a nation.

….And that’s why we’ve come together on behalf of the future that we want to build — one where all of our children go to the best schools, all our people can go to work and make a living, all our families can afford health care; and prosperity is extended to everybody. Together, we must build a future where the promise of America is kept for a new generation.

That’s the spirit we need to build…. And to do so, we must look past our divisions to serve the hopes and dreams that we hold in common. We must give life to that fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper, that I am my sister’s keeper.

Scripture tells us, “The word is very near to you. It is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” Today, let us pray for the strength to find the word in our hearts, and for the vision to see the America that we can build together as one nation, and as one people.

Thank you for your partnership. Thank you for your prayers. May God bless all of you, and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)


9:44 A.M. EDT


Read full remarks at the White House website, please click:
Remarks bythe President at the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast

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