Presidential Prayer

My best liberal friend who is also my liberal best friend (how’s that for bipartisanship?) requested my thoughts on President Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast last week.

After foregoing all public National Day of Prayer events last May, I was first pleased that President Obama attended the breakfast. Secondly, these three clips from his speech resonated with me:

“Challenging each other’s ideas can renew our democracy.  But when we challenge each other’s motives, it becomes harder to see what we hold in common.  We forget that we share at some deep level the same dreams — even when we don’t share the same plans on how to fulfill them.”

“While prayer can buck us up when we are down, keep us calm in a storm; while prayer can stiffen our spines to surmount an obstacle. Prayer can also do something else.  It can touch our hearts with humility.  It can fill us with a spirit of brotherhood.  It can remind us that each of us are children of a awesome and loving God.”

“Remember Dr. Martin Luther King.  Not long after an explosion ripped through his front porch, his wife and infant daughter inside, he rose to that pulpit in Montgomery and said, ‘Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.'”

Other parts of his remarks were less compelling. The president spoke about his faith-based initiatives office but gave no specifics about its efforts. He generally claimed that the office is “working so hard,” has “slashed red tape” and “built effective partnerships.” Sounds like community organizing to me, whatever that is.

President Obama commended our country for working together during crises like 9/11, Katrina, earthquakes and tsunamis. Then he expressed regret that our leaders often fail to unite to solve perennial problems like hunger, homelessness and limited access to health care.

Unfortunately, he failed to recognize that what he calls “long-term, but no less profound issues” are really urgent needs themselves. They are, in fact, crisis situations. When a person is hungry, cold or sick, he needs emergency aid and thankfully we have places in our caring society for them to go (soup kitchens, school free lunch programs, homeless shelters, public health clinics, even emergency rooms – as costly as they may be).

Rather than dwell on the standard symptomatic subjects of the left, the president should prioritize truly core issues like high-expectations education, workforce equipping, job creation, innovation, character and independence. These deeper solutions can generate the stability and prosperity to cure permanently the urgent social ills about which he seems to care so deeply.

As I told my liberal friend, I continue to think our president is smart, genuine and generally likable. His first year in office, however, confirmed that he is green (and not just in the environmental sense) and ideologically extreme (he outran many in his own party). Perhaps slowing down for prayer was a good way to start his second year at the helm.


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