Prayer Breakfasts – George Bush
Remarks at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast
February 2, 1989
My special thanks to Bob Stump and Doug Coe, to our honored guests throughout this country and from our foreign lands, and it is a pleasure for Barbara and me to be here once again.
There is no greater peace than that which comes from prayer and no greater fellowship than to join in prayer with others. And coming to the prayer breakfast is, for us at least, like coming home. The Lord works in mysterious ways. There is nothing mysterious, however, about His priorities. I’m the one with the laryngitis, and Sandy Patti is the one that lifted our spirits with that magnificent voice, clear as the finest crystal. We’re grateful to her. And the Lord works in very mysterious ways, but I wonder why it is that under the protocol sense of things I always have to follow my friend Al Simpson. [Laughter]
Let us all thank the Lord for having granted us this day, making it possible for us to spend this time together. Billy Graham, my dear friend, tells me that when he was a boy living on a farm in North Carolina one of his jobs was milking cows. And one day he was sent out to milk one of their cows named Brindle, a cow he’d never milked before. And he was told that it was a gentle cow, that it would be very cooperative. When he sat down on the stool to milk the cow, she switched her tail, slapped him in the face, nearly put his eye out, a few minutes later kicked the bucket all the way across the barn, and then tried to kick him. And at that point, he began to wonder if the person who described this kind and gentle cow had ever sat down next to her in the barn. [Laughter] And I’ve thought of that story in the light of my request for America to become a kinder and gentler nation. It’s one thing to request it, and it’s another thing to see it actually happen. And maybe a lot of folks out there, cynics, are thinking, well, if you people in Washington will stop trying to milk us, we’ll stop kicking. [Laughter]
But we’re facing some serious opportunities and some great opportunities in our country — tough problems and great opportunities. And I believe that a wonderful resource in dealing with them is prayer — not just prayer for what we want but prayer for what is in the heart of God for us individually and as a nation. And shouldn’t we also remember, with all that we have to be grateful for, to pause each day to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. All of us should not attempt to fulfill the responsibilities we now have without prayer and a strong faith in God. Abraham Lincoln said: “I’ve been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I have nowhere else to go.” Surely he was not the first President, certainly not the last, to realize that.
It’s not just Presidents. I heard about a little boy whose elderly grandmother came to live with them for the winter. And the first day the little boy played hard inside the house, and he wanted to turn the heat down. But grandmother insisted on keeping it high. And when he opened the windows, she closed them. And for several days it went on like this, up and down, back and forth, with the little boy too hot and the grandmother too cold. After about a week, the little boy knelt beside his bed one night and prayed, “Lord, bless mother and daddy, and make it hot for grandmother.” [Laughter]
Well, I suppose there may be some people in Washington, around the country, who have already begun to pray, “Make it hot for George.” [Laughter] Those prayers will be answered over time. Be patient. [Laughter] But I can also tell you from my heart that I freely acknowledge my need to hear and to heed the voice of Almighty God. I began my Inaugural Address with a prayer out of a deep sense of need and desire of God’s wisdom in the decisions we face. And if we’re to walk together toward a more caring, more generous America, let us all share in paving the way with prayer.
Thank you all, and God bless you.
Remarks at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast
May 4, 1989
Dr. and Mrs. Bright and reverend clergy, and members of the National Day of Prayer Committee, distinguished Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and ladies and gentlemen: You know, it’s often said of a group or individual that he hasn’t got a prayer. [Laughter] Well, those of us interested in sports keep hearing that all of the time. But I’m delighted to address an audience about which that will never be said.
And first, I want to say what a pleasure it is to welcome you on this special day. America’s religious, civic, political leaders welcome you to this very special place, America’s house. We come as friends, as believers in a humane and loving God, and we meet on a special day for America — a National Day of Prayer.
You know, a little boy once uttered this simple prayer: “God bless mother and daddy, my brother and sister, and, oh, God, do take care of yourself because if anything happens to you, we’re all sunk.” [Laughter] Well, I expect this George Healy portrait of Lincoln gets to the margins of that prayer, and I expect he felt that way — perilous times for our country. And I’m sure all of us have shared those sentiments at one time or another — something in our own lives, something facing our country.
Certainly the Continental Congress did, for it was they who in 1775 issued the first official proclamation of a National Day of Prayer. In 1952 Congress decreed that a specific date be set aside each year for Americans to gather in homes and places of worship in order to pray. And since then, every President has declared a National Day of Prayer. And so, this morning, like my predecessors, I am proud to continue that tradition. But I am pleased to note that today marks a departure from the norm, for 1989 marks the first year of an official permanent date of designation: from now on, the first Thursday of every May.
My friends, I’m glad that together we could commemorate this event, and just for a few moments let me focus on what to me, and I hope to you, this observance means. It does mean, I’m sure we would all agree, that we believe in separation of church and state, but not in the separation of morality, or moral values and state. While the government must remain neutral towards particular religions, it must not, certainly it need not, remain neutral toward values that Americans support. And yes, we believe in pluralism. And I just want to reassure you I believe in pluralism — certainly in mutual tolerance, for we are one nation under God. And we were placed here on Earth to do His work. And our work has gone on now for more than 200 years in the Nation — a work best embodied in four simple words: In God we trust. And it was to that higher being that George Washington looked when in 1776 he was addressing his troops, and he said, “The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.”
Lincoln believed in divine providence. Leaving Springfield to take over, to assume the Presidency, he told the people of his hometown that the God which helped General Washington must now help him. “Without the assistance of the divine being,” Lincoln said, “I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail.” And some of you may be too young to remember D-day. Not many of you, but some of you may be too young. [Laughter] Over a nationwide network, Franklin Roosevelt prayed for the safety and success of our invading force. “Our sons,” he said, “pride of our nation, lead them straight and true. Give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.”
Our history tells us what our hearts confirm: As Americans, we are a religious people. We prize compassion and self-sacrifice. We know that America is great because America is good, and as President, I am reminded of that constantly. Several weeks ago, I was sharing this with Mrs. Bright and Mr. Zeoli. Barbara and I went up to — or did you go to Lancaster, PA? She didn’t make the traveling squad. [Laughter] I went to Pennsylvania, and I went to a local high school in a relatively affluent rural area, Lancaster, and there we discussed a problem which is America’s problem — the rising use of drugs. If you ever need to pray about something and ask for strength and guidance, it is this: that we succeed in our antinarcotics efforts.
But then, after meeting with this relatively affluent group, and hearing that drugs were in their corridors and in their playgrounds, I went a few miles over — just the same community — to meet with the Amish and Mennonite leaders. And wonderful people, and kind — living their own lives — and they don’t have a drug problem. And they made very clear to me why: family and faith. Against them, drugs don’t have a chance.
And I am convinced that faith and family can help us honor God in a most profound and personal way — daily, as human beings — by the conduct of our lives. They teach us not only to revere but to practice the Golden Rule. And they also help us reflect the internal values of decency, humility, kindness, and caring. I thought of those values last Sunday when I was in New York to mark the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s first Inaugural Address. For it was then that, like Washington two centuries ago, Barbara and I prayed at St. Paul’s Chapel, there where in 1789 a prayer service was offered by the chaplains of Congress for the United States of America. To me that day — some of you may have seen it — was moving, intimate, but there was something special about that church service 200 years ago. This Washington realized that political values without moral values, without that moral underpinning, cannot sustain a nation.
And so, this strong yet gentle man knew that the advancement of America, while it might rely on its President, would surely depend on providence. And so, what Washington believed so strongly over 200 years ago — it really is just as true today. For without God’s help, we can do nothing, and with it, we can do great things — for our children, for the world.
So, let me just thank you all for coming. Barbara and I are delighted to have you here. We will do our best in the people’s house to hold these values high that are shared by everybody here regardless of our denomination, regardless of our own personal commitments. We welcome you, we are pleased you’re here. And if you have an extra minute for a prayer when the going gets a little tough, remember the Congress. They need it, too. [Laughter] And Barbara and I know we do, too.
Thank you all very, very much. Thank you for coming.
Remarks at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast
February 1, 1990
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you all. Thank you very, very much. Vice President and Mrs. Quayle, and Chuck Grassley, Sam Nunn, and my dear friend Billy Graham, and Ruth. Jim Baker, that was a very inspiring testament of faith. I also want to salute our very special guests who have traveled far to join us in a prayer for peace and understanding: President Moi of Kenya; President Ershad of Bangladesh; Major Buyoya, the marvelous head of Burundi; President Cristiani, a longtime friend; the Prime Minister Kisekka. And I just express for all of us a very hearty welcome, and to President Ershad, a happy birthday greeting to go with Bev Shea’s. We’re delighted you’re here.
And I want to thank Bev Shea and Billy. It’ll probably read: prayer breakfast, Bev Shea; supporting cast: secretary of state Billy Graham. [Laughter] A lot of Presidents out here, Senators and Congressmen. He was magnificent. [Laughter] Magnificent music.
It’s often said in my line of work that a candidate or a proposal hasn’t got a prayer. Well, I’m pleased to be with an audience about whom that will never be said. [Laughter] And this breakfast is the result of years of quiet diplomacy — I wouldn’t say secret diplomacy — quiet diplomacy by an ambassador of faith, Doug Coe. And I salute him.
And I was moved once again by what Sam and Liz told us of Members and staffers on the Hill who like to regularly meet to share a few quiet moments of prayer and Bible reading. The values that spring from our faith certainly tell us a lot about our country. And consider that for more than two centuries Americans have endorsed, and properly so, the separation of church and state. But we’ve also shown how both religion and government can strengthen a society. After all, our Founding Fathers’ documents begin with these words: All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. And Americans are religious people, but a truly religious nation is a tolerant nation. We cherish dissent, we cherish the fact that we have many, many faiths, and we protect even the right to disbelieve.
A truly religious nation is also a giving nation. A close friend of mine sent me a poem recently which eloquently embodies this spirit of giving. “I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and found all three.”
Thousands of Americans are finding their soul, finding their God, by reaching out to their brothers and sisters in need. You’ve heard me talk about a Thousand Points of Light across the country. Americans are working through their places of worship, through community programs, or on their own to help the hungry or the homeless, to teach the unskilled, to bring the words of men and the Word of God to those who cannot even read.
And so, I believe that this democracy of ours is once again proving, as it has throughout our history, that when people are free they use that freedom to serve the greater good and, indeed, a higher truth. As freedom blossoms in Eastern Europe — and Jim was talking eloquently about that — I am convinced that the 1990’s will be the decade of the rebirth that he so beautifully spoke about, a rebirth of faith and hope.
And one example: I met this week Father Calciu, a Romanian Orthodox minister. Father Calciu had spent 21 of his 64 years in jail — a third of his entire life in prison. And in fact, it was while in prison for opposing the Government that he found God. And once released, he risked his freedom by preaching a series of Lenten sermons. And for that, he was imprisoned again and tortured beyond belief. And yet Father Calciu had faith, and he refused to break. He was sentenced to death. And as he stood in the corner of the prison yard, praying for his wife and son, awaiting death, it was then that something remarkable occurred. His two executioners called to him. And surely, he thought, well, this was the end. But instead they said, “Father,” — and that was the first time they had called him that — “we have decided not to kill you.” And 3 weeks later, he received permission to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. And when he did, he saw these same two guys — the same two guards — approach, and to his astonishment, his would-be executioners got on their knees and joined him in prayer. This is one man’s story, a humble priest.
And today the times are on the side of peace because more and more brave men and women are on the side of God. And so, that is the end of these few words. That is my prayer: that we will continue to recognize the power of faith. Thank you all, and God bless you.
Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast
January 31, 1991
Thank you very much for that warm welcome. And let me just greet Prime Minister Henry here and Prime Minister Ratu Mara and President Goncz over here, and all the other visitors from overseas.
And I want to pay my special respects to the members of the Senate and House Prayer Group. I would also like to single out Doug Coe, who has been such a guiding light in all of this. And, of course, our special thanks to Joe Gibbs and to Governor Buddy Roemer for sharing in such a personal way their faith.
My heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone involved in this marvelous event. Dr. Graham was reminding Barbara and me when we came over here of its genesis and how President Eisenhower, he felt, seemed very nervous about whether this would be the right thing to do and whether it would be a fulfilling experience for the people that attended. And I expect Ike would — if he could have attended this one — would have had no doubts whatsoever.
I want to thank everyone for their concern and prayers about Barbara’s recent accident. In these days of environmental terrorism — [laughter] — I can happily report that the tree is very well and so is Barbara Bush — doing very well, I might say. And I say that with considerable pride.
This is a diverse group. I’ve never seen anything quite like it — politically or anything else. But we do have one thing in common: We stand together in prayer. Let me just share a letter — a true letter I received here from a mother who told me a story about her 5-year-old son’s evening prayers. As he knelt by his bed — this kid was kneeling in prayer, and his parents explained that they were going to pray together for President Bush so that he would have the wisdom to get the hostages out of Iraq. And after a minute of deep thinking, the little boy said, “Mom, how is a bush going to get the people out of the rock, and how did they get there in the first place?” Well, the mother, in her wrap-up of the letter, said that it was a good thing the Lord knew what the boy was praying for, because he sure didn’t. [Laughter] But, you know, the hostages came out of Iraq. [Laughter]
So, I believe the Lord does hear our prayers. Joe put it very beautifully here. I know our country is praying for peace. And across this nation the churches, the synagogues, the mosques are packed — record attendance at services. In fact, the night the war began, Dr. Graham was at the White House. And he spoke to us then of the importance of turning to God as a people of faith, turning to Him in hope. And then the next morning, Dr. Graham went over to Fort Myer where we had a lovely service leading our nation in a beautiful prayer service there, with special emphasis on the troops overseas.
So, I expect when Barbara and I were there at that prayer service, we were only doing what everyone in America was doing — praying for peace.
You know, America is a nation founded under God. And from our very beginnings we have relied upon His strength and guidance in war and in peace. And this is something we must never forget. Just yesterday — you’re going to think I do nothing but read the mail — [laughter] — but just yesterday I got a letter from a man who pointed out to me that during the State of the Union Message that I had neglected to make any mention of God. And I was somewhat defensive about that, so I quickly went back and I did see at the very end “may God bless America.” But then I got realizing that this man was correct. I have learned what I suppose every President has learned, and that is that one cannot be President of our country without faith in God and without knowing with certainty that we are one nation under God. So, I think I should have made that clear — more clear that God is our rock and salvation, and we must trust Him and keep faith in Him.
And so, we ask His blessings upon us and upon every member not just of our Armed Forces but of our coalition armed forces, with respect for the religious diversity that is represented as these 28 countries stand up against aggression.
Today I’m asking and designating that Sunday, February 3d, be a national day of prayer. And I encourage all people of faith to say a special prayer on that day — a prayer for peace, a prayer for the safety of our troops, a prayer for their families, a prayer for the innocents caught up in this war, and a prayer that God will continue to bless the United States of America.
Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast
January 30, 1992
Thank you, Senator Heflin, for such a lovely introduction. To Dan and Marilyn, the Vice President and Mrs. Quayle; to the members of my Cabinet here; to the Members of Congress, all, so many here in faith; to General Powell; especially to our host, Ted Stevens; to our dear friend Billy Graham; and to all gathered.
Let me first just say a special greeting to Prime Minister Ratu Mara of Fiji. This is not his first time here; I’m sure it won’t be his last. But he’s an inspiration to all of us that know him and consider him a friend, as I do. May I salute our other guests from overseas. And though sometimes you might feel like it, we don’t consider you overseas, those who serve in the State legislatures, and we’re glad you all are here. [Laughter]
Four principles, four ideas really, inspire America. And I think they’re all here this morning reflected in one way or another: Freedom, family, and faith, that Dan Quayle talked about, and to that I would add fellowship. So many people brought together by a shared spirit, the simple joy of praying to God.
Slava, that was a tremendously moving story and one of the most dramatic moments in recent history. You referred to sound. If sound has anything to do with entry into heaven, I believe you can choose the fluffiest, most generous cloud in the firmament up there when you get there. [Laughter] And thank you for your inspiring message.
But I think you reminded us all of the powerful role that prayer has played in the unprecedented events of the past year. Since we last met, nations have been reshaped, and the lives have been restored throughout the land and throughout the entire world. And the force that unites them, as we’ve heard here today from the Vice President to General Powell, is faith in God. The link they share is prayer.
When I last stood here, as Colin reminded us, we were at war. Compelled by a deep need for God’s wisdom, we began to pray. And we prayed for God’s protection in what we undertook, for God’s love to fill hearts, and for God’s peace to be the moral North Star that guided us. Abraham Lincoln said, and we remember it, everyone in this room would remember it, “I’ve been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I have nowhere else to go.” And in his example, we came together for a special National Day of Prayer. And Americans of every creed turned to our greatest power to bring us peace, “peace . . . which passeth all understanding.” And at the end of the war, we prayed as one during our National Days of Thanksgiving.
Let us pray that as a people we will continue to bring the power of prayer to bear on all the challenges we confront. And let us pray that we will strengthen the values that this great land was founded on, that we will reverse any threat of moral decline, and that we will dedicate ourselves to the ethic of service, being what I call a Point of Light to someone else, someone in need.
In this work, we are not without inspiration. We need look no further than the handful of men who became heroes by their courage, their strength, and above all their faith — last of whom returned in December. I’m talking about our hostages. And in brutalizing conditions, as we’ve heard this morning, they prayed together daily in what they called the “church of the locked door.” They unwove floor mats in order to make rosaries. These men, who every day lived the story of Job, treasured their first book, the Bible. When Terry Anderson was released, one of the first things he did was to thank strangers across the world who had prayed that he be set free. “Your prayers made a big difference,” said this man who, imprisoned, had rediscovered the faith that sets and keeps men free.
There’s another story from last year’s news that tells of the transformation of faith. While it’s a story familiar to all of you, it’s intensely personal to Barbara and me and to others in this room. We lost a dear friend last March, Lee Atwater, a restless, fiercely driven, fun-loving good ol’ boy from South Carolina who rode life as hard and fast as he could. But he also lived a kind of miracle because his illness reintroduced him to something he’d put aside, his own faith. And in his last months, he worked intensely to come to grips with his faith. And through reading the Bible and through prayer, he learned that, as he put it, “What was missing in society was what was missing in me, a little heart and a lot of brotherhood.”
He was so right. Prayer has a place not only in the life of every American but also in the life of our Nation, for we are truly one Nation under God.
May God bless this very special gathering. For those of you who have come from overseas, for those of you from across our land, for those of you right here in the Nation’s Capital, thank you for participating in this celebration of faith.
Thank you very much.
Remarks at a Prayer Breakfast in Houston
August 20, 1992
Thank you very much, Mary Lou. For heaven sakes, that was just wonderful, and thank you for that wonderful introduction.
Let me repeat what I said last week to the 1992 — —
[At this point, audience members interrupted the President’s remarks.]
I apologize to those who have put together this ecumenical, lovely prayer breakfast, but you just can’t control things like this. I hope you understand. I certainly do.
I was saying that I salute Mary Lou and thank her. Let me repeat what I said last week to the 1992 summer Olympic team when they came to the White House. Whether they won a gold, silver, or bronze medal, or simply gave their best, they are all heroes in the eyes of each American.
I also want to salute my friend and running mate, Vice President Dan Quayle. Ninfa said it all; my friend Ninfa said it all: first-class.
May I salute the Mayor. And fellow Texans and Americans, I’m delighted to address this ecumenical prayer breakfast on this great occasion. You see, breakfast speeches are always my favorite. I figure it’s the one meal where broccoli is never served. [Laughter]
Let me first salute that marvelous choir behind us. Think of it: a 40-piece orchestra; 85 singers from the Houston Children’s Choir, too; our adult choir, members of 40 area congregations, 1,200 voices; and then, of course, there was Alan Green, football player, “A” student, Rice graduate, and magnificent musician. Believe me, as one who works in the divisive world of politics, it’s amazing to hear that many voices raised in unison on anything.
As you know, we meet on a special day. Tonight I give my acceptance speech. If it catches fire, it might give a whole new meaning to the story of the “burning bush.” [Laughter] The only problem is I have a funny feeling that Barbara and Marilyn Quayle raised the high bar quite a bit for me.
But anyway, as we meet today, deep in the heart of Texas, we meet deep in the heart of the most religious nation on Earth, too. I’m usually not much for polls, but here’s a Gallup poll that makes sense to me. According to this survey, 7 in 10 Americans believe in life after death; 8 in 10, that God works miracles; 9 in 10 pray; and more than 90 percent believe in God. To which I say, thank God for the United States of America.
I’m delighted that Jim Baker’s here, fellow Houstonian, and Susan. As he knows and as our Vice President knows and the other members of our Cabinet who I see out here know, we open every Cabinet meeting with a prayer. And it’s going to be that way as long as I am President.
Today we’ve got difficult times, but we Americans have much to thank God for. Yes, challenges face us: good schools and safe streets, sound economy — all the problems that Bob Lanier works with as Mayor of our great city — and a world at peace. But we will meet and master them as Americans always have, not by running America down but by using God’s gifts to lift America up.
Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan’s friend — [laughter] — he phrased the first gift best. “The God who gave us life,” he said, “gave us liberty at the same time.” Today God’s gift of liberty is remaking the entire globe. In Berlin, like Jericho, the walls come tumbling down. In Barcelona, just ask Mary Lou, this summer the games were held without boycotts, without terrorism, without politics. That’s exactly as it should be.
On that score, all of us have Olympic heroes; mine, Pablo Morales. Pablo, he’s the swimmer who missed out in 1984, didn’t make the team in ’88, then came back this year to earn a gold medal at the ripe old age of 27. Now, let that be a lesson: Youth and inexperience are no match for maturity and determination.
Over the past 3 1/2 years, bayonets have been no match for the righteousness of God. Look at Bulgaria, where at last people wish Merry Christmas to each other without fear of being labeled religious. Look to Russia, where a cathedral once called the All Union Museum of Religion and Atheism now houses God’s apostles, or the former East Germany, where Bible studies are like bluebonnets in the spring, they’re busting out all over. In a season of thanksgiving the world says grace. By God’s providence, the cold war is over, and America’s views prevailed.
I remember when, 10 years ago, one of God’s great soldiers went to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Returning to America, Billy Graham predicted that freedom would outlast tyranny. He felt that religion was alive way back then. The doubters said, “He’s been tricked.” But Dr. Graham knew something they didn’t. He knew the chains of oppression forged by men were no match for the keys to salvation forged by God.
I talked about this with Billy, Barbara and I did, just, well, it was a year ago in January when we invited him to stay at the White House the night before our troops started Desert Storm. I thought a lot that night about thousands of people praying in the churches, about our own home parish right here, Jim’s and mine, St. Martin’s. I see our bishop over here, and welcome, sir. St. Martin’s parish, with its prayer books and its crosses and handmade Christmas cards made in Sunday schools for our troops in the Gulf. It’s true of every parish represented at this wonderful ecumenical service. It is absolutely true of all religions.
We prayed for the troops themselves, the finest sons and daughters any nation could ever have. I know how a second gift of God’s, family, can lift America. I can no more imagine a life without family than I can a universe without love. Last night — here she is — you saw Barbara on television. I’ll let her explain why family matters so much. I thought she did a first-class job of that last night. But here’s her quote. “At the end of your life,” she said, “you will never forget not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, nor closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent.”
Barbara knows that kids, quoting Art Linkletter, say not only the funniest but the most insightful things, especially about religion. Once a Sunday school teacher started talking about the story of Jonah and the whale, and she asked what the story showed. A small boy raised his hand. “I know,” he said. “People make whales sick.” [Laughter]
Well, each of us turns to God daily to make lives well, and we act through the third and greatest of God’s gifts, prayer. If Congress can spend time debating Vanna White’s appearance on the Home Shopping Network, surely Congress can find time to pass an amendment allowing voluntary prayer in our classrooms. So let’s do what we can to bring the faith of our fathers back to our schools.
You know, I’ve been President for 3 1/2 years now. More than ever, I believe with all my heart that one cannot be President of our great country without a belief in God, without the truth that comes on one’s knees. For me, prayer has always been important but quite personal. You know us Episcopalians. [Laughter] And yet, it has sustained me at every point of my life: as a boy, when religious reading was part of our home life; as a teenager, when I memorized the Navy Hymn. Or how 48 years ago, aboard the submarine Finback after being shot down in the war, I went up topside one night on the deck, on the conning tower, and stood watch and looked out at the dark. The sky was clear. The stars were brilliant like a blizzard of fireflies in the night. There was a calm inner peace. Halfway around the world in the war zone, there was a calm inner peace: God’s therapy.
This month I got a letter from a little girl, age 11, Joy Vaughn. Oh, I love getting the mail at the White House, but this one was special. She lives in Mesa, Arizona, and one of her brothers is a missionary. She wrote, “I just wanted to tell you that I am praying for you.” And then she added, “God is in charge.”
So Barbara and I have concluded, as every family that’s been privileged to live in the White House I’m sure has concluded, that you cannot be President without believing in God. We say our prayers every night. When we sit in that historic family dining room on the second floor of the White House, we say the blessing before our meals. Today I ask for your prayers, not for the campaign that we’re in but prayers asking God to give those of us in leadership positions and give me as President the strength to do what is right, the courage to lead this, the greatest nation on the face of the Earth, the United States of America, one Nation under God.
Thank you, and may God bless our great country.