Prayer Breakfasts – George W. Bush
George W. Bush
Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast
February 1, 2001 (President’s remarks at 59:29 minute mark)
Well, thank you all very much for that warm welcome. Laura and I are honored to be here this morning. I did a pretty good job when it came to picking my wife, by the way. She’s going to be a fabulous First Lady.
Mr. Vice President, it’s good to see you; of course, your wife, Lynne. And I want to thank the members of my Cabinet who are here.
I appreciate you, Senator Frist, for your commitment and strong comments. And Zach, thanks for your introduction. And thank you both for organizing this important event. I want to thank the Members of the House and the Senate who are here.
I appreciate the number of foreign dignitaries who are here. It just goes to show that faith crosses every border and touches every heart in every nation.
Every President since the first one I can remember, Dwight Eisenhower, has taken part in this great tradition. It’s a privilege for me to speak where they have spoken and to pray where they have prayed. All Presidents of the United States have come to the National Prayer Breakfast, regardless of their religious views. No matter what our background, in prayer we share something universal, a desire to speak and listen to our Maker and to know His plan for our lives.
America’s Constitution forbids a religious test for office, and that’s the way it should be. An American President serves people of every faith and serves some of no faith at all. Yet, I have found my faith helps me in the service to people. Faith teaches humility—as Laura would say, I could use a dose occasionally—[laughter]—a recognition that we are small in God’s universe, yet precious in His sight. It has sustained me in moments of success and in moments of disappointment. Without it I would be a different person, and without it I doubt I’d be here today.
There are many experiences of faith in this room. But most of us share a belief that we are loved and called to love, that our choices matter now and forever, that there are purposes deeper than ambition and hopes greater than success. These beliefs shape our lives and help sustain the life of our Nation. Men and women can be good without faith, but faith is a force of goodness. Men and women can be compassionate without faith, but faith often inspires compassion. Human beings can love without faith, but faith is a great teacher of love.
Our country, from its beginnings, has recognized the contribution of faith. We do not impose any religion; we welcome all religions. We do not prescribe any prayer; we welcome all prayers. This is the tradition of our Nation, and it will be the standard of my administration. We will respect every creed. We will honor the diversity of our country and the deep convictions of our people.
There’s a good reason why many in our Nation embrace the faith tradition.
Throughout our history, people of faith have often been our Nation’s voice of conscience. The foes of slavery could appeal to the standard that all are created equal in the sight of our Lord. The civil rights movement had the same conviction on its side, that men and women bearing God’s image should not be exploited and set aside and treated as insignificant. The same impulse, over the years, has reformed prisons and mental institutions, hospitals, hospices, and homeless shelters.
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., said this: “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state but rather the conscience of the state.” As in his case, that sometimes means defying the times, challenging old ways and old assumptions. This influence has made our Nation more just and generous and decent. And our Nation has need of that today.
Faith remains important to the compassion of our Nation. Millions of Americans serve their neighbor because they love their God. Their lives are characterized by kindness and patience and service to others. They do for others what no government really can ever do—no government program can really ever do: They provide love for another human being; they provide hope even when hope comes hard.
In my second week in office, we have set out to promote the work of community and faith-based charities. We want to encourage the inspired, to help the helper. Government cannot be replaced by charities, but it can welcome them as partners instead of resenting them as rivals.
My administration will put the Federal Government squarely on the side of America’s armies of compassion. Our plan will not favor religious institutions over nonreligious institutions. As President, I’m interested in what is constitutional, and I’m interested in what works. The days of discriminating against religious institutions simply because they are religious must come to an end.
Faith is also important to the civility of our country. It teaches us not merely to tolerate one another but to respect one another, to show a regard for different views, and the courtesy to listen. This is essential to democracy. It is also the proper way to treat human beings created in the divine image.
We will have our disagreements. Civility does not require us to abandon deeply held beliefs. Civility does not demand casual creeds and colorless convictions. Americans have always believed that civility and firm resolve could live easily with one another. But civility does mean that our public debate ought to be free from bitterness and anger and rancor and ill will. We have an obligation to make our case, not to demonize our opponents. As the Book of James reminds us, fresh water and salt water cannot flow from the same spring.
I am under no illusion that civility will triumph in this city all at once. [Laughter] Old habits die hard, and sometimes they never die at all. I can only pledge to you this, that I will do my very best to promote civility and ask for the same in return.
These are some of the crucial contributions of faith to our Nation: justice and compassion and a civil and generous society. I thank you all here for displaying these values and defending them here in America and across the world. You strengthen the ties of friendship and the ties of nations, and I deeply appreciate your work.
I believe in the power of prayer. It’s been said, “I would rather stand against the cannons of the wicked than against the prayers of the righteous.” The prayers of a friend are one of life’s most gracious gifts. My family and I are blessed by the prayers of countless Americans. Over the last several months, Laura and I have been touched by the number of people who come up and say, “We pray for you”— such comforting words. I hope Americans will continue to pray that everyone in my administration finds wisdom and always remembers the common good.
When President Harry Truman took office in 1945, he said this: “At this moment, I have in my heart a prayer. I ask only to be a good and faithful servant of my Lord and my people.” This has been the prayer of many Presidents, and it is mine today.
Remarks at a Veterans Day Prayer Breakfast in New York City
November 11, 2001
The President. Thank you very much. At ease.
Audience member. Let’s roll!
The President. Let’s roll.
Thank you so much, Commissioner. I’m so pleased to be back in New York City to pay honor to our veterans, those from the New York State and New York City area and those all around America. It’s such an honor to say on behalf of the American people, thanks for your service.
It’s such an honor to be in the presence of Cardinal Egan, a man who brings such comfort and solace to those who mourn and hope to those of us who live. So, Cardinal Egan, thank you so much for your leadership and your strength.
And also, I am so pleased and thrilled to be with my friend the Governor, who is doing a fabulous job for the people of New York.
And you know something, I’m going down to Crawford next Wednesday—that’s Crawford, Texas, that is. There you go. [Laughter] And there’s a new household name down there: Rudy. What a great job Rudy has done. He’s done a fabulous job. And I agree with Rudy; he’s being replaced by a really good man, Michael Bloomberg. Michael, good luck. Congratulations, and we appreciate you running.
Leo, thank you for being here. You represent the best of those who came from the private sector to serve our Government. I want to thank you for your leadership at the VA.
I also want to recognize a person who I became friends with in a very difficult moment, and that’s Ms. Arlene Howard. Arlene, would you stand up for a second, please? [Applause] Good to see you, Arlene. Arlene is a veteran. She served in the United States Navy, as did her late husband, Robert. And she’s a veteran of September the 11th in a sad way. Her son George was at the World Trade Center. She gave me something that I showed the Nation a while ago, the badge of George. It’s a reminder of the wrong done to our country, Arlene. Thank you for that reminder. It is also a reminder of the great purpose of our great land, and that is to rid this world of evil and terror.
The evil ones have roused a mighty nation, a mighty land. And for however long it takes, I am determined that we will prevail. And prevail we must, because we fight for one thing, and that is the freedom of our people and the freedom of people everywhere.
And I want to thank the commissioner, who is a veteran as well—a veteran in the military and a veteran of a new kind of war, one fought here on the homefront. He represents the fabulous men and women who wear the uniform of the police and fire and rescue units, the Port Authority here in New York City, people who serve with such distinction and such courage that whenever an American hears the word “police” or “fire,” we think differently. We think differently about the job. We think differently about the character of those who serve on a daily basis. We think differently about those who go to work every single day to protect us and save us and comfort us. What a noble profession the commissioner represents, and what a great job he’s done for New York City.
And in a time of war, we look a little differently at our veterans, too. We pay tributes on Veterans Day, today, and they’re made with a little greater feeling, because Americans have seen the terrible harm that an enemy can inflict. And it has left us deeply grateful for the men and women who rise strongly in the defense of our Nation. We appreciate the sacrifices that our military is making today. We appreciate the sacrifices that their families make with them.
When the call comes to defend our country, our military is ready and is making us proud. Al Qaida and the Taliban have made a serious mistake. And because our military is brave and prepared and courageous, they will pay a serious price.
America has always needed such bravery and such people, and we have always found them amongst us. Generations of our service men and women have not only fought for our country in the past; they have upheld our honorable traditions and represented our country with courage and honor. And wherever our military has gone, they have brought pride to our own people and hope to millions of others.
One veteran of World War II recalled the spirit of the American military and the relief it brought to suffering peoples. “America,” he said, “has sent the best of her young men around the world, not to conquer but to liberate, not to terrorize but to help.”
And this is true in Afghanistan today. And this has always been true of the men and women who have served our Nation. This Nation is freedom’s home and freedom’s defender. And we owe so much— so much—to the men and women, our veterans, who step forward to protect those freedoms.
Our veterans gave America some of the best years of their lives and stood ready to give life itself. For all that, America’s 25 million veterans have the deep respect of their fellow citizens and the enduring gratitude of a nation they so nobly served.
May God bless our veterans, and may God continue to bless America.
Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast
February 7, 2002
Thank you very much, John. Laura and I are really honored to join you this morning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Prayer Breakfast. And Admiral Clark, whatever prayer you used for eloquence worked. [Laughter] I appreciate your message, and I appreciate your service to our great country.
I want to thank Jon Kyl and Judge Sentelle for their words and CeCe for your music. I appreciate getting the chance to meet Joe Finley, New York City firefighter. He’s a living example of what sacrifice and courage means. Thank you for coming, Joe.
I want to thank Congressman Bart Stupak. I really appreciate the fact that my National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is here to offer prayer. I appreciate the members of my Cabinet who are here. I want to say hello to the Members of Congress.
I’m particularly grateful to Lisa Beamer for her reading and for her example. I appreciate her example of faith made stronger in trial. In the worst moments of her life, Lisa has been a model of grace, her own and the grace of God. And all America welcomes into the world Todd and Lisa’s new daughter, Morgan Kay Beamer.
Since we met last year, millions of Americans have been led to prayer. They have prayed for comfort in time of grief, for understanding in a time of anger, for protection in a time of uncertainty. Many, including me, have been on bended knee. The prayers of this Nation are a part of the good that has come from the evil of September the 11th, more good than we could ever have predicted. Tragedy has brought forth the courage and the generosity of our people.
None of us would ever wish on anyone what happened on that day. Yet, as with each life, sorrows we would not choose can bring wisdom and strength gained in no other way. This insight is central to many faiths and certainly to the faith that finds hope and comfort in a cross.
Every religion is welcomed in our country; all are practiced here. Many of our good citizens profess no religion at all. Our country has never had an official faith. Yet we have all been witnesses these past 21 weeks to the power of faith to see us through the hurt and loss that has come to our country.
Faith gives the assurance that our lives and our history have a moral design. As individuals, we know that suffering is temporary, and hope is eternal. As a nation, we know that the ruthless will not inherit the Earth. Faith teaches humility and, with it, tolerance. Once we have recognized God’s image in ourselves, we must recognize it in every human being.
Respect for the dignity of others can be found outside of religion, just as intolerance is sometimes found within it. Yet for millions of Americans, the practice of tolerance is a command of faith. When our country was attacked, Americans did not respond with bigotry. People from other countries and cultures have been treated with respect, and this is one victory in the war against terror.
At the same time, faith shows us the reality of good and the reality of evil. Some acts and choices in this world have eternal consequences. It is always and everywhere wrong to target and kill the innocent. It is always and everywhere wrong to be cruel and hateful, to enslave and oppress. It is always and everywhere right to be kind and just, to protect the lives of others, and to lay down your life for a friend.
The men and women who charged into burning buildings to save others, those who fought the hijackers were not confused about the difference between right and wrong. They knew the difference. They knew their duty. And we know their sacrifice was not in vain.
Faith shows us the way to self-giving, to love our neighbor as we would want to be loved ourselves. In service to others, we find deep human fulfillment. And as acts of service are multiplied, our Nation becomes a more welcoming place for the weak and a better place for those who suffer and grieve.
For half a century now, the National Prayer Breakfast has been a symbol of the vital place of faith in the life of our Nation. You’ve reminded generations of leaders of a purpose and a power greater than their own. In times of calm and in times of crisis, you’ve called us to prayer.
In this time of testing for our Nation, my family and I have been blessed by the prayers of countless of Americans. We have felt their sustaining power, and we’re incredibly grateful. Tremendous challenges await this Nation, and there will be hardships ahead. Faith will not make our path easy, but it will give us strength for the journey.
The promise of faith is not the absence of suffering; it is the presence of grace. And at every step we are secure in knowing that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint.
May God bless you, and may God continue to bless America.
Remarks at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast
May 16, 2002
The President. Thank you all. Sientense. [Laughter]
Audience member. [Inaudible]
The President. Sí. Muchas gracias. [Laughter]
Thank you all for such a warm welcome. It is un honor para mí de estar aquí para le—the first—the first—not the last but the first—[laughter]—National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast. I want to tell you it’s an honor to be here amongst people who dedicate their lives to the embetterment of our fellow human beings. I appreciate that a lot.
I want to thank Luis. I met with Luis; one of the things that struck me was he is a—he’ll say “sergeant”; I say “general” in the army of compassion in Philadelphia. I loved his compassion. Not only is he a man of God; he also understands the importance of education. We talked about a charter school he wanted to start in his neighborhood. He understands what I understand, that when you have quality education, you improve inner-city America. And so, Luis, I want to thank you for your focus on education. We must continue to work to make sure todos los niños puedan leer.
I want to thank Mel Martinez. Dónde está Mel? Anyway, he’s somewhere here. He’s a member of my Cabinet. You may remember the story about Mel. He’s the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development now. As a young boy, his mother and daddy put him on an airplane to America from Cuba. He was a part of Operation Pedro Pan. They wanted their son to be raised in freedom. They longed for freedom and were willing to take the risk to send their loved one to the land of freedom. And now I’m proud he has gone from a young niñito in Pedro Pan; today, he is now the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. And it shows the wonderful spirit and strength of our country.
I want to thank the Members of Congress who are here. I see I’ve got Senators here and Members of the Congress. Thank you all for coming. It’s important that you’re here, and I appreciate you being here as well.
I want to thank all who have worked hard to set this breakfast up. It gives me a chance to come and remind us all that America has many traditions of faith, and that’s important to always remember. We have never imposed any religion, and that’s really important to remember, too. We welcome all religions in America—all religions. We honor diversity in this country. We respect people’s deep convictions.
We know that men and women can be good without faith. We know that. We also know that faith is an incredibly important source of goodness in our country. Throughout our history, Americans of faith have always turned to prayer—for wisdom, prayer for resolve, prayers for compassion and strength, prayers for commitment to justice and for a spirit of forgiveness.
Since America’s founding, prayer has reassured us that the hand of God is guiding the affairs of this Nation. We have never asserted a special claim on His favor, yet we’ve always believed in God’s presence in our lives. This has always been true. But it has never been more true since September the 11th. Prayer has comforted people in grief. Prayer has served as a unifying factor in our Nation. Prayer gives us strength for the journey ahead. Millions of Americans have turned to prayer during these times and have been reminded of an important truth: While weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning.
The last 8 months have showed the world the American character is incredibly strong and confident. Yet prayer reminds us that a great people must be humble before God, searching for wisdom—constantly searching for wisdom—from the almighty Dios.
Prayer is a vital part of our national life. That’s why your breakfast is so important. Prayer and faith are an especially vital part of the life of Hispanos in este país. We see the role of faith in your devotion to church, to your family, and to charity. The power of faith is found among the young, and that’s good news—really good news. Ministers say that a revolucíon espiritual is taking place amongst los jóvenes Hispanos aquí. That’s good.
I want to thank you all for leading that effort. It’s an important contribution to our country. One youth leader put it this way: “The revival is impacting the youth most of all, because they do not set limits on God. God is doing something so big with the youth of this Nation.” Those are mighty powerful words for a President to hear.
We know how important faith can be, and we know that faith without works, without action, is dead. True faith is never isolated from the rest of life. It proves itself through actions and sacrifice, through acts of kindness and caring for those in need.
For some people, Jesus’ admonition to care for “the least of these” is an admirable moral teaching. For many Hispanic Americans, it’s a way of life. You understand that God has a special concern for the poor and that community helpers and healers are doing the most important work of all, repairing broken lives, bringing love into pockets of hopelessness and despair.
Charities and community groups and faith-based institutions do incredible work in our country, really important work, providing shelters for battered women, helping the homeless, the important work of mentoring children without fathers, the work of loving a child whose mother or father may be in prison, reminding them that there is love and compassion and decency and hope, of helping people overcome drug and alcohol addictions by helping them first and foremost change their hearts.
These groups, these platoons in the armies of compassion, demonstrate compassion and inspire hope in a way that Government never can. And they inspire life-changing faith in a way that Government never should.
The Faith-Based and Community Initiative that I’ve been working on and others from Congress have been working on is really important. It’s an important part of our strategy to combat hopelessness and despair and loneliness, to make America a land of opportunity and hope and promise por todos—por todos.
This set of laws will provide new incentives for charitable giving, and that’s important, really important. It will allow non-itemizers to be able to deduct a charitable gift. That will help raise money. It will help encourage the flow of people who realize it’s important to not only give of their time but of their money as well.
When it comes to providing Federal resources to effective programs, this law will make a difference, because, you see, it welcomes private and faith-based programs. It says that the days of discriminating—when it comes to the use of Federal money, the days of discriminating against religious institutions simply because they are religious must come to an end.
I understand you’ll be hearing from or have heard from Senator Joe Lieberman, Rick Santorum, and I know you just heard from J.C. Watts. I mention these gentlemen because first, they’re fine leaders. They come from different faiths, different political parties, but are united by the common desire to pass important legislation that unleashes the strength of the country, which is the compassion of our fellow citizens. I appreciate their hard work. I appreciate their willingness to focus on the common good. I look forward to signing a bill as soon as we can get it out of the United States Senate.
You know, I often tell people that if you want to respond to what has happened to our country, you can do so with prayer, but as importantly, you can do so by loving your neighbor like you’d like to be loved yourself. If you want to fight evil, do some good. I also—one person cannot do everything in our society, of course. But one person can do something. And by that, I mean that we can change our country one person at a time—one person at a time. And that’s what we’ve got to do, and that’s what we have to think about.
And there’s nothing more powerful in helping change the country than the faith— faith in Dios. I want to tell you, the greatest gift that people can give to a President or people in positions of responsibility— anybody else, for that matter—is prayer.
I work the ropelines a lot, and people say, “Mr. President, I pray for you and your family.” I turn to them, I look them in the eye, and say, “That’s the greatest gift you can give—the greatest gift you can give.” I mean it with all sincerity.
And so I want to thank you for your prayer. I want to thank you for what you do for our Nation. I want to thank you for your good works. I want to thank you for helping change America one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time.
I believe that it will be said, it will be said of Americans such as yourself, “Bien, siervo bueno y fiel.”
It’s my honor to be with you this morning. May God bless you and your ministries, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast
February 6, 2003
Thank you all for that warm welcome. Great introduction—[laughter]—especially since you mentioned Laura. [Laughter] I want to thank the Speaker and Leader Pelosi. Ray, I want to thank you very much for being the chairman of the National Prayer Breakfast. I was wondering why the Grace Singers from Peoria managed to get here—[laughter]—but I’m sure glad they did. Thank you all for coming. It might have been the best decision you made, Mr. Chairman. [Laughter]
I want to welcome Michael W. Smith and his wife here. Michael W. is going to have dinner at the White House tonight. We look forward to seeing you both. They’ve been great friends of Laura and me and my family. It is a treat to have him here, to lend his God-given talents to this important breakfast.
I appreciate the fact that Tenet and Myers will be up here at the head table. It is fitting that in the midst of tough times, that these two leaders are sharing with Scripture and prayer with the country. I appreciate all the Members of Congress here. I pray for your wisdom on a daily basis. [Laughter]
I want to thank all the members of my Cabinet who are here. I really appreciate leaders from around the globe who have come to share in prayer with us today. It reminds me that the Almighty God is a God to everybody, every person.
I really am so honored that Dr. Condoleezza Rice is going to share some comments with you. I know this, that the Reverend John W. Rice, Jr., would be incredibly proud of his wise and gracious daughter.
It is fitting that we have a National Prayer Breakfast. It is the right thing to do, because this is a nation of prayer. I know from firsthand knowledge that this is a nation of prayer. See, I work the ropelines a lot, and I hear all kinds of things on the ropelines. But the thing I hear the most, the comment I hear the most from our fellow citizens, regardless of their political party or philosophy, is, “Mr. President, I pray for you and your family, and so does my family.” That’s what I hear. I turn to them without hesitation and say, “It is the greatest gift you can give anybody, is to pray on their behalf.”
I especially feel that because I believe in prayer. I pray. I pray for strength. I pray for guidance. I pray for forgiveness, and I pray to offer my thanks for a kind and generous Almighty God.
As Dick mentioned, we mourn the loss of seven brave souls. We learned a lot about them over the last couple of days. And Laura and I learned a lot about their families in Houston, because we met with them. My impressions of the meeting was that there was—that Almighty God was present in their hearts. There was such incredible strength in the room of those who were grieving that it was overwhelming, to be with those who just lost their husband or wife or dad or mom and to feel the presence of the Almighty. I attribute it to the fact that they, themselves, are in prayer. And our country prays for their strength, and we must continue to pray for those who suffer and those who grieve.
This is a testing time for our country. At this hour we have troops that are assembling in the Middle East. There’s oppressive regimes that seek terrible weapons. We face an ongoing threat of terror. One thing is for certain: We didn’t ask for these challenges, but we will meet them. I say that with certainty, because this Nation has strong foundations that won’t be shaken.
As America passes through this decisive period, there are things we can count on. We can be confident in the character of the American people. The months since September the 11th, 2001, have not brought fear and fatigue or rash anger. Instead we’ve witnessed courage and resolve and calm purpose. We’ve seen that a new generation of Americans is strong and steadfast in the face of danger, and our confidence will not be shaken.
We can be confident in America’s cause in the world. Our Nation is dedicated to the equal and undeniable worth of every person. We don’t own the ideals of freedom and human dignity, and sometimes we haven’t always lived up to them. But we do stand for those ideals, and we will defend them.
We believe, as Franklin Roosevelt said, that men and women born to freedom in the image of God will not forever suffer the oppressor’s sword. We are confident that people in every part of the world wish for freedom, not tyranny, prefer peace to terror and violence. And our confidence will not be shaken.
We can also be confident in the ways of providence, even when they are far from our understanding. Events aren’t moved by blind change and chance. Behind all of life and all of history, there’s a dedication and purpose, set by the hand of a just and faithful God. And that hope will never be shaken.
In this hour of our country’s history, we stand in the need of prayer. We pray for the families that have known recent loss. We pray for the men and women who serve around the world to defend our freedom. We pray for their families. We pray for wisdom to know and do what is right. And we pray for God’s peace in the affairs of men.
Remarks at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast
May 15, 2003
Thank you all. Thank you all very much. Sientese. Gracias, Luis. El honor es mio. It is an honor to be here again this year. I’m so pleased that you would have me back for the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast. I’m really pleased this is becoming a tradition in Washington, DC.
It is important and it is good to begin the day with prayer and fellowship. Prayer is an opportunity to praise God for His works and to thank Him for His blessings. Prayer turns our minds to the needs of others, and prayer changes our hearts as we seek God’s will.
I want to thank you for reminding the Nation and our Capital about an even greater source of strength and authority. I want to thank my friend Luis for being a general in the army of compassion. He is what I like to call a social entrepreneur.
I want to thank the Members of the United States Congress who are with us today. I see Senator Bill Frist, the leader of the United States Senate. Senator Frist, thank you for coming. I was told one of the leaders of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is to be here. I’m not going to try to read off every single name of every single person in the Congress who may or may not be here; I’ll probably skip one and add one that isn’t. [Laughter] But let me just tell you, I’m honored to be working with them. It’s a fine group of our fellow citizens, all working together to try to do the best thing on behalf of the American people.
I want to appreciate Gaddi Vasquez, who is the Director of the Peace Corps, who’s with us today. Donde esta? Hey, Gaddi, thank you for coming.
I think the Mayor is here. Mr. Mayor, I appreciate you coming. I’m honored to have you here. I always like to tease the Mayor about the potholes in front of the White House. [Laughter] There aren’t any. Says to me he’s doing a pretty darn good job.
I want to thank Reverend Jose Martinez and Manuel Vasquez. I want to appreciate the beautiful musicians who sang today. I’m honored that the students from St. Rita’s Catholic School in Alexandria are with us today. Thank you all for coming. I appreciate the pastors who are here and the leaders from around our country. Welcome back to Washington.
Last May, when I came, you honored me with a special gift, a bilingual Bible that was made for me in Mexico. And this Bible means a lot because with it came a promise. You promised that you were praying for me. There is no greater gift that a President can receive. I have felt the comfort of those prayers, and I am really grateful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Hispanic Americans bring many gifts to this Nation, hard work and strong cultural traditions and patriotism. Above all, the Hispanic community lives every day por los valores de fe y familia. Your good works and reverence bring compassion to our country and honor to Almighty God.
In the last several weeks, we have learned the names of some exceptional young men and women who have shown the strength and character of America. At the National Naval Medical Center, I met Master Gunnery Sergeant Guadalupe Denogean. Sergeant Denogean is an immigrant from Mexico who served in the Marine Corps for 25 years. This spring he was wounded near Basra, and he was sent back to America for treatment. When asked if he had any requests, the good sergeant just had two, a promotion for the corporal who helped rescue him, and he wanted to be an American citizen.
I was honored to be with the sergeant the day he received a Purple Heart and took the oath of citizenship. It was an amazing experience, a truly American experience, to be in the hospital where he was recovering from his wound, to see this son of Mexico raise his right hand and pledge to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. He had kept that oath for decades before he took it, and I’m proud to call him my fellow American.
Our country is proud of all the Hispanic Americans who serve in uniform. We’re deeply grateful for those who have died in the cause of our security and in the cause of freedom. We honor their memory. We pray for their families. We honor the communities and the churches where they learned the value of service and sacrifice.
Because of their sacrifices, America is a more secure country. Because of their sacrifices, the world will be a more peaceful place. And because of their sacrifices, people who had lived in bondage under the strong arm of a brutal dictator are now free.
America is blessed by their sacrifices, and America is also blessed by the sacrifices that you make every day as you care for the sick, house the homeless, feed the hungry, and preach the Word—la palabra.
In the Book of James, we are reminded that faith without works is dead. By loving a neighbor as you’d like to be loved yourself, you prove every day that faith is alive. By your work and prayers, you have formed your own army, an army of compassion. And by living your faith, you bring hope to those who need it most.
It is appropriate that the group sponsoring this breakfast has the name Nueva Esperanza—New Hope. Hope allows us to dream big, to pray bold, and to work hard for a better future. I want to thank you for your abiding hope, for your steadfast faith, and for your acts of love. I want to thank you for helping to keep prayer an important part of our national life. May God continue to invigorate you as you work to make this country a compassionate home for anybody. May God continue to invigorate you as you reach out to help a neighbor in need.
This country needs your compassion. We need your works. We need your love. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless America.
May God bless you all.
Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast
February 5, 2004
Thank you and good morning. Laura and I are honored to join you once again for this annual prayer breakfast. This event brings us together for fellowship, and it’s a good chance to see who gets up early in Washington. [Laughter]
I appreciate the warm welcome. I appreciate the friendship and the kindred spirit. All of us believe in the power of prayer. And for a lot of people here in Washington, a prayer has been answered with three words: Coach Joe Gibbs. [Laughter] Joe is admired for a great career, and even more, he is respected for his convictions and his character. Joe, we’re glad to see you back on the job. I’m all in favor of second terms. [Laughter]
This event is also a chance to hear beautiful songs of praise. Shortly, we’ll hear the wonderful voice of Twila Paris. And Laura and I were delighted once again to hear the Watoto chorus from Uganda. This is our third time to hear these beautiful voices. I hope to hear them a lot more. These boys and girls have known great sadness and loss, yet their voices carry a message of hope and joy. And we’re so glad— so glad—they could be with us here this morning.
I appreciate being in the presence of John Abizaid, our general. He is a decent and honorable man. I want to thank Senators Inhofe and Nelson for taking time out of their busy days to organize this important prayer breakfast. I appreciate your leadership. I appreciate being in the presence of—[applause]—a little slow to catch on there.
I see the majority leader, Frist, is here, and a lot of Members of the Senate, and a lot of Members of the House. Thank you all for coming, members of my Cabinet who are here, members of the Joint Chiefs I see, distinguished citizens.
When we come together every year, we leave aside the debates of the working day. We recognize our dependence on God and pray with one voice for His blessings on our country. We’re in the Capital of the most powerful nation on Earth, yet we recognize the limits of all earthly power. God serves His own purposes and does not owe us an explanation. In prayer, we ask for wisdom and guidance, and the answers seldom come in blinding revelations. Yet prayer can bring good things, grace for the moment and faith in the future.
Americans are a prayerful people, and this past year we’ve offered many prayers. We have prayed for the safety of our Nation and for those who defend us. We’ve prayed for the families of men and women killed or wounded in conflict, that in grief and trouble, God may be their refuge and their strength. We’ve prayed for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, that they may live in safety and in freedom. Many Americans have prayed every day and every week for those in authority, and I thank them for that wonderful gift, and I know you do as well.
Many prayers also express our gratitude, and Americans in a time of danger have found much to be grateful for. We are thankful for the goodness and character of our fellow citizens, revealed on the morning of September the 11th and present every day in the life of this country. We are thankful that we live in a free nation, with the strength to defend our freedom. We are thankful for the brave and decent men and women of the United States military who volunteer to defend us all.
America’s Armed Forces have shown great skill in battle, perseverance under extremely difficult conditions. They’ve also shown the best of our country in other ways as well. The world has seen the kind of people America sends forth from our towns and neighborhoods to serve in freedom’s cause. They are the sort of people who, when the fighting is done, are kind and compassionate toward innocent citizens. And their compassion, as much as their courage, has made this country proud.
As General Abizaid can attest, the people under our command in Iraq have been caring and generous toward the people they have liberated. Seeing great need, our service men and women have rebuilt hospitals, repaired schools, and organized the donation of books and clothing and toys for Iraqi children. Others have helped to build clinics and lay out soccer fields.
One member of the Army National Guard, Specialist Glenn Carlson, spent his time on leave in New York, collecting children’s clothing to take back to Iraq. Here’s what he says: “I think that in the end, it will be the simple acts of kindness that make the difference.” Specialist Carlson and many others are helping to build a free Iraq, not only by using force against the violent but by extending the friendship and compassion of the American people.
Our people in uniform understand the high calling they have answered because they see the nation and the lives they are changing. A guardsman from Utah named Paul Holton has described seeing an Iraqi girl crying and decided then and there to help that child and others like her. By enlisting aid through the Internet, Chief Warrant Officer Holton had arranged the shipment of more than 1,600 aid packages from overseas. Here’s how this man defines his own mission: “It is part of our heritage that the benefits of being free, enjoyed by all Americans, were set up by God, intended for all people. Bondage is not of God, and it is not right that any man should be in bondage at any time, in any way.” Everyone in this room can say amen to that.
There’s another part of our heritage we are showing in Iraq, and that is the great American tradition of religious tolerance. The Iraqi people are mostly Muslims, and we respect the faith they practice. Our troops in Iraq have helped to refurbish mosques, have treated Muslim clerics with deference, and are mindful of Islam’s holy days. Some of our troops are Muslims themselves, because America welcomes people of every faith. Christians and Jews and Muslims have too often been divided by old suspicions, but we are called to act as what we are, the sons and daughters of Abraham.
Our work in a troubled part of the world goes on, and what we have begun, we will finish. In the years of challenge, our country will remain strong and strong of heart. And as we meet whatever test might come, let us never be too proud to acknowledge our dependence on Providence and to take our cares to God.
I want to thank you for continuing this fine annual tradition and for your hospitality. May God bless you, and may He always watch over our country. Thank you.
Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast
February 3, 2005
Thank you for the warm welcome. You know, last night was a prayerful occasion. [Laughter] I noticed a lot of Members were praying that I would keep my speech short. [Laughter] I want to thank you for getting up so early in the morning. You resisted temptation to sleep in. Thanks for having us.
I appreciate Jo Ann Emerson’s leadership on this prayer breakfast. I want to thank Elaine Chao for her prayer and for representing my Cabinet, and I want to thank all my Cabinet officers who are here today. I appreciate the leadership of the Congress, Senator Frist and Leader Pelosi, Leader DeLay. I want to thank the Senators who spoke and appreciate the Congresspeople who are on the stage here as well.
I want to thank His Excellency Marc Ravalomanana, from the—Madagascar, the President of that great country, and welcome to our country, Mr. President. Tambien, mi amigo, the President of Honduras, Ricardo Maduro, welcome. Glad you’re here.
I want to thank Wintley Phipps for his beautiful music. Sergeant Norman, your prayers worked. [Laughter] You did a fantastic job. Pretty darn eloquent for a person from Wyoming. [Laughter] Don’t tell the Vice President. [Laughter]
Tony Hall, as you can tell, I obviously made the right choice to send somebody— really good job. And Janet, thank you for your service as well.
Laura and I are really honored to be here. It’s a fabulous moment in our Nation’s Capital. This morning reminds us that prayer has always been one of the great equalizers in American life. Here we thank God for his great blessings in one voice, regardless of our backgrounds. We recognize in one another the spark of the Divine that gives all human beings their inherent dignity and worth, regardless of religion.
Through fellowship and prayer, we acknowledge that all power is temporary and must ultimately answer to His purposes. And we know that affirming this truth is particularly appropriate in the heart of a Capital built upon the promise of self-government.
No one understood this better than Abraham Lincoln. In November 1864, after being reelected to his second term, Lincoln declared he would be the most “shallow and self-conceited blockhead” on Earth if he ever thought he could do his job “without the wisdom which comes from God and not from men.” Throughout a terrible Civil War, he issued many exhortations to prayer, calling upon the American people to humble themselves before their Maker and to serve all those in need.
Our faith-based institutions display that same spirit of prayer and service in their work every day. Lincoln’s call is still heard throughout the land. People of faith have no corner on compassion. But people of faith need compassion if they are to be true to their most cherished beliefs. For prayer means more than presenting God with our plans and desires; prayer also means opening ourselves to God’s priorities, especially by hearing the cry of the poor and the less fortunate.
When the tsunamis hit those on the far side of the world, the American Government rightly responded. But the American response is so much more than what our Government agencies did. Look at the list of organizations bringing relief to the people from Indonesia to Sri Lanka. They’re full of religious names: Samaritan’s Purse, American Jewish World Service, Baptist World Aid, the Catholic Medical Mission Board. They do a superb job delivering relief across the borders and continents and cultures.
Today, millions of people across this Earth get the help they need only because our faith-based institutions live the commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Often, that means remembering the people forgotten or overlooked in a busy world, those in Africa suffering from HIV/ AIDS, young girls caught up in the global sex trade, victims of religious persecution.
In these great moral challenges of our times, our churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples are providing the vision that is changing lives. I’ve seen some of their miracles up close. Last June, I met Veronica Braewell, a 20-year-old refugee from Liberia. As a 13-year-old child, Veronica witnessed armed men killing children in horrific ways. As she fled this madness, Veronica left—was left for dead atop a pile of bodies, until her grandmother found her. In August 2003, Catholic Social Agency helped resettle her in Pennsylvania, where Veronica is now completing the circle of compassion by working in a home for elderly in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and studying to become a certified nursing assistant.
When Veronica told me of her story, it was through the kind of tears no young woman should ever know. And when she finished, she dried her eyes and said, “Thank you, Mr. President, for my freedom.” But I told her, it wasn’t me she needed to thank; she needed to thank the good hearts of the United States of America. The America that embraced Veronica would not be possible without the prayer that drives and leads and sustains our armies of compassion.
I thank you for the fine tradition you continue here today and hope that as a nation we will never be too proud to commend our cares to Providence and trust in the goodness of His plans.
Remarks at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast
May 20, 2005
Thank you for that warm reception, especially for a Methodist. [Laughter] It’s an honor to be here at the second annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. This is a new tradition, yet its promises are timeless for Catholic Americans, to thank the Lord for the blessing of freedom, to renew our shared dedication to this great Republic, and to pray that America uses the gift of freedom to build a culture of life.
I am sorry that Laura is not here. You probably think she’s preparing a couple of new one-liners. [Laughter] But in fact, she’s winging her way to Jordan and Egypt and Israel to spread the freedom agenda. But I know if she were here, she would join me in thanking you and millions of others whom we’ll never get to say thanks to in person for the countless prayers. It’s an amazing experience to be the President of a nation where strangers from all religions pray for me and Laura. And I will tell you, it gives me such peace of mind and enables me to do my job much better when I’m lifted up in prayer. Thank you for your prayers.
I want to thank Leonard Leo for his kind introduction. I want to thank Joe Cella, the president of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. I want to thank His Eminence Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. What a fine man; what a beacon of hope. His Eminence shines brightly in the Nation’s Capital.
I appreciate Archbishop Chaput of Denver. Thank you for being here, sir. I apologize to him for not being able to listen to his address. He said, “We’re paying you a lot of money. Get back to work.” [Laughter] Fortunately, he didn’t say, “We’re paying you too much money. Get back to work.” [Laughter]
I appreciate Archbishop Gomez from the great State of Texas. Sister, thank you very much. Admiral, thank you very much, sir.
Carl Anderson, the Supreme—Knights of Columbus, is with us today. Carl, thank you for your friendship.
The Catholic contribution to American freedom goes back to the founding of our country. In 1790, a newly inaugurated George Washington, the first George W.— [laughter]—addressed a letter to all Catholics in America. He assured them that “your fellow citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their revolution.” I’m honored to stand before you to offer my gratitude for the work American Catholic sons and daughters are doing for our Nation. This work includes the incredible acts of compassion through our faith-based institutions that help Americans in need, especially the Catholic schools that educate millions of our fellow citizens and deliver hope to inner-city children of all faiths.
This morning we first thank God for the shared blessings of American liberty. Catholics have always known that a society built on respect for the religious beliefs of others would be a land where they could achieve and prosper.
When the French writer de Tocqueville visited these shores back in the 1830s, he noted that the most democratic country in the world was also the one where the Catholic religion was making the most progress. He called Catholics the most faithful believers in our land, yet also the most independent of citizens—[laughter]— as I’ve learned from dealing with Senator Santorum. [Laughter]
This morning we also reaffirm that freedom rests on the self-evident truths about human dignity. Pope Benedict XVI recently warned that when we forget these truths, we risk sliding into a dictatorship of relativism where we can no longer defend our values. Catholics and non-Catholics alike can take heart in the man who sits on the chair of Saint Peter, because he speaks with affection about the American model of liberty rooted in moral conviction.
This morning we pray for the many Catholics who serve America in the cause of freedom. One of them is an Army Chaplain named Tim Vakoc. He’s a beloved priest who was seriously wounded in Iraq last May. We pray for his recovery; we’re inspired by his sacrifice. In the finest tradition of American chaplains, he once told his sister, “The safest place for me to be is in the center of God’s will, and if that is in the line of fire, that’s where I’ll be.” Father Tim’s sister, Anita Brand, and her family are with us today, and a grateful nation expresses our gratitude to a brave reverend.
Catholics have made sacrifices throughout American history because they understand that freedom is a divine gift that carries with it serious responsibilities. Among the greatest of these responsibilities is protecting the most vulnerable members of our society. That was the message that Pope John Paul II proclaimed so tirelessly throughout his own life, and it explains the remarkable outpouring of love for His Holiness at the funeral mass that Laura and I were privileged to attend in Rome. It explains why when the men were carrying his wooden casket up the stairs and they turned to show the casket to the millions that were there, that just as the casket crests, the sun shown for all to see.
The best way to honor this great champion of human freedom is to continue to build a culture of life where the strong protect the weak. So today I ask the prayers of all Catholics for America’s continued trust in God’s purpose, for the wisdom to do what’s right, and for the strength and the conviction that so long as America remains faithful to its founding truths, America will always be free.
Thank you for allowing me to come. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless America.
Remarks at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast
June 16, 2005
Gracias, y sientese. [Laughter] Thank you for the warm welcome. It’s an honor to be here at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast. Thanks for inviting me back. I understand this, like you understand this: America is founded on los valores de fe y familia. These are the values at the heart of the Hispanic American community. These are the values that enrich our Nation, and I am grateful.
Your good works and reverence bring compassion to our country and, more importantly, honor to the Almighty. This morning we come together to pray, to pray for God’s help as we serve our fellow citizens.
Danny, thank you very much for the invitation and the introduction. I’m proud to be with a lot of the faith leaders from around our country. I saw my friend Luis Cortes. It’s good to see you again, Luis. I want to thank John von Seggern, who is the chairman of the Prayer Breakfast.
I want to thank the Members of the Congress who are here, Nancy Pelosi, Chris Cannon, Hilda Solis, Rahm Emanuel, Luis Fortuno. I want to thank you all for serving our country, and thank you for setting aside politics to come and honor the Almighty through prayer.
It’s good to see my old buddy, former member of the Cabinet, Ridge. Tom Ridge is with us. Good to see Hector Barreto— he runs the SBA. Go ahead and pray, and then get back to work. It’s good to see Don Powell, Gaddi—who runs the FDIC, by the way—Gaddi Vasquez is the Director of the Peace Corps.
And finally, I want to pay homage to the First Lady of Panama. I want to welcome you here, Madam First Lady. Thank you for coming. We’re really glad you’re here. Your husband is kind of like me; we both married well. [Laughter]
We come from many faiths. In America, every religion is welcome. That’s the great thing about our country. Every faith is important. In America, people of faith have no corner on compassion, but people of faith need compassion to be true to the call to “Ame al projimo como a si mismo,” love your neighbor like you’d like to be loved yourself. That’s a universal call.
For Hispanic Americans, a love of neighbor is more than a Gospel command; it’s a way of life. We see the love of neighbor in the strong commitment of Hispanic Americans to family and the culture of life. For Hispanic Americans, families are a source of joy and the foundation of a hopeful society. We’re working to support and defend the sanctity of marriage and to ensure that the most vulnerable Americans are welcomed in life and protected in love.
We see the love of neighbor in the tireless efforts of Hispanic American faith-based and community organizations that work daily to bring hope to harsh places. In Boston, the Leon de Judah congregation mentors inner-city teens so they have a chance to realize the great dreams of America. In St. Louis, Accion Social Comunitaria helps immigrants and their children adapt to American life. In the Archdiocese of Miami, Catholic Charities ministers to people with HIV/AIDS. Inner-city Philadelphia, Cortes runs a fantastic program to help lift the spirits of every single child.
Many in the Hispanic community understand that by serving the least of nuestros hermanos y hermanas, that we’re serving a cause greater than ourselves. And by doing so, we’re helping all citizens have an opportunity to realize their dreams here in America.
Finally, we see the love of neighbor in tens of thousands of Hispanics who serve America in the cause of freedom. One of these was an immigrant from Mexico named Rafael Peralta. The day after Rafael got his green card, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. Think about that. While serving in Iraq, this good sergeant wrote a letter to his younger brother. He said, “Be proud of being an American. Our father came to this country, became a citizen because it was the right place for our family to be.” Shortly after writing that letter, Sergeant Peralta used his own body to cover a grenade an enemy soldier had rolled into a roomful of Marines. This prayer breakfast, we remember the sacrifices of honorable and good folks like Sergeant Peralta, who have shown their love of neighbor by giving their life for freedom.
Hispanic Americans answer the call to service willingly, because you understand that freedom is a divine gift that carries with it serious responsibilities. And as you go about the work of repairing broken lives and bringing love into the pockets of hopelessness and despair, be strong, because you’re sustained by prayer. Through pray-er—[applause].
One of the most powerful aspects of being the President is to know that millions of people pray for me and Laura, people that I’ll never have a chance—think about a country where millions of people of all faiths, people whom I’ll never have a chance to look face to face with and say, “Thank you,” take time to pray. It really is the strength of America, isn’t it? Through prayer we ask that our hearts be aligned with God’s. Through prayer we ask that we may be given the strength to do what’s right and to help those in need.
I want to thank you for the fine tradition you continue here today. This is an important tradition to continue right here in the heart of the Nation’s Capital. I want to thank you for what you do for our Nation. Que Dios les bendiga, and may God continue to bless our country. Thank you very much.
Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast
February 2, 2006 (Presidents remarks at 1:04:00 minute mark)
The President. Thank you all. Please be seated. Thanks for the warm welcome. Laura and I are delighted to be here. This lovely personality said this morning, “Keep your remarks short.” [Laughter]
I appreciate this prayer breakfast a lot, and I appreciate the spirit in which it was formed. Ike said he was living in the loneliest house in America—for what he got to say is, the rent is pretty good. [Laughter]
It’s great to be here with distinguished guests from all around the world. Your Majesty and Prime Ministers and former Prime Ministers, friends with whom I have the honor to work, you’re welcome here. I appreciate the fact that people from different walks of life, different faiths have joined us. Yet I believe we share one thing in common: We’re united in our dedication to peace and tolerance and humility before the Almighty.
I want to thank Senators Pryor and Coleman for putting on this breakfast. I appreciate Senator Frist, Representative Blunt, Representative Pelosi, other Members of the United States Congress who’ve joined us on the dais and who are here for this breakfast. I thank the members of my Cabinet who are here. Get back to work. [Laughter]
I find it interesting that the music is from Arkansas. [Laughter] I’m glad it is, because they know how to sing down there. [Laughter]
You know, I was trying to figure out what to say about Bono. [Laughter]
Bono. Careful. [Laughter]
The President. And a story jumped to mind about one of these really good Texas preachers. And he got going in a sermon, and a fellow jumped up in the back and said, “Use me, Lord, use me.” And the preacher ignored him and finished his sermon. Next Sunday, he gets up and cranking on another sermon, and the guy jumps up and says, “Use me, Lord, use me.” And after the service, he walked up to him and said, “If you’re serious, I’d like for you to paint the pews.” Next Sunday, he’s preaching; the guy stands up and says, “Use me, Lord, use me, but only in an advisory capacity.” [Laughter]
So I’ve gotten to know Bono. [Laughter] He’s a doer. The thing about this good citizen of the world is, he’s used his position to get things done. You’re an amazing guy, Bono. God bless you. God bless you.
It is fitting we have a National Prayer Breakfast, because our Nation is a nation of prayer. In America, we do not prescribe any prayer; we welcome all prayer. We’re a nation founded by men and women who came to these shores seeking to worship the Almighty freely. From these prayerful beginnings, God has greatly blessed the American people, and through our prayers, we give thanks to the true source of our blessings.
Americans remain a prayerful people today. I know this firsthand. I can’t tell you the number of times out there traveling our country, people walk up, total strangers, and say, “Mr. President, I’m praying for you and your family.” It is one of the great blessings of the Presidency and one of the most wonderful gifts a person can give any of us who have the responsibility to govern justly. So I thank my fellow citizens for their gracious prayers and wonderful gifts.
Every day, millions of Americans pray for the safety of our troops, for the protection of innocent life, and for the peace we all hope for. Americans continue to pray for the recovery of the wounded and to pray for the Almighty’s comfort on those who have lost a loved one. We give thanks daily for the brave and decent men and women who wear our Nation’s uniform, and we thank their families as well.
In this country, we recognize prayer is a gift from God to every human being. It is a gift that allows us to come before our Maker with heartfelt requests and our deepest hopes. Prayer reminds us of our place in God’s creation. It reminds us that when we bow our heads or fall to our knees, we are all equal and precious in the eyes of the Almighty.
In prayer, we’re reminded we’re never alone in our personal trials or individual suffering. In prayer, we offer our thanksgiving and praise, recognizing our lives, our talents, and all that we own ultimately flow from the Creator. And in these moments of our deepest gratitude, the Almighty reminds us that for those to whom much has been given, much is required.
In prayer, we open ourselves to God’s priority, especially His charge to feed the hungry, to reach out to the poor, to bring aid to the widow or the orphan. By surrendering our will to God’s will, we learn to serve His eternal purposes. Through prayer, our faith is strengthened, our hearts are humbled, and our lives are transformed. Prayer encourages us to go out into the world and serve.
In our country, we recognize our fellow citizens are free to profess any faith they choose, or no faith at all. You are equally American if you’re a Hebrew—a Jew or a Christian or a Muslim. You’re equally American if you choose not to have faith. It is important America never forget the great freedom to worship as you so choose.
Yes, what I’ve found in our country, that whatever our faith, millions of Americans answer the universal call to love your neighbor just like you’d like to be loved yourself. Over the past 5 years, we’ve been inspired by the ways that millions of Americans have answered that call. In the face of terrorist attacks and devastating natural disasters here and around the world, the American people have shown their faith in action again and again. After Katrina, volunteers from churches and mosques and synagogues and other faith-based and community groups opened up their hearts and their homes to the displaced. We saw an outpouring of compassion after the earthquake in Pakistan and the tsunami that devastated entire communities. We live up to God’s calling when we provide help for HIV/AIDS victims on the continent of Africa and around the world.
In millions of acts of kindness, we have seen the good heart of America. Bono, the true strength of this country is not in our military might or in the size of our wallet; it is in the hearts and souls of the American people.
I was struck by the comment of a fellow who was rescued from the gulf coast and given shelter. He said, “I don’t—I didn’t think there was so much love in the world.” This morning we come together to recognize the source of that great love. We come together before the Almighty in prayer, to reflect on God’s will, to seek His aid, and to respond to His grace.
I want to thank you for the fine tradition you continue here today. I pray that our Nation will always have the humility to commend our cares to Providence and trust in the goodness of His plans.
May God bless you all.
Remarks at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast
April 7, 2006
Thank you all very much. Gracias, mi Tejano. Thank you, sir, for your kind words. Thanks for inviting a Methodist. [Laughter]
When I first came out here and saw how comfortable these chairs look, I was a little worried you thought I might be giving quite a long speech. [Laughter]
I’m so thrilled to be here with cardinals of the Church. Cardinal McCarrick, I know, is here, and Cardinal Bevilacqua. Must make you feel good to see there’s not a slice of bacon around. [Laughter] My spirits are always uplifted when I’m in the presence of Their Excellencies, and it’s great to see you both.
I’ve been looking forward to this breakfast, but I’ve got to tell you, I was slightly concerned when I saw the draft of the program went like this: “We will mark the conclusion of the President’s speech with the hymn, ‘Now Thank We All Our God.”‘ [Laughter]
Laura sends her love and her best. I want to thank the leadership of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast for having me and, more importantly, having this chance for all to worship together.
I appreciate so very much the Chief Justice joining us. I’m proud you’re here, Chief Justice. I haven’t got to the best part of the family yet—[laughter]—and Jane.
Secretary Nicholson, I appreciate you being here—Jim Nicholson and Suzanne. As you might recall, he was our Ambassador to the Vatican, and he did a fantastic job.
Other members of the administration, thanks for coming. Don’t tarry too long. [Laughter] Get back to work. [Laughter]
Looking around, I see Members of the United States Senate—Santorum; Members of the House of Representatives. Thank you all for coming. Proud you’re here. Thanks for taking time out of your day. Smith, Beauprez, Lungren, I can’t—I don’t dare name them all.
We needed a hopeful moment for this world of ours. It’s a time when more people have a chance to claim freedom that God intended for us all. It’s also a time of great challenge. In some of the most advanced parts of our world, some people no longer believe that the desire for liberty is universal. Some people believe you cannot distinguish between right and wrong. The Catholic Church rejects such a pessimistic view of human nature and offers a vision of human freedom and dignity rooted in the same self-evident truths of America’s founding.
This morning we ask God to guide us as we work together to live up to these timeless truths. When our Founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, they called liberty an unalienable right. An unalienable right means that freedom is a right that no government can take away because freedom is not government’s to give.
Freedom is a gift from the Almighty because it is—and because it is universal, our Creator has written it into all nature. To maintain this freedom, societies need high moral standards. And the Catholic Church and its institutions play a vital role in helping our citizens acquire the character we need to live as free people.
In the last part of the 20th century, we saw the appeal of freedom in the hands of a priest from Poland. When Pope John Paul II ascended to the Chair of Saint Peter, the Berlin Wall was still standing, his native Poland was occupied by a Communist power, and the division of Europe looked like a permanent scar across the continent. Yet Pope John Paul told us, “Be not afraid,” because he knew that an empire built on lies was ultimately destined to fail. By reminding us that our freedom and dignity rests on truths about man and his nature, Pope John Paul II set off one of the greatest revolutions for freedom the world has ever known.
Pope John Paul has now been succeeded by one of his closest friends and colleagues, Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict, when he was a Cardinal, and recently—when he was a Cardinal, Laura and I had a chance to meet him, and recently she went back to Rome to see him again. He was such a gracious host, wonderfully kind man.
Like his predecessor, Pope Benedict understands that the measure of a free society is how it treats the weakest and most vulnerable among us. In his Christmas homily, the Pope noted that the Savior came to Earth as a defenseless child, and said that the splendor of that Christmas shines upon every child, born and unborn. Here in the United States, we work to strengthen a culture of life through many State and Federal initiatives that expand the protections of the unborn. These initiatives reflect the consensus of the American people acting through their elected representatives, and we will continue to work for the day when every child is welcome in life and protected in law.
I appreciate the leading role that the Catholic faith-based organizations play in our nation’s armies of compassion. And one of the many ways that Catholic faith-based organizations serve their neighbors is by welcoming newcomers and helping them become good citizens.
This Nation of ours is having an important debate about immigration, and it is vitally important that this debate be conducted in a civil tone. I believe that the American Dream is open to all who work hard and play by the rules and that America does not have to choose between being a compassionate society and a society of law.
An immigration system that forces people into the shadows of our society or leaves them prey to criminals is a system that needs to be changed. I’m confident that we can change our immigration system in ways that secures our border, respects the rule of law, and, as importantly, upholds the decency of our country. As the Congress continues this debate, its Members must remember, we are a nation of immigrants, and immigration has helped restore our soul on a regular basis.
In this young century, our Nation has been called to great duties. I’m confident we’ll meet our responsibilities so long as we continue to trust in God’s purposes. During our time in the White House, Laura and I have been blessed by the prayers of countless Americans, including many in this room. It’s really an amazing country where people walk up to you, say, “Mr. President, I pray for you”—expecting to say, “Mr. President, I’d like a bridge.” [Laughter] But instead, they say, “I pray for you and your family.” It uplifts us, and I want to thank you for that from the bottom of our hearts.
I ask for your prayers again, that our Nation may always be an inspiration to those who believe that God made every man, woman, and child for freedom. It is such an honor to be here. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless our country.
Remarks at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast
June 8, 2006
Thank you very much, Luis. Thanks for your introduction. Right before we came in, I said, “Luis, how’s your school doing?” See, I got to first know Luis when I went into inner-city Philadelphia, and he said, “I’m starting a school.” I said, “How’s yourschool doing?” He said, “Oh, pretty good.” He said, “Last year, we had 69 of the 70 graduates from our school go to college.”
Luis’s school is doing better than pretty good; it’s doing great. And we hold out hope to some kid, you know, that it’s amazing what results we can achieve in a society when you raise the bar and you say, “I have hope for you; I love you.” It’s amazing what our country can achieve. And so, Luis, thank you very much for your leadership, and thanks for having me here at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast.
I think it is fitting we come together to recognize the importance of prayer and the importance of faith. You see, Americans are a people of faith. And for millions of our citizens, prayer is a daily part of life. In prayer we give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us by our Creator. We’re blessed with courageous young men and women willing to defend us in time of war. We’re blessed with a growing economy and material prosperity. And we’re blessed by the diversity and creativity of millions of Hispanic Americans who enrich our great country.
We’ve got plenty of blessings to give thanks for, and I’m blessed by the fact that millions of Americans, many of whom I’ve never seen face to face, pray for me and my family. It’s one of the great blessings of America, to be President of a land of prayer. So this morning we come together to give our thanks for all our blessings and recognize our Nation’s continuing dependence on Divine Providence.
I appreciate the sponsors of this breakfast. It’s an important breakfast. This is a time for us to come together in common purpose to say, we’re humble enough to be on bended knee. I appreciate my friend Attorney General Al Gonzales for joining us today. It’s good to see you, mi general. The Director of the Peace Corps, Gaddi Vasquez—thank you for coming, Gaddi. Appreciate you being here. I see Senator Brownback—I think—yes, there he is. [Laughter] I know there are other Members of the Senate and the Congress who are here. Thank you all for coming today. It’s really important that you’re here. And I know the participants of this breakfast are glad you’re here as well. I appreciate all the pastors and community leaders who are with us here today too. Thanks for coming.
In America, we are a people who profess many different faiths, with some of our citizens embracing no faith at all. In America, all are welcome. No citizen stands above another. In America, what unites us all is our dedication to freedom, and what brings us together today as men and women of faith is our belief that we’re all equal and precious in the eyes of the Almighty.
I like to tell people that my job as the President is to promote the fact that people are free to worship however you choose. See, that’s what distinguishes us from the Taliban or Al Qaida, that we’re free to worship and that we’re all equally American. If you’re a Christian, Jew, or Muslim, you’re equally American. If you choose not to worship, you’re equally American.
But I’ve also said, from my personal perspective, I rely upon the Almighty for strength and comfort. The daily example of our Hispanic communities reminds us that strong faith and strong families can build a better future for all. We are more— we’re a more hopeful society because men and women of Hispanic descent have put their faith and values into action.
More than 200,000 Hispanic Americans serve with courage and honor in our military, some of whom are with us today. And we thank you for your service. Our Government is enriched and strengthened by the Latinos who serve here in Washington, DC. Across America, Hispanic leaders are serving on the frontlines of our armies of compassion, reaching out to change the lives of brothers and sisters in need, changing this great country one heart, one soul at a time.
I like to remind people that government can hand out money, but government cannot put faith in a person’s heart or a sense of purpose in a person’s life. The best way to strengthen this country is for people such as yourself to continue to reach out to a neighbor in need, to listen to the universal call to love a neighbor just like you’d like to be loved yourself, to mentor to a child who needs to learn to read, to feed the hungry, to provide shelter for the homeless.
And that’s precisely what the leaders in this room do. You’re inspired by prayer; you move to action. And America is better off when you go into our neighborhoods to reach out to those who hurt, to provide comfort for those who are sick, to say loud and clear to a brother and sister in need, “We love you, and what can we do to help you?” On behalf of a grateful nation, I thank you for being soldiers in the armies of compassion and for making America a hopeful place for more of our citizens.
Speaking about a hopeful place, it is important for us in this important debate on immigration to remember that we’ve always been a hopeful nation. We are a land of immigrants. We’re a country when people—we’re a compassionate people. We’re also a nation of laws, and being a nation of laws is not contradictory with being a compassionate country. We can enforce our laws. And we can treat people with respect and treat people with dignity and remember our heritage as a nation.
The immigration system isn’t working today, and it needs to be fixed. Our borders need to be secure. The American people from all walks of life expect the Government to secure our border, and we will do that.
The system isn’t fixed—the system is broken because we’ve got too many citizens, too many people here, too many people living in our country, living in the shadows of our society, beyond the reach of the law. That’s not the America I know. The America I know is one in which people are treated with respect; the America I know is one in which when we see something broken, we fix it.
So we’ll secure our borders. We’ll make sure people who hire people illegally pay a fine. But I want our fellow citizens to understand, you cannot secure our borders and you cannot be a compassionate society unless we provide a legal channel for people to work in America. We’ve got people coming across our borders who want to come and work and put food on the table for their families.
When I was Governor of Texas, I reminded people, family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River. There are people who are coming to our country who are doing jobs Americans are not doing. And we need a legal and orderly system. If we want to enforce the border, we must have a system that says, “You don’t have to sneak across our border in order to find work. You don’t need to risk your life.”
So therefore, I strongly support and call upon the Congress to support the tem-porary-worker program that says, “You can come into our country legally”—so that we can match willing worker with willing employer, doing jobs Americans are not doing—”and you can come for a period of time, and you can work, and then you can go home in an orderly way as well.”
The other part of this debate that’s really important is what do we do with the folks that are here. See, there’s a difference between those who have newly arrived that are doing work and those who have been here for quite a period of time. We’ve got people in this country who have paid their taxes, own a home, whose children are becoming valedictorians in high schools and colleges—people have been working hard.
This debate is—there’s a heated debate on this subject here in Washington. There are some who say, “Well, best thing to do is just call them citizens right off the bat.” I disagree with that. It’s called amnesty. I don’t think that would be fair to those who are legally here and are waiting in line to become a citizen. You probably know many such citizens. They’re here legally, and they say, “We want to be a citizen of your country,” and we said, “Fine, get in line and wait.” Granting amnesty to those folks who have been here illegally would be unfair to those who have been here legally. We’re a nation of laws, and we must uphold the laws.
And then there are those here in Washington who say, “Why don’t we just find the folks and send them home.” That isn’t going to work. That’s not a good idea. It sounds simple; it’s impractical. There’s a reasonable middle ground. There’s a reasonable way to uphold our laws and treat people with respect, and that is this: If you’ve paid your taxes, you’ve been here for awhile, you can prove that you’ve been working, you’ve got a clean background; if you want to become a citizen, you pay a fine, you learn English, you learn the values and ideals of America that have made us one Nation under God. And then if you want to be a citizen, you can get in line,but in the back of the line, not the front of the line. You can wait in line like those who have been legally here in America. We don’t have to choose between the extremes. There’s a rational middle ground.
I call upon Congress to enact commonsense immigration reform that enforces our border, that upholds our laws, that treats people with respect, and remembers the greatness of America is the fact that we’ve been able to come from different backgrounds, united under the common ideals of our country, and we live one Nation under God.
For centuries, people have come to this Nation because it is the land of promise. It’s a place where people can realize their dreams. Yesterday I was in Omaha, Nebraska, at a Catholic Charities institute that was helping people learn English and learn the ideals of our country. I remember walking into a civics class, and the people were slightly startled to see the President walk in. I guess it’s kind of the ultimate civics lesson. [Laughter] But I was proud to be there. I really was.
And we sat down with a group of folks at a table to discuss entrepreneurship. And I went around the room asking, how long have you been here, and what are you doing? And I remember coming to the fellow, Pina—I think his name was Federico Pina. He said he started a couple years ago a automobile maintenance business. He said it was a dream of his to have his own business. I said, “How’s it going?” He said, “Well, I’ve employed three people, and I own my own building.” Here’s a man who came to our country with a dream, and he’s realizing that dream.
And what our citizens have got to understand is that if you’re able to maintain a sense of hope in the United States, and people work hard to realize that hope, it inspires our Nation as a whole. It lifts our spirit. It reinvigorates what America is all about.
We have a great opportunity here in Washington to remember the traditions and history of the United States of America and to uplift that sense that America is a welcoming society, a country of law, but a country that also says, “If you work hard and dream big dreams, you can realize your dreams.” And many of those who are in our country who are working hard to realize their dreams also rely upon a higher power to help them realize those dreams. And so I’m here to say thank you for your prayers, thank you for your example, thank you for helping your fellow citizens, and thank you for being great citizens of the United States of America.
Que Dios les bendiga.
Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast
February 1, 2007
Thank you all. Thank you very much. Now will you please join me in singing “The Eyes of Texas.” [Laughter]
Good morning. Laura and I are honored to join you here at the 55th National Prayer Breakfast. You know, it’s an amazing country, isn’t it, when people from all walks of life gather to recognize our dependence on an Almighty God, and to ask Him for blessings in our life. I think a breakfast such as this speaks to the true strength of the United States of America.
We come from many different faiths, yet we share this profound conviction: We believe that God listens to the voice of His children and pours His grace upon those who seek Him in prayer. I appreciate, Mr. Congressman, you and Jo Ann Davis for leading this prayer breakfast. And thanks for paying tribute to my wife.
I appreciate the Speaker’s presence, Congressman Hoyer’s presence, Congressman Blunt’s presence. I want to thank all the Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who have joined us. I appreciate the fact that we’ve got Governors here, local officials, and State officials. I thank the members of my Cabinet for joining us. Don’t linger, you’ve got a job to do. [Laughter] I thank the military officials who have joined us, distinguished dignitaries. Mr. Prime Minister, we are glad you’re here. Thank you for joining us.
I appreciate Dr. Collins. I want to thank Reverend Mucci and his wife Kathy. I appreciate Nicole Mullen. But most of all, thank you all.
We are a nation of prayer; America prays. Each day, millions of our citizens bow their heads in silence and solitude, or they offer up prayers in fellowship with others. They pray for themselves; they pray for their families; they pray for their neighbors and their communities. In many congregations and homes across this great land, people also set a time—set aside time to pray for our Nation and those entrusted with authority, including our elected leaders.
In my travels, I often see hand-printed signs and personal messages from citizens that carry words of prayer. Sometimes it’s a single little girl holding up a placard that reads: “Mr. President, be encouraged; you are prayed for.” Sometimes it’s a banner held by a group of young people that says, “We are praying for you, Mr. President.” I often hear similar words when I meet people on a ropeline. Isn’t that interesting? You’re working a ropeline and people come up and say, “Mr. President, I am praying for you and your family.”
The greatest gift a citizen of this country can give those of us entrusted with political office is to pray for us. And I thank those in our Nation who lift all of us up in prayer.
Our troops must understand that every day—every day—millions of our citizens lift them up in prayer. We pray for their safety; we pray for their families they have left at home; we pray for those who have been wounded, for their comfort and recovery. We remember those who have been lost, and we pray that their loved ones feel the healing touch of the Almighty. During this time of war, we thank God that we are part of a nation that produces courageous men and women who volunteer to defend us.
Many in our country know the power of prayer. Prayer changes hearts, prayer changes lives, and prayer makes us a more compassionate and giving people. When we pray, we surrender our will to the Almighty and open ourselves up to His priorities and His touch. His call to love our neighbors as we would like to be loved ourselves is something that we hear when we pray. And we answer that call by reaching out to feed the hungry and clothe the poor and aid the widow and the orphan. By helping our brothers and sisters in need, we find our own faith strengthened and we receive the grace to lead lives of dignity and purpose.
We see this grace in the life of a young American named Shannon Hickey. Shannon was one of Laura’s guests at the State of the Union. When Shannon was growing up, her favorite priest was Father Mychal Judge, a chaplain with the New York City Fire Department. Father Mychal helped Shannon and her family through Shannon’s struggle with liver disease. On September the 11th, 2001, Father Mychal lost his life in the World Trade Center. In memory of her friend, Shannon founded Mychal’s Message, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing Father Mychal’s loving spirit. Over the last 5 years, Mychal’s Message has collected and distributed more than 100,000 needed items to the poor and the homeless. With each gift to the needy, Shannon encloses a card with Father Mychal’s personal prayer. It reads: “Lord, take me where you want me to go, let me meet who you want me to meet, tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way.” [Laughter]
Father Mychal’s humble prayer reminds us of an eternal truth: In the quiet of prayer, we leave behind our own cares, and we take up the cares of the Almighty. And in answering His call to service, we find that, in the words of Isaiah: “We will gain new strength. We will run and not get tired. We will walk and not become weary.”
And so I thank you for joining us on this day of prayer. I thank you for the tradition you continue here today. And I ask for God’s blessings on the United States of America.
Remarks at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast
April 13, 2007
Thank you all. Please be seated. Good morning. Good morning. Thank you. It’s good to be with you. You know how to make a Methodist feel right at home. [Laughter] I noticed that this year’s breakfast was the Friday after Lent—[laughter]—you can eat your bacon in good conscience—[laughter]—and the priests can relax. [Laughter]
I appreciate the opportunity to be with you; I really do. I thank you for having this prayer breakfast. Prayer breakfasts show the true strength of our Nation. I am honored that people say to me and Laura, “We pray for you.” It means a lot. A prayerful nation is a strong nation. A prayerful nation is a nation the true strength of which lies in the hearts of the men and women of our Nation.
Our Declaration of Independence states that our freedom rests on self-evident truths about the dignity of the human person. Throughout our Nation’s history, Catholic Americans have embraced, sustained, and given their lives to defend these truths. This morning we give thanks for the blessings of freedom, and we ask Almighty God to guide us as we renew our founding promise of liberty and justice for all.
I’m sorry Laura couldn’t be here. She is by far the best representative of our family. Thank you for praying for her.
I appreciate my friend Leonard Leo for inviting me. I thank the leaders of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. I’m honored to be in the presence of Archbishop Donald Wuerl. I have known the Archbishop for quite a while. I appreciate his strong and firm dedication to making sure every child in America gets a good education. I am proud to be here with Archbishop Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. I appreciate the members of the Catholic clergy. I am honored to be here with two members of our Supreme Court, the Chief Justice, John Roberts, and Justice Sam Alito.
I thank the members of my administration who have joined us, particularly our Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Jim Nicholson, and Suzanne. Thank you for joining us.
I am in awe of people like Corporal Michael Blair, United States Marine Corps. I thank the members of our Armed Services who are here today. I appreciate the Members of Congress who have joined us. Thanks for letting me come by to say hello. [Laughter]
Of the 56 men who signed our Declaration of Independence, only one was a Catholic: Charles Carroll. In 1776, Carroll was one of the wealthiest men in America. But because he was a Catholic, he could not vote or hold public office in his native Maryland. John Adams noted that Carroll’s wealth and patriotism marked him for special vengeance if the Revolution were to fail. That is why when Carroll added his name to the Declaration, one bystander quipped, “There goes a few million.” [Laughter]
Carroll was willing to risk those millions because he knew that something far more precious was at stake: freedom. He believed that the self-evident truths of our Declaration would lead to religious as well as civil liberty. He knew that an America where people were free to worship God as they saw fit would be a land where Catholics would flourish and prosper. And he understood that whatever America’s failings, our founding promise would always be a source of hope and renewal for our country. And at this breakfast, we commit ourselves to renewing that promise in our time.
Renewing the promise of America begins with upholding the dignity of human life. In our day, there is a temptation to manipulate life in ways that do not respect the humanity of the person. When that happens, the most vulnerable among us can be valued for their utility to others, instead of their own inherent worth. We must continue to work for a culture of life, where the strong protect the weak and where we recognize in every human life the image of our Creator.
Renewing the promise of America requires good citizens who look out for their neighbors. One of the reasons that I am such a strong believer in the power of our faith-based institutions is that they add something the government never can, and that is love. Pope Benedict the XVI put it this way in his first letter as a Pope: “There is no ordering of the state so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love.” In parishes and neighborhoods across our Nation, Catholics take this call to heart, and that is why we find so many of you leading the armies of compassion. You are changing America one heart, one soul at a time, and I thank you.
Renewing the promise of America also includes ensuring a sound education for every single child. America’s Catholic schools play a vital role in our Nation. The schools were built by poor immigrants. They were staffed by legions of dedicated nuns and brothers and priests, and they have given millions of Americans the knowledge and character they need to succeed in life. Today, these schools are also serving thousands of non-Catholic children in some of our Nation’s poorest neighborhoods. I appreciate the tremendous sacrifices that many dioceses are making to keep their inner-city schools going. I am worried that too many of these schools are closing, and our Nation needs to do something about it.
This afternoon I’ll hold a meeting at the White House to discuss the difference America’s parochial schools are making in the lives of some of our neediest children. We see that difference right here in the Nation’s Capital. Pam Battle sat with Laura during my State of the Union Address. She’s a mom of two: Carlos and Calvin. A few years ago, these boys were in a public school that was not meeting Pam’s expectations. We passed what’s called the DC School Choice Incentive Act. Many of you in this room helped get that act passed. As a result of that act, her boys were able to transfer to Assumption Catholic School, a parochial school that serves an almost entirely African American student body.
Carlos became an A-student and president of his eighth grade class. He now attends high school at Georgetown Day. Calvin is a fifth-grader at Assumption; I’m told that he’s running for “Student of the Month.” [Laughter] Something I never achieved. [Laughter]
Pam has a big smile on her face when she comes to talk about the education her boys are receiving. “The main benefit of this program is that I can drop off my sons at school with peace of mind. It’s safe, and I know they are working up to their level.” That’s what Pam said. I believe every parent in America should have that same peace of mind and every school in America should ensure that its students are working up to their fullest of potentials. I applaud our Nation’s Catholic schools. I will continue to work to help these schools reach more children in need so that our children have the skills they need to realize the full promise of the United States of America.
Finally, to realize the promise of America, we must have comprehensive immigration reform that enforces our laws and upholds the dignity of every single person in the United States. And now is the time for the United States Congress to get a bill to my desk that I can sign.
I thank you for your fine tradition. I applaud you for the love you—of neighbor you show through your organizations and your churches. I ask that you pray for our soldiers and their families in harm’s way. And I ask that you pray that in a troubled world, America may always remain a beacon of hope and of freedom.
May God bless you all.
Remarks at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast
June 15, 2007
Gracias. Sientese, por favor. Buenos dias. Si. I thank my friend Luis. This isn’t the first time he’s introduced me. I’m proud to be back. I thank you for the chance to come to the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast. Appreciate the opportunity to be with Hispanic American pastors and priests and community leaders and faith-based activists from all over the United States. I thank you for coming, and thanks for having me come. I appreciate your leadership, I appreciate your compassion, and I thank you for your abiding faith in the power of prayer.
I’m pleased that two Senators who have got corazones grandes—[laughter]—on the immigration bill are with us today, Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator Mel Martinez. Thank you all for coming. Y tambien, Congresswoman Grace Napolitano y Luis Fortuno, thank you all for coming; proud you’re here.
I thank the veterans and members of the military who are here today. I thank the pastors and community leaders.
At this breakfast, we set aside our politics and come together in prayer. That’s what we’re doing. When we pray, we acknowledge our total dependence on Almighty God, we put our future in His hands, and we find that prayer lifts our spirits and changes our lives.
This morning we have many things to pray for. We pray for our families and our loved ones and our friends. We pray for the strength and safety of our Nation. We pray for wisdom and grace in times of trial. And we pray to give thanks for the many blessings that God has bestowed upon America.
Among those blessings are millions of talented men and women of Hispanic origin who call this country home. Our Nation is more vibrant because of the contributions made by Hispanic Americans in all sectors of our society, from the arts to business to religion to education. Our Nation is more hopeful because of the Hispanic Americans who serve in the armies of compassion, who are surrounding neighbors in need who hurt with love; people who are helping to change America one heart and one soul and one conscience at a time.
Many of you at this breakfast devote your lives to serving others. By doing so you’re answering a timeless call: to love your neighbor as yourself. You really represent the true strength of America, and I thank you for being of service to our country.
This prayer breakfast has come a long way since it started 5 years ago. We could have held it in a little tiny closet. And now, as Luis tells me, it’s oversubscribed the minute it gets announced. It’s a good sign for our country, isn’t it? People want to come together in prayer.
Instead of a single morning meeting, you have now come to Washington for a 3-day conference. And I appreciate the chance—you’ve had a chance to go to Congress and discuss your concerns with Members of Congress. I appreciate your support for policies that expand home ownership. We want more Americans saying: “Welcome to my home. Come and see my piece of property.” I appreciate the fact that you’re promoting small businesses. We want more Americans realizing the dream of owning their own business. And, by the way, the Latino small-business community is strong, and we intend to keep it that way.
I appreciate your working to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS. I appreciate you working hard to make sure every child gets a good education. Thank you for your concern for our country. You’re demonstrating el Sueno Americano es para todos.
And I thank you for making comprehensive immigration reform your top priority. I share that priority. These Senators share that priority. I appreciate the fact that you understand that this debate can be emotional, and it’s complex. I appreciate the fact that you understand that Members need to hear from you about where you think this country ought to go when it comes to immigration reform. There’s a lot of emotion on this issue, and it makes sense to have people from around the country come and sit down with Members of Congress to talk rationally about the issue.
Our responsibilities are straightforward. We’ve got to enforce the border, a basic duty of a sovereign nation. We’ve got to create a lawful way for foreign workers to fill jobs that Americans are not doing. Our economy depends on them. And we must resolve the status of illegal immigrants already in our country without amnesty and without animosity, because that is the only practical way to fix the problem that has been decades in the making. We must help new immigrants assimilate. That’s what has always made our Nation strong. People in America must have confidence in this country to help people assimilate.
Mel Martinez’s parents put him on an airplane because they didn’t want him raised in a tyrannical society on the island of Cuba, and here he now sits as a Member of the United States Senate. I was deeply touched at the Coast Guard Academy, when I was sitting there as the Commander in Chief of a bunch of kids who just got bars on their shoulders, and the head of the class got up to speak, and he talked about his migrant grandfather. This Hispanic American started his speech to his classmates—because I was there, there was a lot of cameras, maybe the country—talking about his migrant grandfather. Isn’t it a fabulous country where a migrant grandfather can come and have a dream and work hard, and there’s his grandson talking about the promise of America in front of the President of the United States and his classmates? That’s the beauty of America.
We must meet our moral obligation to treat newcomers with decency and show compassion to the vulnerable and exploited, because we’re called to answer both the demands of justice and the call for mercy.
Most Americans agree on these principles. And now it’s time for our elected leaders in Congress to act. You don’t have to worry about these two Senators. They’re acting; they’re in the lead. Each day our Nation fails to act, the problem only grows worse. I will continue to work closely with members of both parties to get past our differences and pass a bill I can sign this year.
One of the reasons that America leads the world is that we’ve always welcomed people who are determined to embrace our democracy and stand for freedom. We see that determination every day in the hundreds of thousands of Hispanic Americans who wear the uniform of the United States military.
Today we’re joined by a group of Hispanic American soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I thank these brave men for stepping forward to protect our freedom. I join all of you in praying for their full recovery. And I’m honored to be their Commander in Chief.
Our Nation is blessed to call these men fellow Americans. We thank God for sending us such brave and selfless people. We ask that He give His—give us the wisdom and grace to be worthy of the sacrifices they make and the ideals of liberty they defend.
Thank you very much for letting me come by again. Y tambien, que Dios los bendiga. Amen. Thank you very much.
Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast
February 7, 2008
The President. Gracias, mi amigo.
Senator Kenneth L. Salazar. De nada.
The President. Thank you, friend. Laura and I are honored to join you all here for the 56th National Prayer Breakfast. A lot of reasons to pray, and one, of course, is to strengthen us against temptation, particularly this morning–from temptation to stay in bed. [Laughter] Obviously there’s a lot of prayerful people here. [Laughter] And I appreciate your warm welcome.
We have a lot of distinguished guests here today: Members of Congress, military leaders, captains of industry. Yet at this annual gathering, we are reminded of an eternal truth: When we lift our hearts to God, we’re all equal in His sight. We’re all equally precious; we’re all equally dependent on His grace. It’s fitting that we gather each year to approach our Creator in fellowship and to thank Him for the many blessings He has bestowed upon our families and our Nation. It is fitting that we gather in prayer, because we recognize a prayerful nation is a stronger nation.
I want to appreciate Senators–[applause]–I appreciate Senators Salazar and Enzi. Thank you for putting this deal on. Madam Speaker, Leader Hoyer, Leader Blunt, thank you all for being here. Welcome the Members of Congress. I appreciate the heads of state who are here. Welcome to America, again. I thank the members of the diplomatic corps who have joined us. Appreciate the distinguished dignitaries, all the members of my Cabinet–don’t linger; get back to work. [Laughter]
Admiral, thank you for your leadership. Always proud to be with the members of the United States military. I thank the State and local officials. Ward, thanks for your remarks. Those were awesome. I guess that’s a Presidential word. [Laughter] Proud to be here with Michael W. and Debbie. They’re longtime friends of our family. Thank you for lending your beautiful voice. Judge, I’m not going to hold the Texas thing against you. [Laughter]
Every President since Dwight Eisenhower has attended the National Prayer Breakfast, and I am really proud to carry on this tradition. It’s an important tradition, and I’m confident Presidents who follow me will do the same. The people in this room come from many different walks of faith, yet we share one clear conviction: We believe that the Almighty hears our prayers and answers those who seek Him. That’s what we believe; otherwise, why come? Through the miracle of prayer, we believe He listens–if we listen to His voice and seek our presence–His presence in our lives, our hearts will change. And in so doing, in seeking God, we grow in ways that we could never imagine.
In prayer, we grow in gratitude and thanksgiving. When we spend time with the Almighty, we realize how much He has bestowed upon us, and our hearts are filled with joy. We give thanks for our families. We give thanks for the parents who raised us. We give thanks for the patient souls who married us and the children who make us proud each day. We give thanks for our liberty and the universal desire for freedom that He has written in every human heart. We give thanks for the God who made us in His image and redeemed us in His love.
In prayer, we grow in meekness and humility. By approaching our Maker on bended knee, we acknowledge our complete dependence on Him. We recognize that we have nothing to offer God that He does not already have, except our love. So we offer Him that love and ask for the grace to discern His will. We ask Him to remain near to us at all times. We ask Him to help us lead lives that are pleasing to Him. We discover that by surrendering our lives to the Almighty, we are strengthened, refreshed, and ready for all that may come.
In prayer, we also grow in boldness and courage. The more time we spend with God, the more we see that He is not a distant king, but a loving Father. Inspired by this confidence, we approach Him with bold requests. We ask Him to heal the sick and comfort the dying and sustain those who care for them. We ask Him to bring solace to the victims of tragedy and help to those suffering from addiction and adversity. We ask him to strengthen our families and to protect the innocent and vulnerable in our country. We ask Him to protect our Nation from those who wish us harm and watch over all who’ve stepped forward to defend us. We ask Him to bring about the day when His peace shall reign across the world and every tear shall be wiped away.
In prayer, we grow in mercy and compassion. We are reminded in prayer that we are all fallen creatures in need of mercy. And in seeking God’s mercy, we grow in mercy ourselves. Experiencing the presence of God transforms our hearts. And the more we seek His presence, the more we feel the tug at our souls to reach out to the poor and the hungry, the elderly and the infirm. When we answer God’s call to love a neighbor as ourselves, we enter into a deeper friendship with our fellow man and a deeper relationship with our eternal Father.
I believe in the power of prayer because I have felt it in my own life. Prayer has strengthened me in times of personal challenge. It has helped me meet the challenges of the Presidency. I understand now clearly the story of the calm in the rough seas. And so at this final prayer breakfast as your President, I thank you for your prayers, and I thank our people all across America for their prayers. And I ask you not to stop in the year ahead. We have so much work to do for our country, and with the help of the Almighty, we will build a freer world and a safer, more hopeful, more noble America.
Remarks at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast
April 18, 2008
Thank you very much. Good morning. Thank you. Please be seated. Thank you for the gracious welcome. Austin, thanks for your kind introduction. Thanks for giving me this unusual speaking opportunity. I understand that this program builds up to another speech. [Laughter] It’s not every day you get to be the warmup act to the Holy Father. [Laughter] I am honored to be here. I do thank Austin for his leadership for the Catholic Prayer Breakfast. I thank the board of directors for having me. I thank Archbishop Gomez–Tejano–for being here. And I want to thank our–Bishop Finn, members of the clergy. Thank you for serving our country. Thank you for being men of faith.
I’m proud to be here with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. He’s always looking for a free breakfast. [Laughter] I’m proud to be here with Members of the United States Senate and Congress. Thank you all for being here. Solicitor General Paul Clement is with us today, members of my administration, members of the diplomatic corps, and distinguished guests.
This has been a joyous week. It’s been a joyous time for Catholics, and it wasn’t such a bad week for Methodists either. [Laughter] You know, the excitement was just palpable. The streets were lined with people that were so thrilled that the Holy Father was here. And it was such a privilege to welcome this good man to the United States.
For those of you on the South Lawn ceremony–who saw the South Lawn ceremony live, it was–what an unbelievable–it was just such a special moment. And it was a special moment to be able to visit with the Holy Father in the Oval Office. He is a humble servant of God. He is a brilliant professor. He is a warm and generous soul.
He is courageous in the defense of fundamental truths. His Holiness believes that freedom is the Almighty’s gift to every man, woman, and child on Earth. He understands that every person has value, or to use his words, “Each of us is willed; each of us is loved; [and] each of us is necessary.”
The Holy Father strongly believes that to whom much is given, much is required. And he is a messenger of God’s call to love our neighbors as we’d like to be loved ourselves.
I’ve seen how American Catholics are guided by these truths. One of the blessings of being the President is I get to see firsthand how people are motivated by the fundamental truths articulated by the Holy Father. I’ve watched you live out the Gospel through countless acts of compassion and courage. I’ve joined with you in striving to heed the Scriptures noble calling to see God’s image in all mankind and to uphold the dignity of each human being on Earth.
Together, over the nearly 7 1/2 years, we’ve worked to uphold the dignity of human life. Over the last years, my administration has put a stop to U.S. tax dollars funding foreign groups that perform or promote abortions. We’ve worked together to protect unborn victims of violence and to end the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion. We have stood fast in our belief that promising medical advances can coexist with ethical medical practices. Last November, scientists discovered a way to reprogram adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells. This is a significant breakthrough, because science–scientists have found a path that can lead beyond the divisive debates of the past and extend the healing potential of medicine without destroying human life.
Together we’ve worked to strengthen America’s lifelines of learning, including our Nation’s Catholic schools. The Catholic Church has a proud educational tradition dating back centuries, and one of the Holy Father’s priorities has been maintaining this tradition in the United States. Today, America’s Catholic schools serve thousands of students, both Catholic and non-Catholic, in some of our Nation’s poorest neighborhoods. They help minority students narrow the achievement gap. They prepare children for lives of character and purpose and success. And yet these schools are closing at an alarming rate. Nearly 1,200 Catholic schools have shut their doors since the year 2000.
In my State of the Union Address, I proposed a new $300 million program called Pell Grants for Kids. And the reason I did so is cause I want to help low-income children in underperforming public schools be able to attend a private or parochial school of their choice. I am concerned about the loss of a major national asset, and that is the decline of Catholic schools, particularly in inner-city America. And to this end, next week we’re having a White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-Based Schools. And the purpose of the summit is to highlight the lack of educational options facing low-income urban students. And we’re going to bring together educators and clergy and philanthropists and business leaders, all aiming to urge there to be reasonable legislation out of Congress and practical solutions to save these schools and, more importantly, to save the children.
And some of the people trying to save America’s Catholic schools are here at this prayer breakfast, and I can’t thank you enough for your efforts.
Together we’ve worked to foster a culture of tolerance and peace. We believe that religion should be a source of understanding and grace, not a source of extremism and violence. On his visit and throughout his time as the Holy Father, the Pope has worked to foster interreligious dialog and to heal the wounds of religious conflict. I strongly support the Pope’s call for religious freedom around the world. I share his concern for Christians in the Middle East and his desire to see a peaceful and independent Lebanon. I respect his scholarship, which demonstrates that faith and reason can coexist. And I join him in praying for a world at peace, where Christians and Muslims and Jews, believers and non-believers, can live side by side. And I thank all of you here who work to make this vision a reality.
Together we’ve worked to bring comfort to troubled souls. We believe that where hearts are burdened by destitution and disease and despair, we must answer with hope and love and faith. We know that [no] * government program can answer the call like our armies of compassion can, but we also know that government programs can support and must support their work. And so I’ve been a strong believer in the faith-based and community-based effort to bring healing and hope to people who wonder whether or not there’s a bright tomorrow.
* White House correction.
I don’t know if you really realize this, but in 2006, 3,000 direct Federal grants totaling more than $2 billion were made to faith-based organizations, including many Catholic organizations. And the reason why is because Catholic organizations provide shelter to the homeless in very effective and loving ways. They tutor at-risk youth. They help children of prisoners while, at the same time, they work tirelessly to help prisoners get back on their feet. These groups seek out our society’s most vulnerable and fulfill Christ’s promise that “the last shall be first.”
Abroad, Catholic organizations are a vital part, an integral part of our effort to fight hunger and disease from Latin America to the continent of Africa. In these places, Catholic groups have a hand in what some call the “Lazarus effect,” where whole communities that once lay dying are brought back to life.
Oftentimes, people ask me, why is it that you’re so focused on helping the hungry and diseased in strange parts of the world? My answer is, we’re a wealthy enough nation to take care of people at home and to help those abroad. It is in our moral interests that when we find people suffering, that we do all we can do to help ease the burden. It’s in our national interests–[applause]–and it’s in our national interests that we defeat the ideologues of hate with an ideology of hope.
During these–as President, I’ve seen some of the great wonders of compassion as a result of our Catholic citizens. I’ve seen them here in Washington, with the Little Sisters of the Poor. Laura and I had the honor of visiting with the Little Sisters, and, you know, I was struck by how hard they worked to ask [for] * money to care for the old and the sick so that the old and the sick don’t have to beg for money.
* White House correction.
I’ve seen the wonders of Catholic love on the gulf coast. I’m struck by the Catholic educators that, in the face of unprecedented disaster, worked night and day to provide good and stable schools for the children and provide comfort for, you know, people that were just wondering whether or not there was going to be a good tomorrow.
I’ve seen wonders on the Sea of Galilee during my recent trip to the Middle East. On a recent visit, my guides were joyful Catholic nuns who preserve the holy sites for all mankind, even as they struggle with the dangers to the region’s Christian minority.
I’ve seen the wonders in Africa, in an emergency–in a hospital supported by PEPFAR. In February, I saw a 9-year-old girl who is HIV-positive who had lost both her parents to AIDS. And for the last year, Catholic Relief Services had been playing–had been paying for the girl to receive treatment at the clinic. I want to tell you what her grandmother said: “As a Muslim, I never imagined that a Catholic group would help me like that.” She went on to say, “I am so grateful to the American people.” And I am grateful for those who provide love and compassion in America and around the world.
This is a prayer breakfast. And this is a perfect place for me to say how much I appreciate the prayers of the people for me and Laura. I can’t thank our fellow citizens enough for taking time out of their lives to lift us up for prayer. I have finally begun to understand the story of the calm and the rough seas, and I believe–I believe in my heart of hearts that it’s because of the prayers of my fellow citizens.
And today, with the trust in the Lord’s wisdom and goodness, I offer prayers of my own for each gathered in the room, for the safety and success of the Holy Father’s visit, and for God’s continued blessings on our great land. Thank you.
Remarks at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast
June 26, 2008
The President. Gracias. Sientese. [Laughter] Luis, thank you, sir. So he asked, would I come to the prayer breakfast. My answer was, por supuesto. [Laughter] I am honored to join you. I was proud to stand with you in 2002 at the first National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, and today I am proud to stand with you at the–for the final time as your sitting President.
This happens to be an important event, in my view. It’s an important event because it reminds us that no matter what our status in life might be, that we have a duty to respond to a higher power.
Audience member. Amen!
The President. You know, next year in Crawford, Laura and I are going to have a different kind of prayer breakfast. I’ll be cooking the eggs, and she’ll be praying I don’t burn them. [Laughter]
I do want to welcome the First Lady of Panama, Vivian Fernandez de Torrijos. Thank you for coming. As some of you may or may not know, the–mi ninita lived in Panama for a while, and the government and the people there were so kind and hospitable, and I’ll never be able to repay you for that. So thank you very much. Please give your esposo my best regards, el Presidente de Panama. Si, thank you.
Proud to be here with pastors and community leaders. Thank you for doing what you’re doing.
Each of you here this morning is here to celebrate a simple and powerful act, prayer to an Almighty God. You know the comfort that comes from placing our worries in the hands of a higher power. You know the humility that comes from approaching our Maker on bended knee. And you know the strength that comes from lifting our thoughts from worldly cares and focusing on the eternal.
Today I ask all to join together to pray that God continues to bestow His blessings on our wonderful country. We pray that the Almighty will strengthen America’s families. A caring family is the foundation of a hopeful society. We pray that every child in America can grow up in a loving and stable home. We pray for the day when every child in America is welcomed in life and protected in law. And we pray that in every community across this great land, the Almighty will strengthen los valores de la familia y de la fe.
We pray that America will strengthen those who serve nuestros hermanos y hermanas in need. We pray for the continued success of faith-based and community groups like Esperanza, all aiming to transfer [transform] * our great country one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time. I was proud to hear of the work of Esperanza in Philadelphia. I’ve known Esperanza for ochos anos. I was first impressed by the vision of making sure that every child gets a good education. It’s Luis who started a charter school. It’s a tremendous school. Less than 1 percent of students drop out, and more than 90 percent of the graduates are planning to go to college this fall. There’s nothing more hopeful than to give a child a good education.
* White House correction.
I’m impressed by the program called Esperanza Trabajando. This program helps at-risk youths and former prisoners move from lives of hopelessness to futures of accomplishment and self-sufficiency. Esperanza Trabajando, for those of you who don’t speak Spanish–and frankly, mine isn’t all that good–[laughter]–means “Hope is Working,” and that’s exactly what you are demonstrating, Luis, and others in this room demonstrate cada dia–every day.
For the past 8 years, my administration has provided unprecedented support for the compassionate work performed by faith-based and community groups, because I understand this: Government can hand out money, but government cannot put hope in a person’s heart. And oftentimes that is found in our faith community and our community organizations. And so we’ve lowered the barriers that kept government and faith-based groups needlessly divided and ensured that America’s armies of compassion are at the center of our Nation’s efforts to make our society more hopeful for every individual.
Organizations like yours have shown the ability to save and change lives. And in your mercies of love and mercy, you must always have a strong and reliable partner in government.
We pray that Almighty will strengthen and protect those who serve the cause of freedom. These brave men and women share our cherished belief that the desire for liberty is written by the Almighty in every human heart. We believe in the universality of freedom. And where we see people suffer from forms of government that create hopelessness or disease and hunger and mosquito bites, that deny people a hopeful life, the United States must act under the theory, under the principle that to whom much is given, much is required.
Audience member. Amen!
The President. I’m impressed–deeply impressed by those who wear our Nation’s uniform. I appreciate–some have given their lives, others have suffered injuries in freedom’s cause. And this morning I am honored to note that five brave servicemen who are being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are with us today. We thank you for your sacrifice; we pray for your recovery; and we honor your service to the United States of America.
This, like, might not be on the schedule, but if you five guys would mind letting me have my picture taken with you, I’d be honored. So, like, when the speech is about to end, which is soon–[laughter]–head to the exits, and I’ll see you.
We also honor those who struggle for freedom against oppressive regimes. It’s essential that the United States always remember–in our great comfort–that we always remember that there are those who want their freedom just like we have our freedom. One of those men is Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva. He’s a lawyer and human rights activist on the island of Cuba. Juan Carlos was unjustly jailed for more than 2 years by the Cuban regime because he supported a dissident journalist. While he was imprisoned, his cane and his dark glasses were confiscated, which is especially cruel because Juan Carlos is blind. The guards took away his braille Bible, but they could not take away his spirit. Today, Juan Carlos is no longer in jail, but he remains under the surveillance of the Cuban Government.
Juan Carlos continues his important fight for human rights in Cuba, and the United States must always stand squarely with those who struggle for their human rights against tyranny. And today we’re honored that his hermano is with us. Onel Ramon Gonzalez Leiva is here on his behalf. Onel, we want to thank you for coming. Our prayers go out to your brother and those who struggle with him. And we ask for the day, we pray for the day when the light of liberty shines on the people of Cuba and those who long for freedom. Onel, bienvenidos.
So as I mentioned, this is my last visit as your President to the Hispanic Prayer Breakfast. It’s been a joy every time I have come. During the last 7 1/2 years, I have been touched by how many Americans have come up and said, “I’m praying for you, Mr. President”–people I’ve never seen before in my life, may never see again. It’s amazing. You would think they would come up and say, you know, “I’d like a new highway,” or “How about an additional bridge?” [Laughter] But, no, total strangers come and say, “I just want you to know, we lift you up in prayer.” Somebody asked me what all that meant, and I said, well, you know, I’m finally beginning to understand the story of the calm in the rough seas. And I attribute it to the fact that millions of people have been so kind and generous to pray for me and Laura.
And so on my final trip here as your sitting President, I thank you for your prayers. I can’t thank you enough for your spiritual support. And it’s made a significant difference during these 7 1/2 years. Being your President has been an unimaginable honor and a joyous experience.
Thank you, and God bless.