Presidential Easter Messages – Barack Obama
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, April 11, 2009
I speak to you today during a time that is holy and filled with meaning for believers around the world. Earlier this week, Jewish people gathered with family and friends to recite the stories of their ancestors’ struggle and ultimate liberation. Tomorrow, Christians of all denominations will come together to rejoice and remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
These are two very different holidays with their own very different traditions. But it seems fitting that we mark them both during the same week. For in a larger sense, they are both moments of reflection and renewal. They are both occasions to think more deeply about the obligations we have to ourselves and the obligations we have to one another, no matter who we are, where we come from, or what faith we practice.
This idea – that we are all bound up, as Martin Luther King once said, in “a single garment of destiny”– is a lesson of all the world’s great religions. And never has it been more important for us to reaffirm that lesson than it is today – at a time when we face tests and trials unlike any we have seen in our time. An economic crisis that recognizes no borders. Violent extremism that’s claimed the lives of innocent men, women, and children from Manhattan to Mumbai. An unsustainable dependence on foreign oil and other sources of energy that pollute our air and water and threaten our planet. The proliferation of the world’s most dangerous weapons, the persistence of deadly disease, and the recurrence of age-old conflicts.
These are challenges that no single nation, no matter how powerful, can confront alone. The United States must lead the way. But our best chance to solve these unprecedented problems comes from acting in concert with other nations. That is why I met with leaders of the G-20 nations to ensure that the world’s largest economies take strong and unified action in the face of the global economic crisis. Together, we’ve taken steps to stimulate growth, restore the flow of credit, open markets, and dramatically reform our financial regulatory system to prevent such crises from occurring again – steps that will lead to job creation at home.
It is only by working together that we will finally defeat 21st century security threats like al Qaeda. So it was heartening that our NATO allies united in Strasbourg behind our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and contributed important resources to support our effort there.
It is only by coordinating with countries around the world that we will stop the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. That is why I laid out a strategy in Prague for us to work with Russia and other nations to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons; to secure nuclear materials from terrorists; and, ultimately, to free the world from the menace of a nuclear nightmare.
And it is only by building a new foundation of mutual trust that we will tackle some of our most entrenched problems. That is why, in Turkey, I spoke to members of Parliament and university students about rising above the barriers of race, region, and religion that too often divide us.
With all that is at stake today, we cannot afford to talk past one another. We can’t afford to allow old differences to prevent us from making progress in areas of common concern. We can’t afford to let walls of mistrust stand. Instead, we have to find – and build on – our mutual interests. For it is only when people come together, and seek common ground, that some of that mistrust can begin to fade. And that is where progress begins.
Make no mistake: we live in a dangerous world, and we must be strong and vigilant in the face of these threats. But let us not allow whatever differences we have with other nations to stop us from coming together around those solutions that are essential to our survival and success.
As we celebrate Passover, Easter, and this time of renewal, let’s find strength in our shared resolve and purpose in our common aspirations. And if we can do that, then not only will we fulfill the sacred meaning of these holy days, but we will fulfill the promise of our country as a leader around the world.
Weekly Address: Holiday Greetings 2010
This is a week of faithful celebration. On Monday and Tuesday nights, Jewish families and friends in the United States and around the world gathered for a Seder to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt and the triumph of hope and perseverance over injustice and oppression. On Sunday, my family will join other Christians all over the world in marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And while we worship in different ways, we also remember the shared spirit of humanity that inhabits us all – Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus, believers and nonbelievers alike.
Amid the storm of public debate, with our 24/7 media cycle, in a town like Washington that’s consumed with the day-to-day, it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of the eternal. So, on this Easter weekend, let us hold fast to those aspirations we hold in common as brothers and sisters, as members of the same family – the family of man.
All of us know how important work is – not just for the paycheck, but for the peace of mind that comes with knowing you can provide for your family. As Americans, and as human beings, we seek not only the security, but the sense of dignity, the sense of community, that work confers. That is why it was heartening news that last month, for the first time in more than two years, our economy created a substantial number of jobs, instead of losing them. We have begun to reverse the devastating slide, but we have a long way to go to repair the damage from this recession, and that will continue to be my focus every single day.
All of us value our health and the health of our loved ones. All of us have experienced an illness, a loss, a personal tragedy. All of us know that no matter what we’re doing or what else is going on in our lives, if the health of someone we love is endangered, nothing else matters. Our health is the rock upon which our lives are built, for better and for worse.
All of us value education. We know that in an economy as competitive as ours, an education is a prerequisite for success. But we also know that ultimately, education is about something more, something greater. It is about the ability that lies within each of us to rise above any barrier, no matter how high; to pursue any dream, no matter how big; to fulfill our God-given potential.
All of us are striving to make a way in this world; to build a purposeful and fulfilling life in the fleeting time we have here. A dignified life. A healthy life. A life, true to its potential. And a life that serves others. These are aspirations that stretch back through the ages – aspirations at the heart of Judaism, at the heart of Christianity, at the heart of all of the world’s great religions.
The rites of Passover, and the traditions of Easter, have been marked by people in every corner of the planet for thousands of years. They have been marked in times of peace, in times of upheaval, in times of war.
One such war-time service was held on the black sands of Iwo Jima more than sixty years ago. There, in the wake of some of the fiercest fighting of World War II, a chaplain rose to deliver an Easter sermon, consecrating the memory, he said “of American dead – Catholic, Protestant, Jew. Together,” he said, “they huddled in foxholes or crouched in the bloody sands…Together they practiced virtue, patriotism, love of country, love of you and of me.” The chaplain continued, “The heritage they have left us, the vision of a new world, [was] made possible by the common bond that united them…their only hope that this unity will endure.”
Their only hope that this unity will endure.
On this weekend, as Easter begins and Passover comes to a close, let us remain ever mindful of the unity of purpose, the common bond, the love of you and of me, for which they sacrificed all they had; and for which so many others have sacrificed so much. And let us make its pursuit – and fulfillment – our highest aspiration, as individuals and as a nation. Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all those celebrating, here in America, and around the world.
Remarks at an Easter Prayer Breakfast
April 6, 2010
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you. Please have a seat. Have a seat. What a great honor and pleasure it is to have all of you here today. Before I begin, I want to just acknowledge two members of my Cabinet who I believe are here — Secretary Gary Locke — is that correct? Where’s Gary? There he is — our Commerce Secretary. (Applause.) And Secretary Janet Napolitano, who’s keeping us safe each and every day. (Applause.)
I also want to acknowledge the Mount Ennon Clinton Children’s Chorus for being here. They’re going to be giving us a medley later on. There they are up there, looking very serious. (Applause.)
Before I begin, I want to send my deepest condolences, our thoughts and prayers to the families and the friends of the workers who lost their lives after an explosion took place in a West Virginia mine yesterday. At this moment, there are still people missing. There are rescue teams that are searching tirelessly and courageously to find them.
I spoke with Governor Manchin of West Virginia last night and told him that the federal government stands ready to offer whatever assistance is needed in this rescue effort. So I would ask the faithful who’ve gathered here this morning to pray for the safe return of the missing, the men and women who put their lives on the line to save them, and the souls of those who have been lost in this tragic accident. May they rest in peace, and may their families find comfort in the hard days ahead.
One of my hopes upon taking this office was to make the White House a place where all people would feel welcome. To that end, we held a Seder here to mark the first Passover. We held an Iftar here with Muslim Americans to break the daily fast during Ramadan. And today, I’m particularly blessed to welcome you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, for this Easter breakfast.
With us are Christian leaders from all across America, men and women who lead small-town churches and big-city congregations, and major organizations in service of others; folks whose sermons are heard and whose examples are followed by millions all across the country. So I wanted to join you for a brief moment today to continue the Easter celebration of our risen Savior, and to reflect on the work to which His promise calls all of us.
I can’t tell any of you anything about Easter that you don’t already know. (Laughter.) I can’t shed light on centuries of scriptural interpretation or bring any new understandings to those of you who reflect on Easter’s meaning each and every year and each and every day. But what I can do is tell you what draws me to this holy day and what lesson I take from Christ’s sacrifice and what inspires me about the story of the resurrection.
For even after the passage of 2,000 years, we can still picture the moment in our mind’s eye. The young man from Nazareth marched through Jerusalem; object of scorn and derision and abuse and torture by an empire. The agony of crucifixion amid the cries of thieves. The discovery, just three days later, that would forever alter our world — that the Son of Man was not to be found in His tomb and that Jesus Christ had risen.
We are awed by the grace He showed even to those who would have killed Him. We are thankful for the sacrifice He gave for the sins of humanity. And we glory in the promise of redemption in the resurrection.
And such a promise is one of life’s great blessings, because, as I am continually learning, we are, each of us, imperfect. Each of us errs — by accident or by design. Each of us falls short of how we ought to live. And selfishness and pride are vices that afflict us all.
It’s not easy to purge these afflictions, to achieve redemption. But as Christians, we believe that redemption can be delivered — by faith in Jesus Christ. And the possibility of redemption can make straight the crookedness of a character; make whole the incompleteness of a soul. Redemption makes life, however fleeting here on Earth, resound with eternal hope.
Of all the stories passed down through the gospels, this one in particular speaks to me during this season. And I think of hanging — watching Christ hang from the cross, enduring the final seconds of His passion. He summoned what remained of His strength to utter a few last words before He breathed His last breath.
“Father,” He said, “into your hands I commit my spirit.” Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. These words were spoken by our Lord and Savior, but they can just as truly be spoken by every one of us here today. Their meaning can just as truly be lived out by all of God’s children.
So, on this day, let us commit our spirit to the pursuit of a life that is true, to act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with the Lord. And when we falter, as we will, let redemption — through commitment and through perseverance and through faith — be our abiding hope and fervent prayer.
Many of you are living out that commitment every day. So we want to honor you through this brief program, celebrating both the meaning of Easter and the spirit of service that embodies so much of your work. And our first celebrant today is Reverend Dr. Cynthia Hale, who will deliver our opening prayer.
Thank you all for being here. (Applause.)
Remarks at an Easter Prayer Breakfast
April 19, 2011
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Please, please have a seat.
Well, it is absolutely wonderful to be here with all of you today. I see so many good friends all around the room.
Before I begin, I want to acknowledge one particular member of my administration who I’m extraordinarily proud of and does not get much credit, and that is USAID Administrator, Dr. Raj Shah, who is doing great work with faith leaders. (Applause.) Where’s Raj? Where is he? There he is right there. Raj is doing great work with faith leaders on our Feed the Future global hunger program, as well as on a host of other issues. We could not be prouder of the work that he’s doing. I also want to acknowledge Congressman Mike McIntyre and his wife, Dee. (Applause.) Mike — as some of you know, obviously, North Carolina was ravaged by storms this past weekend, and our thoughts and prayers are with all the families who have been affected down there. I know that Mike will be helping those communities rebuild after the devastation.
To all the faith leaders and the distinguished guests that are here today, welcome to our second annual — I’m going to make it annual, why not? (Laughter and applause.) Our second Easter Prayer Breakfast. The Easter Egg Roll, that’s well established. (Laughter.) The Prayer Breakfast we started last year, in part because it gave me a good excuse to bring together people who have been such extraordinary influences in my life and such great friends. And it gives me a chance to meet and make some new friends here in the White House.
I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason -– because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection — something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective.
We all live in the hustle and bustle of our work. And everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities, from leading churches and denominations, to helping to administer important government programs, to shaping our culture in various ways. And I admit that my plate has been full as well. (Laughter.) The inbox keeps on accumulating. (Laughter.)
But then comes Holy Week. The triumph of Palm Sunday. The humility of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross.
And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world — past, present and future — and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.
In the words of the book Isaiah: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this “Amazing Grace” calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son — his Son and our Savior.
And that’s why we have this breakfast. Because in the middle of critical national debates, in the middle of our busy lives, we must always make sure that we are keeping things in perspective. Children help do that. (Laughter.) A strong spouse helps do that. But nothing beats scripture and the reminder of the eternal.
So I’m honored that all of you have come here this Holy Week to join me in a spirit of prayer, and I pray that our time here this morning will strengthen us, both individually as believers and as Americans. And with that, let me introduce my good friend, Bishop Vashti McKenzie, for our opening prayer. (Applause.)
Weekly Address: Easter and Passover Greetings from President Obama 2012
Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
April 7, 2012
For millions of Americans, this weekend is a time to celebrate redemption at God’s hand. Tonight, Jews will gather for a second Seder, where they will retell the story of the Exodus. And tomorrow, my family will join Christians around the world as we thank God for the all-important gift of grace through the resurrection of His son, and experience the wonder of Easter morning.
These holidays have their roots in miracles that took place thousands of years ago. They connect us to our past and give us strength as we face the future. And they remind us of the common thread of humanity that connects us all.
For me, and for countless other Christians, Easter weekend is a time to reflect and rejoice. Yesterday, many of us took a few quiet moments to try and fathom the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made for all of us.
Tomorrow, we will celebrate the resurrection of a savior who died so that we might live.
And throughout these sacred days, we recommit ourselves to following His example. We rededicate our time on Earth to selflessness, and to loving our neighbors. We remind ourselves that no matter who we are, or how much we achieve, we each stand humbled before an almighty God.
Christ’s triumph over death holds special meaning for Christians. But all of us, no matter how or whether we believe, can identify with elements of His story. The triumph of hope over despair. Of faith over doubt.
The notion that there is something out there that is bigger than ourselves.
These beliefs help unite Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. They shape our values and guide our work. They put our lives in perspective.
So to all Christians celebrating the Resurrection with us, Michelle and I want to wish you a blessed and Happy Easter. And to all Americans, I hope you have a weekend filled with joy and reflection, focused on the things that matter most. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
Remarks at the Easter Prayer Breakfast
April 4, 2012
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. (Applause.) Please, have a seat. Have a seat. Well, welcome to the White House. It is a pleasure to be with all of you this morning.
In less than a week, this house will be overrun by thousands of kids at the Easter Egg Roll. (Laughter.) So I wanted to get together with you for a little prayer and reflection — some calm before the storm. (Laughter.)
It is wonderful to see so many good friends here today. To all the faith leaders from all across the country — from churches and congregations large and small; from different denominations and different backgrounds — thank you for coming to our third annual Easter prayer breakfast. And I’m grateful that you’re here.
I’m even more grateful for the work that you do every day of the year — the compassion and the kindness that so many of you express through your various ministries. I know that some of you have joined with our Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. I’ve seen firsthand some of the outstanding work that you are doing in your respective communities, and it’s an incredible expression of your faith. And I know that all of us who have an opportunity to work with you draw inspiration from the work that you do.
Finally, I want to just express appreciation for your prayers. Every time I travel around the country, somebody is going around saying, we’re praying for you. (Laughter.) We got a prayer circle going. Don’t worry, keep the faith. We’re praying. (Laughter.) Michelle gets the same stuff. And that means a lot to us. It especially means a lot to us when we hear from folks who we know probably didn’t vote for me — (laughter) — and yet, expressing extraordinary sincerity about their prayers. And it’s a reminder not only of what binds us together as a nation, but also what binds us together as children of God.
Now, I have to be careful, I am not going to stand up here and give a sermon. It’s always a bad idea to give a sermon in front of professionals. (Laughter.) But in a few short days, all of us will experience the wonder of Easter morning. And we will know, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “Christ Jesus…and Him crucified.”
It’s an opportunity for us to reflect on the triumph of the resurrection, and to give thanks for the all-important gift of grace. And for me, and I’m sure for some of you, it’s also a chance to remember the tremendous sacrifice that led up to that day, and all that Christ endured — not just as a Son of God, but as a human being.
For like us, Jesus knew doubt. Like us, Jesus knew fear. In the garden of Gethsemane, with attackers closing in around him, Jesus told His disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He fell to his knees, pleading with His Father, saying, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” And yet, in the end, He confronted His fear with words of humble surrender, saying, “If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
So it is only because Jesus conquered His own anguish, conquered His fear, that we’re able to celebrate the resurrection. It’s only because He endured unimaginable pain that wracked His body and bore the sins of the world that He burdened — that burdened His soul that we are able to proclaim, “He is Risen!”
So the struggle to fathom that unfathomable sacrifice makes Easter all the more meaningful to all of us. It helps us to provide an eternal perspective to whatever temporal challenges we face. It puts in perspective our small problems relative to the big problems He was dealing with. And it gives us courage and it gives us hope.
We all have experiences that shake our faith. There are times where we have questions for God’s plan relative to us — (laughter) — but that’s precisely when we should remember Christ’s own doubts and eventually his own triumph. Jesus told us as much in the book of John, when He said, “In this world you will have trouble.” I heard an amen. (Laughter.) Let me repeat. “In this world, you will have trouble.”
THE PRESIDENT: “But take heart!” (Laughter.) “I have overcome the world.” (Applause.) We are here today to celebrate that glorious overcoming, the sacrifice of a risen savior who died so that we might live. And I hope that our time together this morning will strengthen us individually, as believers, and as a nation.
And with that, I’d like to invite my good friend, Dr. Cynthia Hale, to deliver our opening prayer. Dr. Hale. (Applause.)
Weekly Address: President Obama Offers Easter and Passover Greetings 2013
Hi, everybody. For millions of Americans, this is a special and sacred time of year.
This week, Jewish families gathered around the Seder table, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt and the triumph of faith over oppression. And this weekend, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and I will join Christians around the world to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the hopeful promise of Easter.
In the midst of all of our busy and noisy lives, these holy days afford us the precious opportunity to slow down and spend some quiet moments in prayer and reflection.
As Christians, my family and I remember the incredible sacrifice Jesus made for each and every one of us – how He took on the sins of the world and extended the gift of salvation. And we recommit ourselves to following His example here on Earth. To loving our Lord and Savior. To loving our neighbors. And to seeing in everyone, especially “the least of these,” as a child of God.
Of course, those values are at the heart not just of the Christian faith; but of all faiths. From Judaism to Islam; Hinduism to Sikhism; there echoes a powerful call to serve our brothers and sisters. To keep in our hearts a deep and abiding compassion for all. And to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves.
That’s the common humanity that binds us together. And as Americans, we’re united by something else, too: faith in the ideals that lie at the heart of our founding; and the belief that, as part of something bigger than ourselves, we have a shared responsibility to look out for our fellow citizens.
So this weekend, I hope we’re all able to take a moment to pause and reflect. To embrace our loved ones. To give thanks for our blessings. To rededicate ourselves to interests larger than our own.
And to all the Christian families who are celebrating the Resurrection, Michelle and I wish you a blessed and joyful Easter.
God bless you. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Remarks at an Easter Prayer Breakfast
April 5, 2013
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for being here today. And welcome to the White House, and a belated happy Easter — this time of the year when we celebrate renewal and we reflect on the faith that brings us together.
For me, the essence of my faith is tolerance: not being judgmental about people of different faiths. When I was in Rome a few weeks ago, Pope Francis spoke movingly in his homily about our commitments to each other, not just as people of faith, but, he went on to say, but as human beings.
I grew up in a tradition of Catholic social doctrine, and I was incredibly impressed by His Holiness’s homily, his sense of social justice. But I believe his message reads something essential about all faiths, and that is ultimately we all believe that we have a responsibility to one another and we all are our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers.
When it comes down to it, we all know that we’re connected by much more than divides us, although the focus is always on what divides us. As we move forward as a nation, I do believe we’re going to be judged on how we answer that call — that call of moral responsibility, to whether we stand up for those who have the least among us, whether we act on their behalf.
And one of the things that I think at least the President and I believe has been the essence of this administration is the most animating principle of the administration has been just that: to look out for the least among us. Those are the values that I know that the President — and I personally know — the President holds extremely close to his heart.
So I’d like to introduce to you now, my friend, and our President, President Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Everybody, please have a seat. Thank you.
Well, good morning, everybody.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome, once again, to the White House. It is always wonderful to see so many friends from all across the country. I want to thank you for joining us today. I want to thank everybody for their prayers, but, most importantly, I want to thank everybody for their good works through your ministries. It’s making a difference in communities all across this nation, and we could not be more proud to often have a chance to work with you.
To all the pastors in the house, I hope you’ve enjoyed some well-deserved rest after a very busy Holy Week. I see some chuckles, so maybe not. (Laughter.) Here at the White House, I’m pleased to say that we survived yet another Easter Egg Roll. (Laughter.)
Now, if you’ve been to this breakfast before, you know that I always try to avoid preaching in front of people who do it for a living. That’s sound advice. So this morning, I’m just going to leave the sermon to others and offer maybe a few remarks as we mark this — the end of this Easter season.
In these sacred days, those of us as Christians remember the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made for each of us –- how, in all His humility and His grace, He took on the sins of the world and extended the gift of salvation. And we recommit ourselves to following His example –- to loving the Lord our God with all our hearts and all our souls and with all our minds, and to loving our neighbors as ourselves.
That’s the eternal spirit of Easter. And this year, I had — I think was particularly special for me because right before Easter I had a chance to feel that spirit during my trip to the Holy Land. And I think so many of you here know there are few experiences more powerful or more humbling than visiting that sacred earth.
It brings Scripture to life. It brings us closer to Christ. It reminds us that our Savior, who suffered and died was resurrected, both fully God and also a man; a human being who lived, and walked, and felt joy and sorrow just like us.
And so for Christians to walk where He walked and see what He saw are blessed moments. And while I had been to Jerusalem before, where Jesus healed the sick, and cured the blind, and embraced the least of these, I also had a chance to go to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. And those of you who have been there know that entering the church is a remarkable experience, although it is a useful instruction to see how managing different sections of the church and different clergy — it feels familiar. (Laughter.) Let’s just put it that way. (Laughter.)
And as I approached the Altar of the Nativity, as I neared the 14-pointed Silver Star that marks the spot where Christ was born, the Patriarch of Jerusalem welcomed me to, in his words, “the place where heaven and Earth met.”
And there, I had a chance to pray and reflect on Christ’s birth, and His life, His sacrifice, His Resurrection. I thought about all the faithful pilgrims who for two thousand years have done the same thing — giving thanks for the fact that, as the book of Romans tells us, “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
I thought of the poor and the sick who seek comfort, and the marginalized and the forsaken who seek solace, and the grateful who merely seek to offer thanks for the simple blessings of this life and the awesome glory of the next. I thought of all who would travel to this place for centuries to come and the lives they might know.
And I was reminded that while our time on Earth is fleeting, He is eternal. His life, His lessons live on in our hearts and, most importantly, in our actions. When we tend to the sick, when we console those in pain, when we sacrifice for those in need, wherever and whenever we are there to give comfort and to guide and to love, then Christ is with us.
So this morning, let us pray that we’re worthy of His many blessings, that this nation is worthy of His many blessings. Let us promise to keep in our hearts, in our souls, in our minds, on this day and on every day, the life and lessons of Christ, our Lord.
And with that, I’d like to ask Father Larry Snyder to deliver our opening prayer.
Weekly Address: President Obama Offers Easter and Passover Greetings 2014
Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
April 19, 2014
Hi, everybody. For millions of Americans, this time of year holds great meaning.
Earlier this week, we hosted a Passover Seder at the White House, and joined Jewish families around the world in their retellings of the story of the Exodus and the victory of faith over oppression.
And this Sunday, Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and I will join our fellow Christians around the world in celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, the salvation he offered the world, and the hope that comes with the Easter season.
These holy days have their roots in miracles that took place long ago. And yet, they still inspire us, guide us, and strengthen us today. They remind us of our responsibilities to God and, as God’s children, our responsibilities to one another.
For me, and for countless other Christians, Holy Week and Easter are times for reflection and renewal. We remember the grace of an awesome God, who loves us so deeply that He gave us his only Son, so that we might live through Him. We recall all that Jesus endured for us – the scorn of the crowds, the agony of the cross – all so that we might be forgiven our sins and granted everlasting life. And we recommit ourselves to following His example, to love and serve one another, particularly “the least of these” among us, just as He loves every one of us.
The common thread of humanity that connects us all – not just Christians and Jews, but Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs – is our shared commitment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. To remember, I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper. Whatever your faith, believer or nonbeliever, there’s no better time to rededicate ourselves to that universal mission.
For me, Easter is a story of hope – a belief in a better day to come, just around the bend.
So to all Christians who are celebrating, from my family to yours, Happy Easter. And to every American, have a joyful weekend.
Thanks, God bless you, and may God bless this country we love.
Remarks at an Easter Prayer Breakfast
April 14, 2014
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you, thank you, thank you very much. Please, please have a seat. Thank you so much. Well, good morning, everybody.
Welcome to the White House and welcome to our annual Easter prayer breakfast. As always, we are blessed to be joined by so many good friends from around the country. We’ve got distinguished guests. We’ve got faith leaders, members of my administration who are here. And I will once again resist the temptation to preach to preachers. (Laughter.) It never works out well. I am reminded of the admonition from the Book of Romans — “Do not claim to be wiser than you are.” (Laughter.) So this morning, I want to offer some very brief reflections as we start this Easter season.
But as I was preparing my remarks, something intervened yesterday. And so I want to just devote a few words about yesterday’s tragedy in Kansas. This morning our prayers are with the people of Overland Park. And we’re still learning the details, but this much we know. A gunman opened fire at two Jewish facilities — a community center and a retirement home. Innocent people were killed. Their families were devastated. And this violence has struck the heart of the Jewish community in Kansas City.
Two of the victims — a grandfather and his teenage [grand] son — attended the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, which is led by our friend Reverend Adam Hamilton. Some of you may know that during my inauguration, Reverend Hamilton delivered the sermon at the prayer service at the National Cathedral. And I was grateful for his presence and his words. He joined us at our breakfast last year. And at the Easter service for Palm Sunday last night, he had to break this terrible news to his congregation.
That this occurred now — as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, as Christians were observing Palm Sunday –makes this tragedy all the more painful. And today, as Passover begins, we’re seeing a number of synagogues and Jewish community centers take added security precautions. Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers. No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray.
And as a government, we’re going to provide whatever assistance is needed to support the investigation. As Americans, we not only need to open our hearts to the families of the victims, we’ve got to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society. And we have to keep coming together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism that can lead to hatred and to violence, because we’re all children of God. We’re all made in His image, all worthy of his love and dignity. And we see what happens around the world when this kind of religious-based or tinged violence can rear its ugly head. It’s got no place in our society.
So this Easter Week, of course we recognize that there’s a lot of pain and a lot of sin and a lot of tragedy in this world, but we’re also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God. We’re reminded how He loves us, so deeply, that He gave his only begotten Son so that we might live through Him. And in these Holy Days, we recall all that Jesus endured for us — the scorn of the crowds and the pain of the crucifixion, in our Christian religious tradition we celebrate the glory of the Resurrection — all so that we might be forgiven of our sins and granted everlasting life.
And more than 2,000 years later, it inspires us still. We are drawn to His timeless teachings, challenged to be worthy of His sacrifice, to emulate as best we can His eternal example to love one another just as He loves us. And of course, we’re always reminded each and every day that we fall short of that example. And none of us are free from sin, but we look to His life and strive, knowing that “if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us.”
I’ll tell you, I felt this spirit when I had the great honor of meeting His Holiness, Pope Francis, recently. I think it’s fair to say that those of us of the Christian faith, regardless of our denomination, have been touched and moved by Pope Francis. Now, some of it is his words — his message of justice and inclusion, especially for the poor and the outcast. He implores us to see the inherent dignity in each human being. But it’s also his deeds, simple yet profound — hugging the homeless man, and washing the feet of somebody who normally ordinary folks would just pass by on the street. He reminds us that all of us, no matter what our station, have an obligation to live righteously, and that we all have an obligation to live humbly. Because that’s, in fact, the example that we profess to follow.
So I had a wonderful conversation with Pope Francis, mostly about the imperatives of addressing poverty and inequality. And I invited him to come to the United States, and I sincerely hope he will. When we exchanged gifts he gave me a copy of his inspiring writings, “The Joy of the Gospel.” And there is a passage that speaks to us today: “Christ’s resurrection,” he writes, “is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world.” And he adds, “Jesus did not rise in vain. May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!”
So this morning, my main message is just to say thank you to all of you, because you don’t remain on the sidelines. I want to thank you for your ministries, for your good works, for the marching you do for justice and dignity and inclusion, for the ministries that all of you attend to and have helped organize throughout your communities each and every day to feed the hungry and house the homeless and educate children who so desperately need an education. You have made a difference in so many different ways, not only here in the United States but overseas as well. And that includes a cause close to my heart, My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative that we recently launched to make sure that more boys and young men of color can overcome the odds and achieve their dreams.
And we’re joined by several faith leaders who are doing outstanding work in this area mentoring and helping young men in tough neighborhoods. We’re also joined by some of these young men who are working hard and trying to be good students and good sons and good citizens. And I want to say to each of those young men here, we’re proud of you, and we expect a lot of you. And we’re going to make sure that we’re there for you so that you then in turn will be there for the next generation of young men.
And I mention all this because of all of our many partners for My Brother’s Keeper, it’s clergy like you and your congregations that can play a special role to be that spiritual and ethical foundation, that rock that so many young men need in their lives.
So I want to thank all of you who are already involved. I invite those who are not to get more information, see if you can join in this effort as brothers and sisters in Christ who “never tire of doing good.”
In closing, I’ll just recall that old prayer that I think more than one preacher has invoked at the pulpit: “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I’ve said enough.” (Laughter.) The Almighty is nudging me. I thank you for joining us this morning of prayer. I wish you all a blessed Holy Week and Easter, and I’d like to invite my friend Joel Hunter to deliver the opening prayer. Come on up, Joel. (Applause.)
President Obama Offers His Warmest Wishes on Passover and Easter 2015
The President: Hi everybody. This is a special weekend for Americans across the country and people around the world. It’s a chance to spend time with family, to celebrate miracles from days gone by, and to reflect on the blessings God has granted us in our lives.
On Friday night, I hosted a Passover Seder at the White House. Michelle and I joined Jewish families in America, Israel, and around the world as we retold the story of an awesome God who liberated a nation with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and set them on their journey towards the Promised Land.
It’s a tale that has been passed down from generation to generation. And it’s given strength and courage to countless men and women over the years. From Jews facing anti-Semitism, to the brave young civil rights leaders who led our own country’s march towards justice and equality.
And of course, Sunday is Easter. The day of prayer and salvation of renewal, and ultimate redemption. Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and I will spend the day reflecting on the sacrifice of God’s only son who endured agony on the cross, so that we could live together with him.
And along with our fellow church goers and Christians inspired by the miracle of his resurrection, we will challenge ourselves to be better, to love more deeply, and to serve the least of these as an expression of Christ’s love here on earth.
Easter is a day of hope in a season of hope. It’s a reaffirmation of our belief not just as Christians, but as Americans that better days are always ahead of us. Whether a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, or Buddhist, whether faith in God shapes our daily lives completely or not at all, we believe that with common effort, and shared sacrifice, our brighter future is just around the bend.
And we embrace our obligation to do something meaningful, something lasting with the precious time we’ve been allotted on this earth. I hope you feel as joyful and blessed as I do this weekend and I hope that among our many blessings, we pause and give and thanks for the chance to live in a country where everyone has the right to worship and pray, and love as they choose.
“Almighty God hath created the mind free,” Thomas Jefferson once wrote. And the free expression of our minds, our ideas, our faith, and our beliefs has only made our democracy stronger in the centuries since.
So, to my Jewish friends: Happy Passover. To all Christians celebrating tomorrow: Happy Easter. And to every American: have a wonderful weekend.
Remarks at an Easter Prayer Breakfast
April 7, 2015
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the White House. Religious leaders, lay faithful, it’s an honor — it’s an honor to join you in a morning of prayer and reflection, and it’s a delight to have many of you back.
For me, reflection is what Holy Week is all about. And I never fail to get a renewed sense of hope and possibilities when I attend Mass on Easter Sunday.
I believe Pope Francis got it right in his Easter Vigil homily when he said, “We cannot live Easter without entering into mystery. To enter into mystery means the ability to wonder, to contemplate, the ability to listen to the silence and hear the tiny whisper amid the great silence by which God speaks to us.”
I think that’s who we are as Christians, and quite frankly, I think that’s who we are as Americans. We’re constantly renewed as a people and as individuals by our ability to enter into the mystery. We live our faith when we instill in our children the ability to wonder, to contemplate, and to listen to that tiny whisper amid the great silence. We live our faith when we nurture the hope and possibilities that have always defined us as a country. We live Easter — and to live Easter is to live with the constant notion that we can always do better. We can always do better.
That’s why I’m so grateful for what everyone in this room does to transform hope into possibilities, and possibilities into opportunity. And that’s why I’ve been so honored to work every single day for the last six-plus years with a man who encompasses that faith to his core. A man who knows what it is to enter into the mystery with a deep and unyielding conviction that it’s within each of our reach to make real the promise of the ongoing miracle that is the United States of America.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honor to introduce you to my friend, the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Everybody, have a seat. Thank you. Well, we give thanks for this day that the Lord has made. Good morning, everybody.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House. It is wonderful to see so many friends from all across the country. My first concern was whether you actually got something to eat. (Laughter.) Sometimes prayer breakfasts are advertised — (laughter) — and then you get there and there’s like a little muffin. (Laughter.) A couple of berries. (Laughter.) And though your soul may be nourished, you leave hungry. So I hope that is not happening here.
I want to thank everybody here for their prayers, which mean so much to me and Michelle. Particularly at a time when my daughters are starting to grow up and starting to go on college visits, I need prayer. (Laughter.) I start tearing up in the middle of the day and I can’t explain it. (Laughter.) Why am I so sad? (Laughter.) They’re leaving me.
And I want to thank everybody here for the wonderful work that you do all across the country with your remarkable ministries.
We hold this Easter Prayer Breakfast every year to take a moment from our hectic lives for some fellowship, friendship, prayer and reflection. I know pastors here have had a very busy Holy Week, and so for you to travel here and take the time to spend with us is extraordinary after what I know is difficult. I can’t say that our work during this season is comparable, but you should try dealing with thousands of people in your backyard on an Easter egg roll. (Laughter.) After that you need quiet reflection — particularly because I had some of my nephews — 6 and 4 — in my house all weekend. And you need quiet reflection after that. (Laughter.) Girls are different than boys.
This morning, we also remember a man of God who we lost this weekend, a man known and loved by many of you — the dean of American preaching, Dr. Gardner C. Taylor. Anybody who had the privilege of hearing him speak knows what power he had. He was a civil rights hero. He was a friend of Dr. King, who used his spellbinding sermons to spread the Gospel and open people’s hearts and minds. He taught and mentored countless young ministers. So as we mourn his absence today, we also take solace knowing that he leaves a living legacy and that he is in a better place.
I am no preacher. I can’t tell anything to this crowd about Easter that you don’t already know. I can offer just a couple of reflections very quickly before we begin the program.
For me, the celebration of Easter puts our earthly concerns into perspective. With humility and with awe, we give thanks to the extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Savior. We reflect on the brutal pain that He suffered, the scorn that He absorbed, the sins that He bore, this extraordinary gift of salvation that He gave to us. And we try, as best we can, to comprehend the darkness that He endured so that we might receive God’s light.
And yet, even as we grapple with the sheer enormity of Jesus’s sacrifice, on Easter we can’t lose sight of the fact that the story didn’t end on Friday. The story keeps on going. On Sunday comes the glorious Resurrection of our Savior.
“Good Friday may occupy the throne for a day,” Dr. King once preached, “but ultimately it must give way to the triumphant beat of the drums of Easter.” Drums that beat the rhythm of renewal and redemption, goodness and grace, hope and love. Easter is our affirmation that there are better days ahead — and also a reminder that it is on us, the living, to make them so.
Through God’s mercy, Peter the Apostle said, we are given “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” It’s an inheritance that calls on us to be better, to love more deeply, to serve “the least of these” as an expression of Christ’s love here on Earth.
That’s the spirit we feel in the example of His Holiness, Pope Francis, who encourages us to seek peace, to serve the marginalized, and be good stewards of God’s creation. Like millions of Americans, I’m honored that we will be welcoming him to our country later this year.
I want to quote him. He says that we should strive “to see the Lord in every excluded person who is thirsty, hungry, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith… imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper — whether in body or soul — who encounters discrimination.”
Isn’t that how Jesus lived? Isn’t that how He loved? Embracing those who were different; serving the marginalized; humbling Himself to the last. This is the example that we are called to follow — to love Him with all our hearts and mind and soul, and to love our neighbors — all of our neighbors — as ourselves. As it says in the first letter of John, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
On Easter, I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that’s a topic for another day. (Laughter and applause.)
Where there is injustice — I was about to veer off. (Laughter.) I’m pulling it back. Where there is injustice we defend the oppressed. Where there is disagreement, we treat each other with compassion and respect. Where there are differences, we find strength in our common humanity, knowing that we are all children of God.
So today, we celebrate the magnificent glory of our risen Savior. I pray that we will live up to His example. I pray that I will live up to His example. I fall short so often. Every day I try to do better. I pray that we will be strengthened by His eternal love. I pray that we will be worthy of His many blessings.
With that, I’d like to invite Reverend Dr. Amy Butler to offer our opening prayer.
March 25, 2016
Statement by the President on Easter
Michelle and I join our fellow Christians in observing Good Friday and celebrating Easter this weekend. This is a time to remember the sacrifices made for us and hold all who suffer close to our hearts. Yet it is also a time to rejoice, give thanks for the Resurrection, and unite with Christians around the world in proclaiming, “Christ has risen; He has risen indeed.” We wish all who celebrate a blessed and joyful Easter.