President Trump addressed the 68th National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, prompting moments of applause as he affirmed the sanctity of human life and touted the administration’s work in prison reform and international religious freedom.
“All of us here today affirm these timeless truths,” the president said. “Faith keeps us free. Prayer makes us strong, and God alone is the author of life and the giver of grace.”
Echoing some of his themes from Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Trump mentioned the administration’s efforts in upholding innocent human life and religious freedom, noting domestic efforts to combat anti-Semitism and discrimination against Christians, and reimplementing the Mexico City Policy, which disallows federal funding of international abortions.
“In everything we do,” Trump said, “we are creating a culture that protects freedom, and that includes religious freedom.”
Speaking of the passage of the bipartisan prison reform law known as the First Step Act, Trump said the law is “proving more and more that America is a nation that believes in redemption.” Trump credited people of faith for championing the cause “long before it was fashionable. I want to thank you.” He noted that a growing number of employers are helping ex-prisoners find work.
There were several moments of tension as well as levity—not unexpected in a bipartisan gathering on the heels of impeachment proceedings. After Trump was recognized with a customary welcome from organizers and a mostly warm reception from participants, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, seated on the opposite side of the podium from the president, was recognized before she took the podium to offer a prayer for persecuted religious groups.
Moments later as Trump addressed the gathering, he harkened back to the morning’s keynote address by conservative and Harvard professor Arthur Brooks on the challenge of loving one’s enemies.
“I apologize. I am trying to learn,” the president said during a moment of what appeared to be self-effacing humor. “It’s not easy … When they impeach you for nothing, then you’re supposed to like them? It’s not easy, folks. I do my best.”
Vice President Mike Pence, who spoke prior to Trump’s address, said: “At this National Prayer Breakfast, I’d encourage you to, in these divided times, pray for America, for all of the American people.
“For I truly believe that those ancient words that Americans have clung to in much more challenging times than we could ever imagine in our day are still true today, that if His people, who are called by His name will humble themselves and pray, He’ll do like He’s always done through the long and storied history of this nation: He’ll hear from Heaven, and He’ll heal this land, this one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
The National Prayer Breakfast began in 1953 after Billy Graham invited former President Dwight Eisenhower to join lawmakers for a morning meal “in the spirit of Jesus.” Every president since has addressed the event, organized by The Fellowship Foundation, a nonprofit that brings leaders together around faith.
Photo: Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA/Newscom