News / USA

Obama Says Religious Faith Sustains Him Amid Challenges

President Barack Obama speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Feb 3, 2011
President Barack Obama speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Feb 3, 2011

Multimedia

Audio

In remarks at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, President Barack Obama said challenges he has faced during the past two years, including the U.S. economic recession, have strengthened his religious faith.  Mr. Obama also spoke about the national political discourse, and about the violence in Egypt.

The prayer breakfast has been attended by every sitting president since 1953 when Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House, with guests from some 130 countries along with members of Congress and celebrities.

Mr. Obama attended his first in 2009, speaking about his personal faith and religious heritage, and announcing establishment of a White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

On Thursday, the president began with words to one attendee, astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  The congresswoman is among 13 people wounded in the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, and is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head.

The president also briefly discussed the violence in Egypt.

"We are also mindful of the violence we are now seeing in the Middle East and we pray that the violence in Egypt will end and that the rights and aspirations of the Egyptian people will be realized and a better day will dawn over Egypt and throughout the world," said Obama.

In reflective, but often humorous remarks, Mr. Obama said his Christian faith has been a sustaining force, particularly as he and his wife Michelle have heard their faith being questioned from time to time.

He also referred to the economic hardships millions of Americans face, including those who have lost homes or who are without health care, saying his faith has helped him avoid being overwhelmed as he faced key decisions.

"It is my faith then, that Biblical injunction to serve the least of these, that keeps me going and that keeps me from being overwhelmed," added Obama.  "It is faith that reminds me that despite being one very imperfect man, I can still help whoever I can, however I can, wherever I can, for as long as I can and that somehow God will buttress these efforts."

While he said religious institutions play an important role in helping the poor in the United States and around the world, the president said the private sector can only do so much.  The government, he said, must play a role in a caring and just society.

Mr. Obama also returned to the theme of civility he sounded in remarks last year, and referred to what he called a "bitterly polarized" national political debate.

"Over the past two years the nature of these obligations, the proper role of government has obviously been the subject of enormous controversy," said Obama.  "The debates have been fierce as one side's version of compassion and community may be interpreted by the other side as an oppressive and irresponsible expansion of the state or an unacceptable restriction on individual freedom."

At a time when people are listening to voices in the media that tend to reinforce existing biases, Mr. Obama said it is useful to remember that "none of us has all the answers" saying the challenge is to balance uncertainty and humility with the need to fight for deeply-held convictions.

"I pray for this wisdom every day," Obama said.  "I pray that God will show me and all of us the limits of our understanding and open our ears and our hearts to brothers and sisters with different points of view.   That such reminders of our shared hopes and our shared dreams and our shared limitations as children of God will reveal a way forward that we can travel together."

Organized by the Fellowship Foundation, a Christian group, the prayer breakfast attracts protests from gay rights, atheist and other groups against the involvement of the nation's top political figure in the event.

Last year, protesters demonstrated outside the event alleging the Fellowship Foundation supported a law in Uganda that criminalized homosexuality.  President Obama denounced the Ugandan law as "odious", and the White House recently issued a statement condemning the killing of Ugandan gay activist David Kato.  

In remarks to the prayer breakfast, Mark Kelly said his wife Gabrielle Giffords is improving by the day, saying he hopes that the tragic shootings in Tucson help contribute to a greater good and that Americans will "work better together."

Related report by VOA's Ravi Khanna

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs