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

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora