Four living former presidents sent messages to last week's virtual National Prayer Breakfast, joining President Joe Biden in urging the country to unite against the historic crises facing the U.S. The event featured recorded prayers and messages from a bipartisan group of lawmakers and politicians. In his recorded remarks, Biden called for a confrontation of the “political extremism” that led to the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and reminded Americans that people frequently turn to faith in dark times.
The annual Washington tradition asks political combatants to set aside their differences for one morning. Former President Donald Trump broke with tradition last year when he used the breakfast to slam his political opponents and question their faith.
Biden’s message last Thursday marked his latest call to return Washington to more traditional footing after four years of Trump’s aggressive, acrimonious style.
Every president has attended the breakfast since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. The event went virtual this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some liberals have viewed the event with suspicion because of the conservative faith-based group that runs it. Norman Solomon, co-founder and national director of the progressive activist group RootsAction, warned Biden not to “reach across any aisle to bigotry.”
Still, Biden campaigned for the White House as someone who could unify Americans, and the breakfast gave the nation’s second Catholic president a chance to talk about his vision of faith as a force for good.
The following is a partial transcript of his words:
"For so many in our nation, this is a dark, dark time. So where do we turn? Faith. Kierkegaard wrote, ‘Faith sees best in the dark.' I believe that to be true. For me, in the darkest moments, faith provides hope and solace. Provides clarity and purpose as well. In this moment, we cannot be timid or tired. We have too much work to do. And it’s by our work, not just our words, that we’re gonna be judged. You know, but as tough as the times are, I believe – and matter of fact I know – that we’re gonna get through all of this. We’ll come out stronger for it. The Bible tells us, ‘weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.' We still have in front of us many difficult nights to endure, but we’ll get through them together. We need one another. We need to lean on one another. Lift one another up. And with faith, guide us through the darkness into the light."