Senator Carlson, Mr. Vice President, our beloved Speaker of the House, Members of the Congress, Members of the Cabinet, distinguished Governors, reverend clergy, my very dear friends:
Once again we come together to affirm our faith in a Divine Being.
We--the heirs and trustees of a great civilization, richer and more powerful by far than any that has gone before us, cherishing freedom and the majesty of the human spirit--ask God's mercy and blessing on us now, and in all that we shall do in the years ahead.
We all know that great civilizations have risen before us, and then have crumbled into dust. We all know that rich and powerful peoples have passed into the night of history, driven by pride and vain pretensions. We know that the defense of freedom and the nourishment of the human spirit have ever been very costly enterprises. We know that at the hour of decision in public and private life, faced with the tormenting choices that are always a part of man's destiny, none of us can ever be certain that we are right.
We know, as Abraham Lincoln said in the midst of war, that "the Almighty has his own purposes"; but that men must be firm in the right, as God gives them to see the right. How we shall be judged, we may never know. Yet we believe, as a great theologian wrote, that the whole drama of human history is under the scrutiny of a divine judge who laughs at human pretensions, without being hostile to human aspirations.
That is the mercy of God--that, and the spirit that moves men to compassion and courage, that calls forth the best within them in the darkest hours.
I shall close, this morning, with a prayer that I heard in northern Australia in the town of Townsville on a Sunday morning during my trip to Asia and the Pacific last fall. And because I was then going to a council of nations meeting in Manila, and on to visit our brave and selfless men in Vietnam, to deal with the gravest questions of war and peace, this prayer had a very special and a very profound significance to me. Since I have returned home, it has not lost its power to speak to me, and to speak for me.
"O God, Who has bound us together in this bundle of life, give us grace to understand how our lives depend upon the courage, the industry, the honesty, and the integrity of our fellow men, that we may be mindful of their needs, grateful for their faithfulness, and faithful in our responsibilities to them, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
[The President spoke first to the gentlemen in the hotel's Regency Room and then to the ladies in the Blue Room.]
Ladies of the Presidential Prayer Breakfast:
A few moments ago, in my remarks to the gentlemen, I spoke of the opportunities and the obligations that God has given to all of us as American citizens.
I reminded them then, as I remind you now, of the responsibilities that accompany God's mercy and God's generosity. Courage is one of those responsibilities. Compassion is another of those responsibilities.
These need always be present in our hearts. And they must burn brightest during our darkest hours.
Our Government has great power and influence. Yet we all finally depend upon the will and the energy of our individual citizens.
So, if our neighborhoods are to be rebuilt, if our schools are to be renewed, if our people are to be healthy and responsible citizens-the achievement will not be just the work of men here in the Federal Government in Washington, but it will be the work of thousands of citizens, men and women, in private life, throughout the 50 States.
We gather here this morning for prayer-as citizens of "one nation, under God, indivisible."
But guaranteeing that our Nation will be one, and will deserve the favor of providence, will take much more than prayers and pledges: It will require action.
I have come here to ask for your prayers and to plead for your action.
For I remember the old rhyme that I learned at my mother's knees: "In back of every noble enterprise, The shadow of a noble woman lies."