Bill Clinton photo

Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast

February 05, 1998

Thank you very much. Thank you very much to my good friend and sometimes golfing partner, Senator Akaka, to all the Members of Congress here, Reverend Graham, other head table guests, ladies and gentlemen, especially to the organizers of this wonderful event.

For 5 years now, Hillary and I have looked forward to this day. For me it's a day in which I can be with other people of faith and pray and ask for your prayers, both as President and as just another child of God. I have done it for 5 years, and I do so again today.

At each of these breakfasts, from our shared experiences and our prayers, God's grace always seems to come, bringing strength and wisdom and peace. Today I come more than anything else to say thank you. First, thank you, Connie Mack, for your wonderful message and the power of your example. I also thank all of you here for many things in the last 5 years and ask your help in helping us to work together to make our Nation better and the work that God has sent me to do and you to do.

I thank you for helping me to strike blows for religious liberty—with the work so many of you in this room have done to help us to protect the rights of Federal employees to follow their faith at work—our students in school. In particular, I want to thank Reverend Don Argue, the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Rabbi Arthur Schneier and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Newark, Theodore McCarrick, who next week will go to China to look into religious practices there and to begin a dialog there in the hopes that a part of our relationship with China will be about our concern for the kind of religious liberty we have practiced here this morning.

I thank so many of you in the community of faith who have worked with the Government in partnership to help move poor families from welfare to work, to honor the scripture that our friend Dorothy Height read today. And I ask more of you to join in. I thank those of you who have been responsible for working with me—and I see Senator Grassley out there and Harris Wofford is here—to bring communities of faith into the circle of national service.

We now have 5,000 young Americans working with religious organizations earning the AmeriCorps scholarship to go to college with after they serve with their community of faith wherever they live in America. And the Congress has provided for many more positions, and I ask you to help us to enlist more young Americans to give meaning to their lives, to live out their faith, and to help make our country a better place.

I thank you for the prayers, the letters, the scriptural instruction that I have gotten from so many of you and many others around this country in recent weeks and, indeed, in the last 5 years. And I ask that they continue.

Finally, I couldn't help thinking when Connie Mack was talking that what we all need very much is to take what we feel when we're here every year and keep it close with us when we leave here every year, day-in and day-out, weekin and week-out, in good times and bad. And I ask for your help in that.

We have a difficult decision that we are facing now, as a country and our administration, because of the concern all Americans have that we not expose our children, if we can help it, to the dangers of chemical and biological warfare. And last night I came across a scripture verse that a friend of mine sent me in the last 72 hours that I had not had the chance to read, a prayer of King Solomon that I ask you to keep in mind as we face this decision. Solomon said in 1 Kings, "I am only a little child, and I do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong, for who is able to govern this great people of yours."

I also ask for your prayers as we work together to continue to take our country to higher ground and to remember the admonition of Micah, which I try to repeat to myself on a very regular basis. I ask your prayers that I, and we, might act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:11 a.m. in the International Ballroom at the Washington Hilton Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to evangelist Rev. Billy Graham; Senator Connie Mack; Rev. Don Argue, president, National Association of Evangelicals; Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president, Appeal of Conscience Foundation; and Dorothy Height, chairman of the board, National Council of Negro Women.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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