'The greatest gift'

National | Acknowledgement of God prevalent in government circles

Issue: "Attacking the future now," Feb. 22, 2003

President Bush before 3,000 government, military, business, and religious leaders at this month's 51st annual National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton: "I work the rope lines a lot, and I hear all kinds of things. But the comment I hear the most from our fellow citizens, regardless of their political party or philosophy is, 'Mr. President, I pray for you and your family, and so does my family.' It is the greatest gift you can give anybody, to pray on their behalf."

With the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, and the director of the CIA, George Tenet, seated at the head table, President Bush kept the focus on the war on terrorism and called the days ahead "a testing time for our country." House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who voted against the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, called upon God to "make us your instrument of healing, reconciliation, and peace." Mr. Tenet countered with, "God teaches us to be resolute in the face of evil, using all of the weapons and armor that the Word of God supplies."

Keynote speaker Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser, recounted her testimony about growing up in a devout Presbyterian family. She emphasized the importance of recommitment to "those values that define us" as a way to overcome terror and tragedy.

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The president returned to the theme a few days later in Nashville at the annual meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters, asking for "prayer for strength [equal to] every task we face." He suggested the tasks include breaking down racial barriers, ending government-funding discrimination against religious groups doing charitable outreach to the needy, and dealing resolutely with Iraq. The broadcasters applauded him repeatedly.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman


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