President Obama Keynote Speaker at Annual Hispanic Prayer Breakfast
By Ed Laiscell – Washington Informer, 25 June 2009
In a 12-minute speech, President Barack Obama delivered a policy-laden message to more than 500 attendees at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast at the Marriott Hotel in Northwest on Fri., June 19. The breakfast was sponsored by Esperanza, the largest Hispanic faith-based evangelical network in the United States.
This was the seventh year of the event, which brings together more than 750 Hispanic spiritual and community leaders from across the nation. It also invites leaders from other faith-based organizations, major businesses, and community groups to interact and discuss issues that have a direct impact on their communities.
At the start of his message, Obama talked of the legacy of the founders of America that allow and protect the “freedom of all religion, and those who practice no religion at all.”
“So as we join in prayer, we remember that this is a nation of Christians and Muslims and Jews and Hindus and non-believers,” Obama said. “It is this freedom that allows faith to flourish within our borders. It is this freedom that makes our nation stronger.”
In his speech, Obama mentioned his Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotamayor’s rise from the public housing projects of New York to be nominated for the highest court in the land.
“I am confident that it’s a story that will someday be told by the first Hispanic President of the United States of America,” Obama said to applause.
The 44th President also touched on education, healthcare, the economy, and immigration.
“We’ve come together on behalf of the future that we want to build,” he said, “one where all of our children go to the best schools, all our people can go to work and make a living, all our families can afford healthcare; and prosperity is extended to everybody. Together, we must build a future where the promise of America is kept for a new generation.
“We also know that keeping this promise means upholding America’s tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. Those things aren’t contradictory; they’re complementary. That’s why I’m committed to passing comprehensive immigration reform as President of the United States,” he added.
Obama also encouraged the attendees to rise and give a standing ovation to the wounded Hispanic veterans in attendance.
“These troops have dedicated their lives to serving their fellow Americans,” Obama said, “Their example – like those of all our men and women in uniform – should challenge us to ask what we can do to better serve our communities and our country, because the greatest responsibility that we have as citizens is to one another.”
The President closed his remarks reminding the clergy and those in attendance “scripture tells us that the word is very near. It is in your mouth and heart so you may obey it. Today, let us pray for the strength to find the word in our hearts, and for the vision to see the America that we can build together as one nation, and as one people.”
Rev. Roland Forbes, an African American pastor from Lancaster, Pa. said he was glad he attended the three-day Esperanza event.
“I think it was fantastic. The information, inspiration, and fellowship were fantastic,” Forbes said. “Just to be able to bring all the people together – Hispanic, African American, and the majority community to speak of issues, to pray together, and seek a common ground, common purpose, and a common solution; I think we are off to a very good start.”
Capt. Emillio Marrero, Jr., the Hispanic Navy Chaplain who closed the conference with prayer, said President Obama’s message was “very well done.”
“He highlighted the fact that we live in a very diverse community. It is not just Christian, but it’s Christian, Muslim, even non-believers. But what is important [is] that we learn to communicate with one another, learn to dialogue with one another, and learn to coexist with one another in a very proactive, positive way and I think he did a very good job of doing that.”
Other speakers at the event included former Congressman Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, now president of PhRMA, a pharmaceutical company; Congressman Eric Cantor (R-Va.); Governor Ed Rendell (D-Pa.), who received the Esperanza Leadership Award; and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.