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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 11, 2004
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at New York Tenth Anniversary Prayer Breakfast
Albany, New York
9:18 A.M. EDT
MRS. BUSH: Thank you so much for asking me to be with you today, to be with you and Governor Pataki. There is no better way to begin a new day than in prayer and reflection.
Today, we celebrate the vital role of faith in our lives and in our nation. We give thanks to God for the blessings bestowed on us. We seek forgiveness for our sins and renewal for our souls.
This crowded room is evidence that although faith is a personal conviction, we are called to worship together. Thanks to Governor and Mrs. Pataki for your leadership in organizing this beautiful event. (Applause.)
I'm so happy to see Lieutenant Governor Donohue, and Mayor Jennings, and many members of the New York State Assembly, including Senator Kruger and Assemblywoman Young.
His Eminence, the Archbishop Demetrios. Thanks also to all the other leaders of the faith that are here with us today, Reverend Richardson, Reverend Butts, Rabbi Billet.
I'm so happy to see so many young people here, especially the students from the Capitol District Youth for Christ. Music is a form of prayer, and we're touched by the beautiful voices of Tameka Jones and Rob Evans, and the music of Jon Werking and Lucy McCaffrey.
Today, we gather not as people of many faiths, but as a fellowship of faithful who share a love of God and humanity. We pray to find meaning and purpose in our lives. For in prayer, we recognize that we are loved and called to love, and that we can give hope and be hopeful.
Millions of Americans seek guidance every day in prayer. I'm one of them. I also know that many Americans remember President Bush and me in their prayers, and we are grateful. I'm blessed to be married to a man who is strong enough to bear great burdens, and humble enough to ask God for help. We draw on our faith in times of joy and also in times of uncertainty. This was especially true in the days after September 11th.
On the Sunday after those attacks, the President and I attended church at Camp David. Remarkably, the psalm outlined in the lectionary for that September Sunday was Psalm 27.
It reads, "Thy face, Lord, do I seek. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Given the week's tragic events, the words carried enormous meaning -- because that's exactly what we saw.
We witnessed a handful of people commit an unbelievable atrocity, but we saw millions more commit acts of care and compassion. Because of this, I chose Psalm 27 for our first White House holiday card. This was a small way to pay tribute to the resiliency and the goodness of the American people.
As a nation, we've grown stronger since that day and also more generous. Since that day, Americans have offered many prayers. And we continue to pray for the strength of our nation. We pray for those who lost their lives on September 11th, and for those who still live with the tragedy of that day.
We pray for our military men and women who defend our lives with their own, and for their families who sacrifice so much. We pray for those who've fallen in service to our country and for their loved ones, that they may find comfort and strength. And we pray for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, that they may live in peace and freedom.
We have many reasons to pray, and every reason to believe that God listens to our prayers. Life itself is our greatest blessing. Our faith and our families are extraordinary gifts.
And we're blessed to live in a nation that upholds the freedom to worship as a God-given right. The psalm you've chosen as your theme today, "Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord," speaks to our faith in God and in each other.
For me, this psalm means that our nation is blessed because we have people of faith performing acts of faith. Those who believe in a higher power believe that we all have a higher calling.
My husband often says that government can provide resources, but it can't put hope in our hearts or a sense of purpose in our lives. In solving the problems of our day, there is no substitute for love and personal contact. As a people of faith, we know that much is required of us. And many Americans, like Julio Medina, believe that faith can make a difference in our lives and in our communities.
I invited Julio, a New Yorker, to sit with me during the President's last State of the Union Address. Julio was born and raised in the South Bronx. His mother worked long hours in a factory to send her seven children to Catholic school. His family was very close, but they struggled to get by. When he was 13, he decided to help out by selling drugs.
His efforts to help turned into years of drug abuse and crime, and more than a decade in prison. But Julio found some behind the prison walls. He earned a bachelor's degree from State University of New York and his masters from the New York Theological Seminary. He'd always believed in God, but in prison he found the strength to believe in himself.
Julio said the turning point came when his niece came to visit him. She was excited to introduce him to her boyfriend. She said Julio would like him because they were similar. Julio found out that what they had in common was drugs.
Julio was determined to erase the image that his family had of him. When he was released, he remembered the lessons he had learned and the faith he had found.
He experienced firsthand the effects of social prejudice against former prison inmates, so he started the Exodus Transitional Community to help prisoners transition into society. At Exodus, Julio helps former prisoners write resumes, find jobs, learn computer skills, and find housing. And they begin every day in prayer.
Julio said, "We give thanks for the blessings we have and we ask God to help us meet the struggles of the day."
This is the power of prayer -- and the liberating freedom of faith. Julio reminds us that when we share hope and healing with others, we make America a more hopeful place for all.
God has blessed our nation and our lives beyond measure. And today we pray that God will grant us the courage and the conviction to celebrate our faith, to serve others, and to seek comfort in prayer. This is our prayer for all Nations and for all of God's people.
Thank you all. (Applause.)