From: John Stanton [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 11:05 AM
To: Barnes, Desiree N. EOP/WHO
Subject: in town pool report 1
President Obama and Vice President Biden entered the State Dining Room at 9:45, greeted by dozens of faith leaders from across the country for Obama’s final annual prayer breakfast.
A copy of both POTUS’ and VPOTUS’ remarks will be forth coming from the press shop, but here’s some highlights.
“When ever she wants to make sure I get the message that she wants to deliver to me that morning, she tapes it on the mirror when I’m shaving. You think I’m joking. I’m not joking,” Biden said to laughter. “About a year and half ago, a little longer actually, two years ago, she taped a quote on my mirror in my home in Wilmington, and it’s still there. And it’s a quote from Kierkegaard. He said, ‘faith sees best in dark. Faith sees best in the dark.’”
Biden quickly transitioned into the recent series of terrorist attacks abroad and warned against allowing them to cause divisions in a not so subtle rebuke of GOP presidential front runner Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz. “I know there’s a lot of fear and unease around the world … all you have to do is look at the recent attacks in Belgium and Turkey and Pakistan. And while fear is understandable, exploiting that fear is absolutely unacceptable. When innocent people are ostracized simply because of their faith, when we turn our backs on the victims of evil and persecution, it’s just wrong. It’s up to us … to recognize that fear and try to allay that fear. And to help people understand that what unites us is a lot more than what divides us. And it’s embodied not just in what we believe, but in what we say.”
“We have an obligation to one another. We cannot serve ourselves at the expense of others, and we have a responsibility to future generations … open doors to the victims of war as the president has been trying to do. The war on terrorism and oppression, accepting people of all faiths and respecting their right to practice their religion as they choose — or choose not to practice any religion. Resisting our urge to allow our fears to overcome what we value most — our openness, our freedom and freedom to practice our faith.”
Following Biden’s introduction, a clearly relaxed Obama started off by noting that the prayer breakfast was not in its traditional in the round format. “We had to change up the format, because I think I’ve got 30 world leaders for dinner tomorrow in an effort to constrain the threat of nuclear materials getting in the wrong hands. So it’s a good cause. But you know, when you have folks over, I’m sure that all of you have the same experience. You’ve got to clean up, do a little vacuuming, make sure that, you know, well for those of you who have kids, make sure they didn’t do something when you weren’t looking that the guests will discover. Some vegetables they didn’t want to eat.”
Obama praised Biden, saying “who’s faith has been tested time and time again. And has, you know, been able to find God in places that a lot of time for some us is hard to see.”
Obama also noted it was “bitter sweet” to be attending his final prayer breakfast.
Praised the Alfred street Baptist church pastor Wesley, and joked he “was talkin’ ‘bout goin’ to club. I’m just sayin’. And since he’s also from Chicago, I knew the club he was talkin’ about. But it all led to a celebration of the resurrection. It started with the club, but it ended up with the resurrection,” Obama said to laughs.
“In light of recent events. This gathering takes on more meaning,” Obama said, before also taking aim — albeit unnamed — Trump and Cruz over their calls to limit refugee resettlements in the U.S. or ban Muslim immigration.
These attacks can foment fear and division. They can tempt us to cast out the stranger. Strike out against those that don’t look like us, or don’t pray exactly like we do. And they can lead us to turn our backs on those who are in most need and help and refuge. That’s the intent of the terrorists, is to weaken our faith. To weaken our best impulses, our better angels.”
“If Easter means anything, it’s that you don’t have to be afraid. We drown out darkness with light. And we heal hatred with love. We hold on to hope and we think about all that Jesus suffered.”
Obama pointed to Pope Francis’ decision to wash the feet of Muslim refugees during Holy Week. “I was struck last week by the image of Pope Francis washing the feet of refugees. Different faiths, different countries, and what a powerful reminder of our obligations, if in fact we are not afraid, if in fact we have hope and if in fact we believe there’s something that we have to give.”
POTUS closed with a joke that while this is his last prayer breakfast, “You’re not rid of me yet, even after the presidency. But I am going to take three, three or four months to sleep, and I hope y’all don’t mind that.”
Dr. Derrick Harkins, a spiritual advisor to POTUS, led the room in prayer that was laced with calls for social justice.
“In this house, the center of so much that is powerful, we remember that yours is the power of mercy and compassion. Yours is the power of loving justice and reconciliation. Indeed our world is burdened by violence, pain and sorrow. Both in far flung places, and near by city streets. but by your strength oh God, by the strength of the promise made real in life is able to overcome death, that the gloom of Friday gives way to the joy of Sunday, may we be strengthened to work to break the yoke of oppression, to satisfy the needs of the afflicted. Attune our ears so that we may hear those who have been ignored, that have been marginalized and pushed into the shadows of life. Embolden our voices so that our chorus of hope is more resonant than the rising harsh strains of discord and intolerance,” Harkins said.
The Howard Gospel Choir then took the stage. Your pool saw them perform a stunningly beautiful version of “Let Some Drops Fall On Me” before being ushered out of the room.
DC Bureau Chief