(Photo: AP Images /Ron Edmonds)
WASHINGTON – God appeared during Tuesday’s inauguration – that is in the prayers lifted up by the selected pastors and in President Barack Obama’s speech.
“On this day we have gathered because we have chosen hope over fear; unity and purpose over conflict and discord,” Obama, the 44th president, said in his inaugural address in front of an estimated 2 million people jam packed on the National Mall. He credited America’s pursuit of equality to God and asked for His grace as the United States of America strives to overcome mountain-high problems.
“The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit, to choose our better history to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea passed on from generation to generation, the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness,” he said to a roar of cheers.
True to his reputation as an inspiring leader, Obama delivered a speech acknowledging the reality of the enormous challenges that lay ahead of the nation, while at the same time reminding Americans that they are no less productive or inventive or capable than before during prosperous times.
“Starting from today we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America,” the new president declared.
He also extended a hand of friendship to the people and nations of the world declaring that America “is ready to lead once more.”
America is strong because of its “patchwork heritage,” Obama stated.
“We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers,” he said. “We are shaped by every language and culture drawn from every end of this earth and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass.”
“In this winter of our hardship … let it be said of our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter," Obama urged in the final words of his inaugural speech, "and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us we carried forward that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”
As part of the new president’s message of unity despite differences, conservative evangelical the Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in southern California was selected to deliver the invocation.
Warren called out to the “Almighty God” to give President Obama the “wisdom to lead with humility,” the “courage to lead with integrity” and the compassion “to lead us with generosity.”
Dubbed by some as “America’s pastor,” Warren pleaded for God in a clearly Christian prayer to forgive Americans when they only think about themselves, fight among themselves and forget about God.
“As we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, civility in our attitudes, even when we differ,” Warren prayed.
“And may we never forget that one day all nations, all people will stand accountable before you,” he said before committing in prayer the new President and his family to the protection of the Lord.
Warren ended the prayer in the name of Jesus and also stating the Lord’s Prayer.
Similarly, the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered a powerful and distinctively Christian benediction to close the inauguration.
“We pray now, O Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant, Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States…. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the nation … but God we know, you’ve got the whole world in your hands,” Lowery prayed.
The civil rights icon prayed to God to forgive America for its greed and corruption and help it “make choices on the side of love, not hate.”
“We know you will not leave us alone with your hands of power and your heart of love,” he prayed.
He ended with a poetic yet poignant vision of racial equality that left the crowd saying amen.
"We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen."
The crowd shouted, "Amen!"