Obama Cites Faith as Aid in Healing Political Divisions

President Barack Obama told the audience at the National Prayer Breakfast that the two men whose Bibles he used at his recent inauguration are examples of the use of faith and humility in healing political divisions.

Obama said that both President Abraham Lincoln and the Reverend Martin Luther King -- who he said faced hate, anger, and injustice in a divided nation -- turned to prayer and humility.

“We come together because we’re people of faith. Faith is not a possession, it is a process,” Obama said today at the event in Washington. “He rewards those who diligently seek Him.”

Amid the rancorous debates over guns, immigration, spending and taxes, the lives of the 16th U.S. president and the civil rights leader offer lessons to current-day leaders, Obama said. The divisions in the U.S. today aren’t as “deep and destructive” as the civil war faced by Lincoln, he said, “but they are real.”

“In the midst of all these debates we must keep that humility” nurtured by Lincoln and King, he said. “Those with the most power and influence need to be the most humble.”

Obama, 51, said that today’s gathering was his fifth prayer breakfast, and that while the theme of unity prevails at the event, “as soon as we leave it seems to be forgotten,” he said. “We’d like to think the shelf life isn’t so short.”

“My hope is that humility carries over every day,” he said.

Obama was joined at the breakfast by First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. The event brings together the president, members of Congress, diplomats and hundreds of religious, business and military figures each year on the first Thursday of February.

It has been attended by every president since Dwight Eisenhower in 1953, according the Fellowship Foundation, the Arlington, Virginia-based group that sponsors the breakfast. About 3,000 people were present today, organizers said.

“It’s a surprise for some people after they see us go back and forth in debate” and then come together as one at a prayer event, said U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican and a member of the House Prayer Group.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roger Runningen in Washington at rrunningen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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