Biden promotes civility at National Prayer Breakfast

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during the 70th National Prayer Breakfast at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC on February 3, 2022. |

President Joe Biden underscored the need to improve political civility in the United States during his remarks at the 70th Annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

Held Thursday morning at the National Capitol Visitor Center — a smaller venue with a smaller crowd than in previous years due to the pandemic — Biden was among those who spoke.

After talking about his late son, Beau, whose birthday fell on the same day as breakfast, Biden explained that he thought the US Senate was more civil years ago.

“There are a lot of good friends, on both sides of the aisle, who disagreed on many, many things, who still talked and listened to each other,” the president recounted.

“One of the things that I don’t know for sure, but I think Congress lacks [is that] they don’t spend as much time together as before.

Biden recalled how, when he was in the Senate, members of different parties would regularly have lunch together at a local restaurant and learn of each other’s personal pains.

He remembered forming friendships with people and having good interactions with people like U.S. Senator John Stennis of Mississippi, who avidly supported racial segregation.

Biden believed that “no matter how much you disagree” with a political opponent, “when you know each other”, then “it’s hard not to like the person”.

“We still had a lot of old die-hard segregationists in our caucus,” Biden said, recalling that “Teddy Kennedy would argue like hell” with a segregationist and then they would “have lunch.”

“The issue for us is unity. How do we unite again? Unity is elusive, but it is really necessary. Unity does not mean that we have to agree on everything. But the unity is where enough of us believe in a core of fundamental things.

Biden went on to remark that he believes “faith can bring us together” because it recognizes the value of each and that “if a house divided cannot stand, surely a house united can do anything.”

“With history and God watching, we will have to prove that there is nothing beyond the capability of the United States when we are united,” Biden said.

Other speakers at the event included Bryan Stevenson, bestselling author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemptionmembers of Congress and Vice President Kamala Harris.

During her brief remarks, Harris spoke about the trauma people have gone through because of the pandemic, explaining that “we’ve all lost our sense of normalcy.”

“Our faith has indeed been tested,” Harris said. “But it’s that same faith – our faith in God, our faith in humanity and our faith in what’s possible – it’s that same faith that I know has carried us through.”

Last year, as part of his first national prayer breakfast as president, Biden spoke about the dangers of political extremism, focusing on the Jan. 6 protests on Capitol Hill the previous month.

“We know now that we must confront and defeat political extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism,” Biden told a virtual audience, as the in-person event was canceled due to the pandemic.

“We need each other. We must lean on each other, lift each other up and with faith guide us through the darkness into the light.”

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