Obama praises bipartisan spirit of prayer breakfast bonding


President Barack Obama praised the bipartisan spirit of the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual fixture on the Washington political calendar for the past 61 years, but lamented the fleeting nature of the bonding.

Mr Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and vice-president Joe Biden, along with more than 3,000 other guests attended the event hosted by senators Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, and Mark Pryor, a Democrat from Arkansas, which brings members and supporters of both parties together in prayer.

It was Mr Obama’s fifth prayer breakfast, where the presidents talk about the role faith plays in their lives and jobs. Mr Obama said he sometimes searches the Bible for “words to console in inconsolable” situations and to determine “how best to balance life as a president and as a husband and as a father”. The breakfast was “always just a wonderful event” but he regretted that the annual bipartisanship bonding did not last long.

“I do worry sometimes that as soon as we leave the prayer breakfast, everything we’ve been talking about the whole time at the prayer breakfast seems to be forgotten, on the same day of the prayer breakfast,” he said to laughter. “I mean, you’d like to think that the shelf life wasn’t so short. But I go back to the Oval Office and I start watching the cable networks, and it’s like we didn’t pray. And so my hope is that humility – that that carries over every day, every moment.”

The president is attempting to pass legislation on emotive political issues such as gun control and immigration reform and to change fiscal policy to address the country’s mounting debts.

Bipartisan bickering

The White House has locked horns with Republicans over the past year in bitter bipartisan bickering over tax increases and changes to immigration law in a politically divided Congress where the Democrats control the Senate and Republicans are in the majority in the House of Representatives. He paid tribute to Joshua DuBois, who is stepping down as head of the Office of Faith-based and Neighbourhood Partnerships. Mr DuBois had emailed “a snippet of scripture” to him every morning, said Mr Obama.

The event was attended by political and public figures including singer Andrea Bocelli, whose impromptu speech celebrating the left and the right coming together drew warm applause.