[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book I)]
[February 4, 1993]
[Pages 42-43]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast
February 4, 1993

    Thank you very much. Congressman Emerson and distinguished guests at 
the head table; to my friend Reverend Billy Graham and Ruth; and to all 
those who have given such moving presentations. This has been a 
wonderful morning, I think, for all of us.
    When I heard Wentley Phipps recounting our first, rather awkward 
meeting, I thought that I would admit to being Governor of Alabama just 
to hear him sing. [Laughter]
    My mind has been full of memories this morning. I helped to start 
the first Governor's prayer breakfast in my State; it became a very 
important part of our life there. And every year I had the pleasure of 
delegating two Arkansans, one a clergyman or -woman and one a citizen, 
to come to this wonderful event.
    I thought about the first time I ever saw Billy Graham--appropriate 
to mention now. He came in the 1950's, in the heat of all our racial 
trouble, to Arkansas to have a crusade. And the white citizens council 
tried to get him, because of the tensions of the moment, to agree to 
segregate his crusade in the fifties in the South. And he said, ``If I 
have to do that, I'm not coming.'' And I remember I got a Sunday school 
teacher in my church--and I was about 11 years old--to take me 50 miles 
to Little Rock so I could hear a man preach who was trying to live by 
what he said. And then I remember, for a good while thereafter, trying 
to send a little bit of my allowance to the Billy Graham crusade because 
of the impression he made on me then.
    I am honored that all of you are here not for a political purpose. 
We come here to seek the help and guidance of our Lord, putting aside 
our differences, as men and women who freely acknowledge that we don't 
have all the answers. And we come here seeking to restore and renew and 
strengthen our faith.
    In this town, as much as any place on the face of the Earth, we need 
that. We need faith as a source of strength. ``The assurance of things

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hoped for, the conviction of things unseen,'' the Scripture says. What 
it means to me is that here, if we have enough faith, in spite of all 
the pressures to the contrary, we can define ourselves from the inside 
out, in a town where everybody tries to define you from the outside in.
    We need our faith as a source of hope because it teaches us that 
each of us is capable of redemption and, therefore, that progress is 
possible--not perfection, for all the reasons Reverend Graham said, but 
progress. We need our faith as a source of challenge because if we read 
the Scriptures carefully, it teaches us that all of us must try to live 
by what we believe or, in more conventional terms, to live out the 
admonition of President Kennedy that here on Earth God's work must truly 
be our own.
    But perhaps most important of all for me, we need our faith, each of 
us, President, Vice President, Senator, Congressman, General, Justice, 
as a source of humility, to remember that, as Bishop Sheen said, we are 
all sinners. St. Paul once said in an incredibly moving Scripture in the 
Bible, ``The very thing which I would not do, that I do, and that which 
I would, that I do not.'' And even more, not only because we do wrong 
but because we don't always know what is right.
    In funerals and weddings and other important ceremonies, you often 
hear that wonderful verse from Corinthians cited: ``Now abideth faith, 
hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.'' But the important 
thing is often left out, which is the verse above. Why is the greatest 
of these love? Because ``now I see through a glass, darkly . . . now I 
know only in part.'' None of us know all that we need to know to do what 
we need to do.
    I have always been touched by the living example of Jesus Christ and 
moved particularly by all the religious leaders of His day who were 
suspicious of Him and always trying to trap Him because He was so at 
ease with the hurting and the hungry and the lonely and, yes, the 
sinners. And in one of those marvelous attempts to trick Christ, He was 
asked, ``What is the greatest Commandment?'' And He answered, quoting 
Moses, ``You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with 
all your soul and with all your mind.'' And then He added, as we should 
add, ``This is the great and foremost Commandment. And the second is 
like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.''
    Just 2 weeks and a day ago, I took the oath of office as President. 
You know the last four words, for those who choose to say it in this 
way, are ``so help me God.'' And the Chief Justice was giving me the 
oath, and I was trying to remember the words. And I said, you know, when 
I get to the end I'm going to think of the ringing voice of Washington 
and Jefferson and Lincoln and the Roosevelts and Kennedy and all the 
other great Presidents through the ages, and I will say ``so help me 
God'' with all the strength at my command. And I did. But deep down 
inside I wanted to say it the way I was thinking it, which was, ``So, 
help me, God.'' [Laughter]
    So today my prayer for you as we begin this great new adventure, and 
I pray that your prayer for me, will be that God will help us to have 
the strength to define ourselves from the inside out, not the outside 
in, to have the hope that it takes never to give up and the 
determination it takes always to make progress in an imperfect world and 
the humility to walk by faith and not by sight.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:30 a.m. at the Washington Hilton.