President Obama makes religious freedom pitch in Prayer Breakfast remarks
Earlier at the breakfast, Rajiv Shah, a physician and the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, drew on Jesus’ injunction to “Go, and do thou likewise” — from the parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke Chapter 10 — for his remarks.
Recalling his experiences visiting “the world’s largest refugee camp” housing Somalis fleeing civil war in their homeland, Shah asked, “how do we, today, ‘go and do likewise?’ We have to put the power of business and science into the hands of those who live their faith and serve this common purpose.”
Of the refugees, he said, “Children were receiving great new vaccines that wouldn’t have been available to poor kids a few years ago. In just the last decade, we’ve built partnerships with vaccine manufacturers, immunized 440 million kids and saved 6 million lives. Similar efforts have cut the rate of children dying from malaria in half. And we’re close to eliminating the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mothers to their children.”
Such anodyne comments were in contrast to 2013’s guest address by Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, who critiqued the Affordable Care Act as well as the U.S. income tax and educational systems. A year earlier, author Eric Metaxas raised the issue of abortion in his National Prayer Breakfast address.
Instead, Shah reflected on the life of Antoinette Tomasek, known as Toni, who perished in Haiti in a 2013 car crash while serving as a USAID worker there.
“She had been on the road that day in order to ensure the clinic was fully stocked with the right medicines to save kids’ lives,” Shah recalled. “She loved those kids like her own. Toni’s life had a calling and a purpose. Can we adopt her spirit of commitment? Can we love all children like our own? And can we — in whatever sphere we live — embrace our faith, summon the courage, and go and do likewise?”
The breakfast is not the only prayer-related event scheduled for the day. On Thursday evening, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was scheduled to address a dinner held by the Prayer Breakfast organizers in which he was expected to present "a nondenominational talk about his faith, his family and his relationship with Jesus Christ," an aide said in an email.
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