11:23 A.M. EDT
THE FIRST LADY: Good morning. Welcome to the White House. Please bow your heads for a prayer.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord makes his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, honey. Thank you. (Applause.) Please. Thank you very much. And thank you, Melania, for the great job you do as First Lady. People love you. No matter where I go, they love you. (Applause.)
On this National Day of Prayer, the First Lady and I are absolutely delighted to welcome all of you to the White House. A very special occasion for us; I know it is for you, too. The White House is a very, very special place.
I’d like to begin by sending our prayers to the people of Venezuela in their righteous struggle for freedom. (Applause.) The brutal repression of the Venezuelan people must end and it must end soon. People are starving. They have no food. They have no water. And this was once one of the wealthiest countries in the world. So we wish them well. We’ll be there to help, and we are there to help. Thank you.
Very importantly, this morning, we’re grateful to be joined by our representatives — and great representatives they are. And I want to start with somebody who’s very special to the success of our administration. We’re doing things that haven’t been done in a long time, including an economy that may be the best ever. (Applause.) And he’s been a big, big help. You’ll never guess who that is: Mike Pence, Vice President. (Applause.)
And also a wonderful lady and a real friend of the Trump family, and a tremendous wife, I can say that: Karen Pence. (Applause.) Thank you, Karen.
We’re also glad to have with us Secretary Sonny Perdue. Sonny. Where is Sonny? Stand up, Sonny. Agriculture. (Applause.)
Secretary of Housing, Ben Carson. Great job, Ben. Great job. (Applause.)
Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan and Ambassador Sam Brownback. Thank you both very much. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you very much.
Oh, I’m looking at that beautiful red hair. Will you please stand up? (Laughter.) What a — what a — huh? What a voice. What a voice. Huh? You’re so great. You better — you better come up here. (Laughter.) Great to have you.
Thanks also to the many faith leaders from across the country with us today. Special, special people. And one of the things I’m most proud of is the Johnson Amendment. You can now speak your mind and speak it freely. (Applause.) I said I was going to do that. I told Paula White, who I want to thank so much for everything she’s done. Paula. (Applause.)
That was one of the things I said: They took away your voice, politically. And these are the people I want to listen to, politically, but you weren’t allowed to speak. They would lose their tax-exempt status. That’s not happening anymore. So we got rid of the Johnson Amendment. That’s a big thing. (Applause.)
And also, I want to very much thank somebody who has done a fantastic job: President of the National Day of Prayer, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, and along with Reverend Rivera. Thank you, Ronnie. Great job. I saw you this morning. (Applause.) Thank you very much.
Father Trullols. Where are you, Father? Father. Stand up please, Father. (Applause.) Thank you very much, Father.
Mrs. Bachu. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Chaplain Agbere. Great having dinner with you last night. Great, Chaplain. (Applause.) Thank you very much.
Rabbi Cohen. (Applause.) Thank you, Rabbi. Great being with you.
And the Prestonwood Baptist Church Choir. Wow. (Applause.) Great job.
On this special day, we join communities and congregations across our country in continuing a great tradition that helped build our nation. And we have built it, now, stronger than ever before. They’re starting to find out.
In March of 1776, as the Founders prepared to draft the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress asked everyone to join in a day of prayer and fasting for the “Cause of Freedom.” They go hand in hand. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.
Today, we give thanks for this magnificent country. And we proudly come together as one nation under God. (Applause.) And one of the things that Mike and I were discussing just a little while ago: People are so proud to be using that beautiful word, “God.” And they’re using the word “God” again. And they’re not hiding from it. And they’re not being told to take it down. And they’re not saying, “We can’t honor God.”
“In God we trust.” So important.
A little thing on the campaign, but it wasn’t such a little thing to me: When I first started four years ago — haven’t been doing this so long; we did a good job — but when I first started campaigning, people were not allowed or, in some cases, foolishly ashamed to be using on stores “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Christmas.” They’d say “Happy Holidays.” They’d have red walls and you’d never see “Christmas.” That was four years ago. Take a look at your stores nowadays. It’s all “Merry Christmas” again. (Applause.) “Merry Christmas” again. They’re proud of it.
I always said, “You’re going to be saying, “Merry Christmas” again. And that’s what’s happened.
As we unite on this day of prayer, we renew our resolve to protect communities of faith and to ensure that all people, and all of our people, can live and pray and worship in peace. (Applause.)
In recent months — it’s been pretty tough — we’ve seen evil and hate-filled attacks on religious communities in the United States and all around the world. One month ago, three historically black churches were burned, tragically, in Louisiana.
In Sri Lanka and New Zealand, hundreds of Christians and Muslims were brutally murdered at their places of worship. In October, an anti-Semitic killer attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. That was a horrible event. The First Lady and I went. To see that was not even believable.
And last week, a gunman opened fire at a Synagogue in Poway, California, while Jewish families celebrated the last day of Passover. We mourn for the loss of one extraordinary member of that congregation, Lori Gilbert-Kay, who stood in front of the shooter and gave her life to protect her rabbi. An incredible man and an incredible person.
This morning, we are privileged to be in the presence of heroes who raced after the murderer and helped disrupt the attack at the Poway Synagogue: Army Veteran Oscar Stewart and Border Patrol Agent Jonathan Morales. Please stand. (Applause.) Please stand. Come.
MR. STEWART: Oh, this is incredible. I just want to say everything that the President has said, I echo. We need to be strong as a good of people that love God, whether you call him Muhammad, whether you call him Shiva, whether you call him Yahweh, HaShem, whatever. We need to be strong because that’s the only way we’re going to defeat evil.
And just — and do not be afraid to be who you are. Be proud and lift yourself up. That’s all I have to say.
THE PRESIDENT: Beautiful. That’s beautiful.
MR. STEWART: Thank you, President. I appreciate it.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s beautiful. Please.
MR. MORALES: Good morning, all. I’m a Border Patrol Agent assigned to the El Centro Station — the El Centro sector in California.
And like President Trump said, we were celebrating our last day of Passover. It was supposed to be a joyous, festive event, and we were attacked with our backs turned. But, you know, brave people stood up and confronted this person, and we ended the situation the best we could, with the resources we had.
And like I said, I’d like to use a quote from (inaudible) Rebbe. He said, “In order to fight these random acts of violence, we must continue to do random acts of kindness.” And all of us keep doing mitzvah and good deeds, and we will overcome this evilness. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Incredible job both of you have done. Your bravery is an inspiration to us all.
We’re also profoundly honored to be joined by somebody that I’ve gotten to know a little bit by telephone. I had a — what was going to be about a one-minute conversation just to express my sorrow and gratitude and everything else you could express, and it ended up being about 25 minutes. And it was a very warm — he’s a very warm, incredible man: Yisrowel Goldstein –Rabbi.
And I’ll tell you, it wasn’t in the schedule, but, Rabbi, I’d love to bring you up because there was nobody that expressed the horror and the beauty of what you represent better than you did. And I very appreciate it, Rabbi. I know you’re here with your son and your brother. I very much appreciate it. Please come up and say a few words. (Applause.)
RABBI GOLDSTEIN: Just five days ago, Saturday morning, I faced evil and the worst darkness of all time, right in our own house of worship, right at Chabad of Poway. I faced him and I had to make a decision: Do I run and hide? Or do I stand tall and fight, and protect all those that are there? We cannot control what others do, but we can control how we react.
My dear Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, taught me the way we react to darkness is with light. It was that moment that I made a decision: No matter what happens to me, I’m going to save as many people as possible. I should’ve been dead by now, based on the rule of statistics. I was in the line of fire, bullets flying all the way. My fingers got blown off, but I did not stop. The Rebbe taught me, as a Jew, you are a soldier of God, you need to stand tall and stand fast, and do whatever it takes to change the world.
My life has changed forever, but it changed so I could make change and I could help others learn how to be strong, how to be mighty and tall. Many have asked me, “Rabbi, where do we go from here? How do we prevent this?” And my response is what my Rebbe told me when President Ronald Reagan was shot. The Rebbe said, “We need to go back to the basics and introduce a moment of silence in all public schools” — (applause) — “so that children, from early childhood on, could recognize that there’s more good to the world, that they are valuable, that there is accountability, and every human being is created in God’s image.”
If something good could come out of this terrible, terrible, horrific event, let us bring back a moment of silence to our public school system.
I also want to thank the United States of America. I’d like to thank our dear, honorable Mr. President for being, as they say in Yiddish, a “mensch par excellence.” (Applause.) Mr. President, when you called me, I was at home weeping. You were the first person who began my healing. You heal people in their worst of times, and I’m so grateful for that. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: So beautiful. That’s so beautiful. Thank you. (Applause.)
RABBI GOLDSTEIN: You have helped me bring great honor to Mrs. Lori Kaye, a blessed memory, a 60-year-old dear friend of our congregation. I’ve known her for 25 years. A staunch volunteer. She worked for the Friendship Circle, an organization that helps children with special needs. This year, on June 2nd, we’re doing a march in her memory to show that nothing is going to stop us. We’re going to march with victory, and you helped us bring Lori Kaye great honor.
And God bless you, and God bless America. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Rabbi. Beautiful. Thank you very much.
Such beautiful words. A great man. And he said this is my greatest moment in life, to go from darkness to the White House. (Laughter.) Right? That’s great. Beautiful. Thank you very much, Rabbi. Appreciate it. Anything we can do. You know that. (Applause.)
And truly, your courage and your grace and devotion touches every heart and soul in America. We’re blessed by having you and your family here with us today. Thank you, Rabbi. And please give our regards to everybody. That was a tough, tough period of time.
We will fight with all of our strength and everything that we have in our bodies to defeat anti-Semitism, to end the attacks on the Jewish people, and to conquer all forms of persecution, intolerance, and hate. (Applause.) You know that. You know that, Rabbi.
Every citizen has the absolute right to live according to the teachings of their faith and the convictions of their heart. This is the bedrock of American life.
To protect this heritage, my administration has strongly defended religious liberty — two words you haven’t heard too much about for a long period of time. But now you’re hearing it all the time: religious liberty. (Applause.)
Earlier this week, I took action to ensure that federal employees can take paid time off to observe religious holy days.
And just today, we finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students, and faith-based charities. (Applause.) They’ve been wanting to do that for a long time. Right, Mike? They’ve been wanting to do that for a long time. It happened today.
Together, we are building a culture that cherishes the dignity and worth of human life. Every child, born and unborn, is a sacred gift from God. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you very much.
In addition, I am committing to you today that my administration will preserve the central role of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to care for vulnerable children, while following their deeply held beliefs. (Applause.) And those are words you probably never thought you’d ever hear.
To give former inmates a second chance at life, we passed criminal justice reform. Ivanka, stand up. (Applause.) Ivanka Trump and Jared. Ivanka and Jared worked so hard.
Now, for the first time, faith-based organizations can serve federal prisoners. They can take care of the people in and they can take care of prisoners as they get out.
And we’ve had the greatest success because of the economy being so strong, where people leaving prison — now on a much more fair basis — but people leaving prison can get job. And they’ve done incredibly well. Employers who would never have done that before because there was a stigma, obviously. There was a pretty tough stigma. So they wouldn’t go that route and people would end up back in prison. But now employers that would not have done that before are doing it, and they’re so happy.
I know somebody who’s put on seven prisoners — former prisoners — and he told me, “You have no idea how really great they are, how good they are.” He actually said, “They’re better than most of the other people working there.” (Laughter.)
So that’s a tremendous thing. That’s probably the first time in — since the beginning of this great nation, where they’re doing so well. So we hope they keep it up.
The economy is helping. The economy is helping. But now they’re helping themselves, and they’re doing a fantastic job.
And we’re also supporting faith-based addiction recovery programs because we understand the power of prayer. (Applause.) And I will say our First Lady has taken to this. It’s incredible what she’s done. And we’re down 16 percent with opioids. Sixteen percent is a lot. (Applause.)
And, Melania, please stand up. That’s a fantastic job you’ve done. Please. (Applause.) Incredible. Incredible. I heard that number the first time the other day, and I said, “That’s a lot.” That really is. It’s not there, but we hope to get there.
And we’re also trying very hard, through the tremendous amounts of billions and billions of dollars that we give out to hospitals and pharmaceutical companies and everybody, to come up with painkillers that are non-addictive, so you don’t go into the hospital with a broken arm and come out a drug addict, which is what happens, in many cases.
So we are trying to come up and we’re getting very close to come up with a powerful painkiller that, at the same time, is non-addictive. Wouldn’t that be nice? Right? (Applause.) Wouldn’t that be nice?
Here with us today is Ashley Evans from Dayton, Ohio, who was Melania’s guest at the State of the Union.
Two years ago, Ashley was suffering from the grip of heroin addiction when she found out that she was pregnant. She returned to a recovery center and was welcomed by her mentor, Angie Dennis, who was waiting at the door. Ashley and Angie developed a great relationship. And Angie said to her, “I’m so glad you made it back. I’ve been praying for you.”
Today, Angie is sitting right next to Ashley. And as Ashley says, “Prayer is what got me clean.” Beautiful words. Next week, Ashley will celebrate 16 months free from addiction. And she’s earned back — (applause) — the custody of her beautiful daughter, Olivia, who is here, also, right now with mom.
And, Ashley, Olivia — (a baby is heard crying.)
Is that Olivia? I had a feeling that was Olivia. (Laughter.) I’ve been listening to Olivia the entire time. (Laughter.) Olivia has dominated this service, and that’s okay.
Ashley, come on up. Say a few words, please. (Applause.)
MS. EVANS: I would just like to say that finding God saved my life. It’s been incredible. It’s been a journey, but without Him, I could not do this.
And I’d like to say: Thank you, Angie, for helping me find Him. It’s been a crazy experience. It’s been incredible. God has been with me every step of the way, and everything has worked out perfectly. I have reunited with Olivia. I have an amazing support system back home, and in Columbus, Ohio. And I’ve gotten to do some amazing things. And that’s by the grace of God. So, thank you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: That’s fantastic. Thank you very much.
Come on up. How is she doing? Tell me. Doing great?
MS. DENNIS: She is.
THE PRESIDENT: I just said, “How is she doing?”
MS. DENNIS: She is so awesome. You know, the biggest honor that I could have was to pass along to Ashley — it’s a relationship with Jesus. It’s a relationship. It’s not a religion. It’s not a bunch of rules. It’s — (applause) — it’s just that personal relationship, you know.
And if you’ll trust Him, and you do your part — you do your part, and then trust Him and ask for help for the rest, He’ll make doors open that no man can close. You know? (Applause.) So I’m just honored to be a part of this.
THE PRESIDENT: Beautiful. I’m glad I asked you to do that. Thank you, dear. Thank you. Thank you very much for those beautiful words.
Ashley, Olivia, and Angie: Thank you for being with us and for reminding us that prayer works miracles, and prayer saves lives. (Applause.)
And as God promises in the Bible, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on the wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. And they will walk and not be faint.” And that’s something that Mike and I think about all the time. Right, Mike? (Laughter.)
On this Prayer Day — what do you think, Mike? I think so. Hey, we deserve it. (Applause.) Man. People say, “How do you get through that whole stuff? How do you go through those witch hunts and everything else?” And you know what we do, Mike? We just do it. Right? And we think about God. That’s true. So thank you all very much.
On this Day of Prayer, we once again place our hopes in the hands of our Creator. And we give thanks for those wondrous lands of liberty. And this is truly the greatest of all lands of liberty — our country. Our country is special. It will always be special. It will be greater than ever before. We’re doing things that will make it better than ever before, and especially for churches and synagogues and mosques and everyone else — people of faith.
We pray that this nation — our home, these United States — will forever be strengthened by the goodness and the grace and the eternal glory of God. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you.
So it’s an honor to once again host so many believers in the Rose Garden. And now I’d like to ask those who are leading us in prayer to please come up. Please come up. Some of the great leaders. Please come up. You know who I’m talking about. Don’t be shy. Come up, Ralph. I see Ralph in the audience. Franklin was here. We have some great, great people. Thank you. Please. You take over.
END 11:51 A.M. EDT