In 2017, President Trump delivered a wide-ranging address at the National Prayer Breakfast, highlighting the need for religious freedom protections—but that’s not what made headlines. Reports focused instead on his offhand quip about the need to pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s poor television ratings as host of The New Celebrity Apprentice.
This time the president stayed on topic and delivered a much more conventional speech, focusing on telling the stories of Americans who demonstrated bravery and sacrifice during the past year.
“You’re never quite sure how [the event is] all going to come together, there are so many moving parts,” Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., the National Prayer Breakfast’s co-host, told me. “How it fit together was, to me, a real encouragement of God’s grace and power.”
This year’s event featured harrowing stories from House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., who was shot in the hip last year during a practice for the annual congressional baseball game. He returned to work 15 weeks later. Attendees also heard from Scott Smiley, the Army’s first active duty blind officer, who lost his vision in an explosion while on a tour in northern Iraq in 2005.
Hultgren said it was powerful to have both Scalise and Smiley share stories of overcoming adversity through faith. Organizers didn’t plan the common theme of God’s faithfulness ahead of time. And according to Hultgren, no one coordinated with the president to make sure he stayed on message.
“There was nothing as far as telling people what to say and how to say it, other than us praying that it would flow together well and there would be a clear message of ministry and of hope to come out of it,” Hultgren said. —E.W.