One nation, under God.
On Wednesday, I attended the 50th Annual Louisiana Governor’s Prayer Breakfast. More than 1,000 people jammed into a Baton Rouge ballroom to have breakfast, listen to articulate speakers, sing some hymns and say a few prayers. This longstanding Louisiana tradition is an inspiring event that is attended by most of the state’s political leaders.
One notable aspect of this year’s event was the diversity of political figures in attendance. Democrats, Republicans and Independents from across the state gathered to focus on one unified agenda item – prayer. Camaraderie and solidarity replaced the partisan bickering and political gamesmanship that usually dominates any assembly at this time of year. It was a nice change of pace.
Three Governors sat together at the head table – our current Governor Bobby Jindal, along with former Governors Buddy Roemer and Edwin Edwards. While these men have very different political resumes and philosophical directions, that was all set aside Wednesday morning. Throughout the crowd, adversaries and allies of all shapes and sizes alike sat side by side for a little fellowship.
There was a time when our nation’s leaders found a way to debate the policies of each generation in a contentious and principled manner, while still holding true to the larger values that serve as the foundation of our country. Today, the constant battle for 24-hour relevance has put some of that principle in the backseat to make room up front for more theatrics and gamesmanship. This trend has not served us well.
Franklin Roosevelt said, “No greater thing could come to our land today than a revival of the spirit of faith…I doubt if there is any problem – social, political, or economic – that would not melt away before the first of such spiritual revival.”
Abraham Lincoln said that, “Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God who made us.”
The early leaders of our country are well known for their political courage and their steadfast resolve to battle one another aggressively on the complex policy debates of their time. They did not back down from a fight and they inspired an ever-evolving nation to follow them toward American greatness.
They didn’t always agree, and quite frankly, they usually did not. Nevertheless, a large distinction from today’s debates is that as our country’s early leaders waged war on ideas and fought for the direction of this nation, they stayed true to our nation’s larger purpose.
Harry Truman said that, “We should ask for courage, wisdom, for the quietness of soul which comes alone to them who place their lives in His hands.”
These men weren’t viewed as fanatics or zealots. They were viewed as patriots and public servants. They spoke openly of their faith not only in their God, but also in the American people. They understood that the nation’s foundation was dependent on faith and they upheld that principle while they simultaneously fought one another aggressively on ideas and policy. We can have both at the same time and we know this, because we once did.
Today, we are far removed from that understanding. We have forgotten that faith should be the core of the solutions we embrace to solve our societal challenges. We don’t need government to solve everything, we can trust the American people to innovate, create and chart their own path.
We all too often forget to place our faith in our own people. We often hear our kids aren’t capable of learning certain lessons in the classroom or our parents aren’t teaching our kids responsibility and dedication to their studies. We hear that our teachers don’t want accountability. We hear that our judiciary isn’t capable of managing a jury process without collapsing the system and our citizens don’t want to serve if called. I don’t buy it.
There are times we remember the importance of putting faith in our people rather than drowning them in government. We remember it when we talk to a poor mom who has her child enrolled in an educational voucher and we see the hope she has for the future. We remember it when a small business owner does whatever it takes to keep the doors open and provide for their employees. We remember it when storms hit our shores and we rise to the challenge to help our neighbors. We remember it when we are under attack by aggressors and we stand together to defend our freedom.
As we begin the legislative session while we also wait for the coming of Easter, I encourage you to remember that our faith is needed to prepare for both. Our nation’s founders and early leaders understood this link clearly and it would benefit us to emulate them again. We can do it. All it takes is a little faith.