In a tradition dating back to the days of George Washington, President Obama attended the Inaugural Prayer Service Tuesday morning at the National Cathedral.
Attending with his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden, the president listened as a number of interfaith spiritual leaders offered prayers, words of wisdom and blessings.
The Rev. Adam Hamilton delivered the sermon, telling the stories of biblical and modern day figures, calling for leaders in the room to care for the less fortunate and to have compassion “for the least of these.”
Rev. Hamilton also urged political leaders to find common ground and a unifying vision to bring the country together.
But it wasn’t all serious, in a moment of levity, Rev. Hamilton spoke directly to President Obama.
“God has given you a unique gift Mr. President. Unlike any other president we’ve ever had, you have the ability to cast a vision and inspire people, you should have been a preacher,” said Rev. Hamilton as the Cathedral filled with laughter.
The tradition of a “divine service” began in 1789, immediately following President Washington’s inauguration and was hosted in New York at St. Paul’s Chapel. Years later, in 1886, when the nation was in great turmoil following the Civil War and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, an interfaith inaugural prayer was created in Washington, D.C. The National Cathedral hosted the first service in the 1930’s during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inauguration, although FDR. did not attend the service.
The National Cathedral has regularly hosted the Inaugural Prayer Service since President Reagan’s second term with the exception of both of President Clinton’s inaugurals services. President Clinton chose Metropolitan A.M.E, an historically black church in Washington, DC, as the site of his Inaugural Prayer Services.
Among those in attendance at Tuesday’s event was Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretaries Ray Lahood, Tom Vilsack, Kathleen Sebelius, and Ken Salazar as well as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.