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No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus
When I walked through the door I sensed His presence
And I knew this was a place where love abounds
For this is a temple the God we love abides here
For we are standing in His presence on Holy Ground

We are standing on Holy Ground
And I know, I know there are angels all around
Let us praise (praise God) Jesus now…
We are standing in His (sweet) presence on Holy Ground

In His presence there is joy beyond all measure
And at His feet sweet peace of mind can still be found
For when we have a need He is still the answer…
Reach out and claim it for we are standing on Holy Ground

(Repeat Chorus) We are standing on Holy Ground
And I know that there are angels all around
Let us praise (praise God) Jesus now.
We are standing in His presence on Holy Ground


In his holy wonderful presence
He loves us in our hour of sorrow
He’s our hope, our hope for tomorrow
We are standing in his presence on Holy Ground.

The Haggadah (Hebrew: הַגָּדָה‎, “telling”) is a Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder. Reading the Haggadah at the Seder table is a fulfillment of the Scriptural commandment to each Jew to “tell your son” of the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt as described in the Book of Exodus in the Torah. (“And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying: It is because of that which the LORD did for me when I came forth out of Egypt. ” Ex. 13:8)

Themes of the Seder

The rituals and symbolic foods evoke the twin themes of the evening: slavery and freedom. The rendering of time for the Hebrews was that a day began at sunset and ended at sunset. Historically, at the beginning of the 15th of Nisan in Ancient Egypt, the Jewish people were enslaved to Pharaoh. After the tenth plague struck Egypt at midnight, killing all the first-born of Pharaoh to the first born of captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first born of livestock (Exodus 12:29), in the land. Pharaoh let the Hebrew nation go, effectively making them free people for the second half of the night.

Thus, Seder participants recall the slavery that reigned during the first half of the night by eating matzo (the “poor person’s bread”), maror (bitter herbs which symbolize the bitterness of slavery), and charoset (a sweet paste representing the mortar which the Jewish slaves used to cement bricks). Recalling the freedom of the second half of the night, they eat the matzo (the “bread of freedom” and also the “bread of affliction”) and ‘afikoman’, and drink the four cups of wine, in a reclining position, and dip vegetables into salt water (the dipping being a sign of royalty and freedom, while the salt water recalls the tears the Jews shed during their servitude).

The Four Cups

There is an obligation to drink four cups of wine during the Seder. The Mishnah says (Pes. 10:1) that even the poor are obliged to drink the four cups. Each cup is imbibed at a specific point in the Seder. The first is for Kiddush (קידוש), the second is for ‘Maggid’ (מגיד), the third is for Birkat Hamazon (ברכת המזון) and the fourth is for Hallel (הלל).‎[7][8]

The Four Cups represent the four expressions of deliverance promised by God Exodus 6:6-7: “I will bring out,” “I will deliver,” “I will redeem,” and “I will take.”[7]

Seder Plate

The Passover Seder Plate (ke’ara) is a special plate containing six symbolic foods used during the Passover Seder. Each of the six items arranged on the plate have special significance to the retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt.  The seventh symbolic item used during the meal—a stack of three matzot—is placed on its own plate on the Seder table.

The six items on the Seder Plate are:

Passover Seder PlateMaror and Chazeret: Two types of bitter herbs, symbolizing the bitterness and harshness of the slavery which the Jews endured in Ancient Egypt. For maror, many people use freshly grated horseradish or whole horseradish root (ours had cooked beets and sugar making a condiment called chrein.)  Either the horseradish or romaine lettuce may be eaten in fulfillment of the mitzvah of eating bitter herbs during the Seder.

Charoset: A sweet, brown, pebbly paste of fruits and nuts, representing the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt

Karpas: A vegetable other than bitter herbs, usually parsley but sometimes something such as celery or cooked potato, which is dipped into salt water (Ashkenazi custom) reminds the participants that Passover corresponds with Spring and the harvest, which, in ancient times was a cause for celebration by itself.

Karpas is dipped in salt water to represent tears.

Zeroa: A roasted lamb bone, symbolizing the korban Pesach (Pesach sacrifice), which was a lamb offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and was then roasted and eaten as part of the meal on Seder night.

Beitzah: A hard boiled egg, symbolizing the korban chagigah (festival sacrifice) that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and was then eaten as part of the meal on Seder night.

Focus on the children

Since the retelling of the Exodus to one’s child is the object of the Seder experience, much effort is made to arouse the interest and curiosity of the children and keep them awake during the meal. To that end, questions and answers are a central device in the Seder ritual. By encouraging children to ask questions, they will be more open to hearing the answers.

The most famous question which the youngest child asks at the Seder is the Mah Nishtanah – “Why is this night different from all other nights?” After the asking of these questions, the main portion of the Seder, Magid, gives over the answers in the form of a historical review. Also, at different points in the Seder, the leader of the Seder will cover the matzot and lift their cup of wine; then put down the cup of wine and uncover the matzot—all to elicit questions from the children.

The afikoman, which is hidden away for the “dessert” after the meal, is another device used to encourage children’s participation. In some families, the leader of the Seder hides the afikoman and the children must find it, whereupon they receive a prize or reward.

Order of the Seder

The Jewish Sages say that Passover occurs on the 15th of Nissan just as the moon grows for 15 days. The conclusion is that our growth must be in 15 gradual steps just like the Passover puzzle is constituted by 15 pieces that, when assembled, will give us freedom.

Kadeish (blessings and the first cup of wine)

Kadeish is Hebrew Imperative for Kiddush. This Kiddush is a special one for Passover, it refers to matzot and the Exodus from Egypt. Acting in a way that shows freedom and majesty, many Jews have the custom of filling each other’s cups at the Seder table. The Kiddush is traditionally said by the father of the house, but at our Seder, Rita recited the Kiddush.

Ur’chatz (wash hands)

In traditional Jewish homes, it is common to ritually wash the hands before a meal. According to most traditions, no blessing is recited at this point in the Seder, unlike the blessing recited over the washing of the hands before eating bread at any other time.

Three matzot are stacked on the seder table; at this stage, the middle matzah of the three is broken in half. The larger piece is hidden, to be used later as the afikoman, the “dessert” after the meal. The smaller piece is returned to its place between the other two matzot.

Magid (The telling)

Ha Lachma Anya (invitation to the Seder)

The matzot are uncovered, and referred to as the “bread of affliction”. Participants declare (in Aramaic) an invitation to all who are hungry or needy to join in the Seder. Halakha requires that this invitation be repeated in the native language of the country.

Mah Nishtanah (The Four Questions)

The Mishna details questions one is obligated to ask on the night of the seder. It is customary for the youngest child present to recite the four questions.[14] Some customs hold that the other participants recite them quietly to themselves as well. In some families, this means that the requirement remains on an adult “child” until a grandchild of the family receives sufficient Jewish education to take on the responsibility. If a person has no children capable of asking, the responsibility falls to their spouse, or another participant.[15] The need to ask is so great that even if a person is alone at the seder they are obligated to ask themselves and to answer their own questions.[15]

Ma nishtana ha lyla ha zeh mikkol hallaylot?
Why is this night different from all other nights?

Shebb’khol hallelot anu okh’lin ḥamets umatsa, vehallayla hazze kullo matsa.
Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either leavened bread or matza, but on this night we eat only matza?
Shebb’khol hallelot anu okh’lin sh’ar y’rakot, vehallayla hazze maror.
Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on this night we eat bitter herbs?
Shebb’khol hallelot en anu matbillin afillu pa‘am eḥat, vehallayla hazze sh’tei fe‘amim.
Why is it that on all other nights we do not dip [our food] even once, but on this night we dip them twice?
Shebb’khol hallelot anu okh’lin ben yosh’vin uven m’subbin, vehallayla hazze kullanu m’subbin.
Why is it that on all other nights we dine either sitting upright or reclining, but on this night we all recline?

We eat only matzah because our ancestors could not wait for their breads to rise when they were fleeing slavery in Egypt, and so they were flat when they came out of the oven.
We eat only Maror, a bitter herb, to remind us of the bitterness of slavery that our ancestors endured while in Egypt.
The first dip, green vegetables in salt water, symbolizes the replacing of our tears with gratefulness, and the second dip, Maror in Charoses, symbolizes the sweetening of our burden of bitterness and suffering.
We recline at the Seder table because in ancient times, a person who reclined at a meal was a free person, while slaves and servants stood.
We eat only roasted meat because that is how the Pesach/Passover lamb is prepared during sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem.

The Four Sons

The traditional Haggadah speaks of “four sons”—one who is wise, one who is wicked, one who is simple, and one who does not know to ask. Each of these sons phrases his question about the seder in a different way. The Haggadah recommends answering each son according to his question, using one of the three verses in the Torah that refer to this exchange.

The wise son asks “What are the statutes, the testimonies, and the laws that God has commanded you to do?” One explanation for why this very detailed-oriented question is categorized as wise, is that the wise son is trying to learn how to carry out the seder, rather than asking for someone else’s understanding of its meaning. He is answered fully: You should reply to him with [all] the laws of pesach: one may not eat any dessert after the paschal sacrifice.

The wicked son, who asks, “What is this service to you?”, is characterized by the Haggadah as isolating himself from the Jewish people, standing by objectively and watching their behavior rather than participating. Therefore, he is rebuked by the explanation that “It is because God acted for my sake when I left Egypt.” (This implies that the Seder is not for the wicked son because the wicked son would not have deserved to be freed from Egyptian slavery.) Where the four sons are illustrated in the Haggadah, this son has frequently been depicted as carrying weapons or wearing stylish contemporary fashions.

The simple son, who asks, “What is this?” is answered with “With a strong hand the Almighty led us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage.”

And the one who does not know to ask is told, “It is because of what the Almighty did for me when I left Egypt.”

Go and learn

Four verses in Deuteronomy (26:5-8) are then expounded, with an elaborate, traditional commentary. (“5. And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my parent, and they went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number; and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. 6. And the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage. 7. And we cried unto the Lord, the God of our parents, and the Lord heard our voice, and saw our affliction, and our toil, and our oppression. 8 And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders.”)

The Haggadah explores the meaning of those verses, and embellishes the story. This telling describes the slavery of the Jewish people and their miraculous salvation by God. This culminates in an enumeration of the Ten Plagues:

Dam (blood)—All the water was changed to blood
Tzefardeyah (frogs)—An infestation of frogs sprang up in Egypt
Kinim (lice)—The Egyptians were afflicted by lice
Arov (wild animals)—An infestation of wild animals (some say flies) sprang up in Egypt
Dever (pestilence)—A plague killed off the Egyptian livestock
Sh’chin (boils)—An epidemic of boils afflicted the Egyptians
Barad (hail)—Hail rained from the sky
Arbeh (locusts)—Locusts swarmed over Egypt
Choshech (darkness)—Egypt was covered in darkness
Makkat Bechorot (killing of the first-born)—All the first-born sons of the Egyptians were slain by God

With the recital of the Ten Plagues, each participant removes a drop of wine from his or her cup using a fingertip. Although this night is one of salvation, the Sages explain that one cannot be completely joyous when some of God’s creatures had to suffer. A mnemonic acronym for the plagues is also introduced: “D’tzach Adash B’achav”, while similarly spilling a drop of wine for each word.

At this part in the Seder, songs of praise are sung, including the song Dayenu, which proclaims that had God performed any single one of the many deeds performed for the Jewish people, it would have been enough to obligate us to give thanks.


Ilu ho-tsi, ho-tsi-a-nu,
Ho-tsi-anu mi-Mitz-ra-yim
Ho-tsi-anu mi-Mitz-ra-yim
Da-ye-nu Da-ye-nu
English Version:
If God would’ve taken us out of Egypt and not executed judgment upon them,
it would’ve been enough for us–Dayenu.
If He would’ve executed judgment upon them and not upon their idols, it
would’ve been enough for us–Dayenu.
If He would’ve judged their idols, and not killed their firstborn, it would’ve
been enough for us–Dayenu.
If He would’ve killed their firstborn, and not given us their wealth, it would’ve
been enough for us–Dayenu.
If He would’ve given us their wealth, and not split the sea for us, it would’ve
been enough for us–Dayenu.
If He would’ve split the sea for us, and not let us through it on dry land, it
would’ve been enough for us–Dayenu.
If He would’ve let us through it on dry land, and not drowned our enemies in
it, it would’ve been enough for us–Dayenu.
If He would’ve drowned our enemies in it, and not provided for our needs in
the desert for 40 years, it would’ve been enough for us–Dayenu.

Kos Sheini (Second Cup of Wine)

Magid concludes with the drinking of the Second Cup of Wine.  The blessing, which includes the words “who brings forth” (motzi in Hebrew), is said with matzah.[19]


The blessing over the matzah is recited and then the matzoh is eaten.

Maror (bitter herbs)

The blessing for the eating of the maror (bitter herbs) is recited and then it is dipped into the charoset and eaten.[19]

We now conclude the Magid section of the Seder:  Tradition teaches us that in every generation, we ought to look upon ourselves as if we personally had gone out of Egypt. Therefore, it is our duty to thank the One who performed all the miracles for generations past and present. We start saying Psalms praising God for taking us of Egypt. We will continue after we eat the meal.

Psalm 114

When Israel came forth out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language;
Judah became His sanctuary, Israel His dominion.
The sea saw it, and fled; the Jordan River turned backward.
The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like young sheep.
What ails you, O that sea, that you flea? The Jordan River, that you turn backward?
You mountains, that you skip like rams; you hills, like young sheep?
Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob;
Who turned the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a fountain of waters.

Koreich (sandwich)

The maror (bitter herb) is placed between two small pieces of matzo, similarly to how the contents of a sandwich are placed between two slices of bread, and eaten. This follows the tradition of Hillel, who did the same at his Seder table 2000 years ago (except that in Hillel’s day the Paschal sacrifice, matzo, and maror were eaten together.)

Shulchan Orech (the meal)

The festive meal is eaten.

Kos Shlishi (the Third Cup of Wine)

The drinking of the Third Cup of Wine.  The Third Cup is customarily poured before the Grace after Meals is recited because the Third Cup also serves as a Cup of Blessing associated with the Grace after Meals on special occasions.

Kos shel Eliyahu ha-Navi (cup of Elijah the Prophet)

In many traditions, the front door of the house is opened at this point.

Most Ashkenazim have the custom to fill a fifth cup at this point. This relates to a Talmudic tradition that Elijah will visit each home on Seder night as a foreshadowing of his future arrival at the end of the days, when he will come to announce the coming of the Jewish Messiah.

Hallel (songs of praise)

The entire order of Hallel which is usually recited in the synagogue on Jewish holidays is also recited at the Seder table, albeit sitting down. The first two Psalms, 113-114, are recited before the meal. The remaining Psalms of the Hallel proper, Psalms 113-118, are recited after the Grace after Meals, followed by Psalm 136.

Afterwards the Fourth Cup of Wine is drunk and a brief Grace for the “fruit of the vine” is said.


The Seder concludes with a prayer that the night’s service be accepted. A hope for the Messiah is expressed: “L’shanah haba’ah b’Yerushalayim! – Next year in Jerusalem!” Jews in Israel, and especially those in Jerusalem, recite instead “L’shanah haba’ah b’Yerushalayim hab’nuyah! – Next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem!”

Following the Seder, those who are still awake may recite the Song of Songs, engage in Torah learning, or continue talking about the events of the Exodus until sleep overtakes them.

As for us, we relaxed and enjoyed one another’s company completing the evening with a variety of teas and light dessert!

Rita and son prepare the table



1 I was glad when they said unto me *
We will go into the house of the Lord.
2 Our feet shall stand in thy gates *
O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is built as a city *
that is at unity in itself.
6 O pray for the peace of Jerusalem *
they shall prosper that love thee.
7 Peace be within thy walls *
and plenteousness within thy palaces.

Remarks by the President in Remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, Washington, DC

12:00 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Praise be to God.  Let me begin by thanking the entire Vermont Avenue Baptist Church family for welcoming our family here today.  It feels like a family.  Thank you for making us feel that way.  (Applause.)  To Pastor Wheeler, first lady Wheeler, thank you so much for welcoming us here today.  Congratulations on Jordan Denice — aka Cornelia.  (Laughter.)

Michelle and I have been blessed with a new nephew this year as well — Austin Lucas Robinson.  (Applause.)  So maybe at the appropriate time we can make introductions.  (Laughter.)  Now, if Jordan’s father is like me, then that will be in about 30 years. (Laughter.)  That is a great blessing.

Michelle and Malia and Sasha and I are thrilled to be here today.  And I know that sometimes you have to go through a little fuss to have me as a guest speaker.  (Laughter.)  So let me apologize in advance for all the fuss.

We gather here, on a Sabbath, during a time of profound difficulty for our nation and for our world.  In such a time, it soothes the soul to seek out the Divine in a spirit of prayer; to seek solace among a community of believers.  But we are not here just to ask the Lord for His blessing.  We aren’t here just to interpret His Scripture.  We’re also here to call on the memory of one of His noble servants, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Now, it’s fitting that we do so here, within the four walls of Vermont Avenue Baptist Church — here, in a church that rose like the phoenix from the ashes of the civil war; here in a church formed by freed slaves, whose founding pastor had worn the union blue; here in a church from whose pews congregants set out for marches and from whom choir anthems of freedom were heard; from whose sanctuary King himself would sermonize from time to time.

One of those times was Thursday, December 6, 1956.  Pastor, you said you were a little older than me, so were you around at that point?  (Laughter.)  You were three years old — okay.  (Laughter.)  I wasn’t born yet.  (Laughter.)
On Thursday, December 6, 1956.  And before Dr. King had pointed us to the mountaintop, before he told us about his dream in front of the Lincoln Memorial, King came here, as a 27-year-old preacher, to speak on what he called “The Challenge of a New Age.”  “The Challenge of a New Age.”  It was a period of triumph, but also uncertainty, for Dr. King and his followers — because just weeks earlier, the Supreme Court had ordered the desegregation of Montgomery’s buses, a hard-wrought, hard-fought victory that would put an end to the 381-day historic boycott down in Montgomery, Alabama.

And yet, as Dr. King rose to take that pulpit, the future still seemed daunting.  It wasn’t clear what would come next for the movement that Dr. King led.  It wasn’t clear how we were going to reach the Promised Land.  Because segregation was still rife; lynchings still a fact.  Yes, the Supreme Court had ruled not only on the Montgomery buses, but also on Brown v. Board of Education.  And yet that ruling was defied throughout the South  — by schools and by states; they ignored it with impunity.  And here in the nation’s capital, the federal government had yet to fully align itself with the laws on its books and the ideals of its founding. 

So it’s not hard for us, then, to imagine that moment.  We can imagine folks coming to this church, happy about the boycott being over.  We can also imagine them, though, coming here concerned about their future, sometimes second-guessing strategy, maybe fighting off some creeping doubts, perhaps despairing about whether the movement in which they had placed so many of their hopes — a movement in which they believed so deeply — could actually deliver on its promise.

So here we are, more than half a century later, once again facing the challenges of a new age.  Here we are, once more marching toward an unknown future, what I call the Joshua generation to their Moses generation — the great inheritors of progress paid for with sweat and blood, and sometimes life itself. 

We’ve inherited the progress of unjust laws that are now overturned.  We take for granted the progress of a ballot being available to anybody who wants to take the time to actually vote. We enjoy the fruits of prejudice and bigotry being lifted — slowly, sometimes in fits and starts, but irrevocably — from human hearts.  It’s that progress that made it possible for me to be here today; for the good people of this country to elect an African American the 44th President of the United States of America.   

Reverend Wheeler mentioned the inauguration, last year’s election.  You know, on the heels of that victory over a year ago, there were some who suggested that somehow we had entered into a post-racial America, all those problems would be solved.  There were those who argued that because I had spoke of a need for unity in this country that our nation was somehow entering into a period of post-partisanship.  That didn’t work out so well.  There was a hope shared by many that life would be better from the moment that I swore that oath.

Of course, as we meet here today, one year later, we know the promise of that moment has not yet been fully fulfilled.  Because of an era of greed and irresponsibility that sowed the seeds of its own demise, because of persistent economic troubles unaddressed through the generations, because of a banking crisis that brought the financial system to the brink of catastrophe, we are being tested — in our own lives and as a nation — as few have been tested before.

Unemployment is at its highest level in more than a quarter of a century.  Nowhere is it higher than the African American community.  Poverty is on the rise.  Home ownership is slipping. Beyond our shores, our sons and daughters are fighting two wars. Closer to home, our Haitian brothers and sisters are in desperate need.  Bruised, battered, many people are legitimately feeling doubt, even despair, about the future.  Like those who came to this church on that Thursday in 1956, folks are wondering, where do we go from here?

I understand those feelings.  I understand the frustration and sometimes anger that so many folks feel as they struggle to stay afloat.  I get letters from folks around the country every day; I read 10 a night out of the 40,000 that we receive.  And there are stories of hardship and desperation, in some cases, pleading for help:  I need a job.  I’m about to lose my home.  I don’t have health care — it’s about to cause my family to be bankrupt.  Sometimes you get letters from children:  My mama or my daddy have lost their jobs, is there something you can do to help?  Ten letters like that a day we read.

So, yes, we’re passing through a hard winter.  It’s the hardest in some time.  But let’s always remember that, as a people, the American people, we’ve weathered some hard winters before.  This country was founded during some harsh winters.  The fishermen, the laborers, the craftsmen who made camp at Valley Forge — they weathered a hard winter.  The slaves and the freedmen who rode an underground railroad, seeking the light of justice under the cover of night — they weathered a hard winter. The seamstress whose feet were tired, the pastor whose voice echoes through the ages — they weathered some hard winters.  It was for them, as it is for us, difficult, in the dead of winter, to sometimes see spring coming.  They, too, sometimes felt their hopes deflate.  And yet, each season, the frost melts, the cold recedes, the sun reappears.  So it was for earlier generations and so it will be for us.

What we need to do is to just ask what lessons we can learn from those earlier generations about how they sustained themselves during those hard winters, how they persevered and prevailed.  Let us in this Joshua generation learn how that Moses generation overcame. 

Let me offer a few thoughts on this.  First and foremost, they did so by remaining firm in their resolve.  Despite being threatened by sniper fire or planted bombs, by shoving and punching and spitting and angry stares, they adhered to that sweet spirit of resistance, the principles of nonviolence that had accounted for their success.

Second, they understood that as much as our government and our political parties had betrayed them in the past — as much as our nation itself had betrayed its own ideals — government, if aligned with the interests of its people, can be — and must be  — a force for good.  So they stayed on the Justice Department.  They went into the courts.  They pressured Congress, they pressured their President.  They didn’t give up on this country. They didn’t give up on government.  They didn’t somehow say government was the problem; they said, we’re going to change government, we’re going to make it better.  Imperfect as it was, they continued to believe in the promise of democracy; in America’s constant ability to remake itself, to perfect this union.

Third, our predecessors were never so consumed with theoretical debates that they couldn’t see progress when it came. Sometimes I get a little frustrated when folks just don’t want to see that even if we don’t get everything, we’re getting something.  (Applause.)  King understood that the desegregation of the Armed Forces didn’t end the civil rights movement, because black and white soldiers still couldn’t sit together at the same lunch counter when they came home.  But he still insisted on the rightness of desegregating the Armed Forces.  That was a good first step — even as he called for more.  He didn’t suggest that somehow by the signing of the Civil Rights that somehow all discrimination would end.  But he also didn’t think that we shouldn’t sign the Civil Rights Act because it hasn’t solved every problem.  Let’s take a victory, he said, and then keep on marching.  Forward steps, large and small, were recognized for what they were — which was progress.

Fourth, at the core of King’s success was an appeal to conscience that touched hearts and opened minds, a commitment to universal ideals — of freedom, of justice, of equality — that spoke to all people, not just some people.  For King understood that without broad support, any movement for civil rights could not be sustained.  That’s why he marched with the white auto worker in Detroit.  That’s why he linked arm with the Mexican farm worker in California, and united people of all colors in the noble quest for freedom.

Of course, King overcame in other ways as well.  He remained strategically focused on gaining ground — his eyes on the prize constantly — understanding that change would not be easy, understand that change wouldn’t come overnight, understanding that there would be setbacks and false starts along the way, but understanding, as he said in 1956, that “we can walk and never get weary, because we know there is a great camp meeting in the promised land of freedom and justice.”

And it’s because the Moses generation overcame that the trials we face today are very different from the ones that tested us in previous generations.  Even after the worst recession in generations, life in America is not even close to being as brutal as it was back then for so many.  That’s the legacy of Dr. King and his movement.  That’s our inheritance.  Having said that, let there be no doubt the challenges of our new age are serious in their own right, and we must face them as squarely as they faced the challenges they saw.

I know it’s been a hard road we’ve traveled this year to rescue the economy, but the economy is growing again.  The job losses have finally slowed, and around the country, there’s signs that businesses and families are beginning to rebound.  We are making progress.

I know it’s been a hard road that we’ve traveled to reach this point on health reform.  I promise you I know.  (Laughter.) But under the legislation I will sign into law, insurance companies won’t be able to drop you when you get sick, and more than 30 million people — (applause) — our fellow Americans will finally have insurance.  More than 30 million men and women and children, mothers and fathers, won’t be worried about what might happen to them if they get sick.  This will be a victory not for Democrats; this will be a victory for dignity and decency, for our common humanity.  This will be a victory for the United States of America.

Let’s work to change the political system, as imperfect as it is.  I know people can feel down about the way things are going sometimes here in Washington.  I know it’s tempting to give up on the political process.  But we’ve put in place tougher rules on lobbying and ethics and transparency — tougher rules than any administration in history.  It’s not enough, but it’s progress.  Progress is possible.  Don’t give up on voting.  Don’t give up on advocacy.  Don’t give up on activism.  There are too many needs to be met, too much work to be done.  Like Dr. King said, “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”

Let us broaden our coalition, building a confederation not of liberals or conservatives, not of red states or blue states, but of all Americans who are hurting today, and searching for a better tomorrow.  The urgency of the hour demands that we make common cause with all of America’s workers — white, black, brown — all of whom are being hammered by this recession, all of whom are yearning for that spring to come.  It demands that we reach out to those who’ve been left out in the cold even when the economy is good, even when we’re not in recession — the youth in the inner cities, the youth here in Washington, D.C., people in rural communities who haven’t seen prosperity reach them for a very long time.  It demands that we fight discrimination, whatever form it may come.  That means we fight discrimination  against gays and lesbians, and we make common cause to reform our immigration system.
And finally, we have to recognize, as Dr. King did, that progress can’t just come from without — it also has to come from within.  And over the past year, for example, we’ve made meaningful improvements in the field of education.  I’ve got a terrific Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.  He’s been working hard with states and working hard with the D.C. school district, and we’ve insisted on reform, and we’ve insisted on accountability.  We we’re putting in more money and we’ve provided more Pell Grants and more tuition tax credits and simpler financial aid forms.  We’ve done all that, but parents still need to parent.  (Applause.)  Kids still need to own up to their responsibilities.  We still have to set high expectations for our young people.  Folks can’t simply look to government for all the answers without also looking inside themselves, inside their own homes, for some of the answers.

Progress will only come if we’re willing to promote that ethic of hard work, a sense of responsibility, in our own lives. I’m not talking, by the way, just to the African American community.  Sometimes when I say these things people assume, well, he’s just talking to black people about working hard.  No, no, no, no.  I’m talking to the American community.  Because somewhere along the way, we, as a nation, began to lose touch with some of our core values.  You know what I’m talking about.  We became enraptured with the false prophets who prophesized an easy path to success, paved with credit cards and home equity loans and get-rich-quick schemes, and the most important thing was to be a celebrity; it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you get on TV.  That’s everybody.

We forgot what made the bus boycott a success; what made the civil rights movement a success; what made the United States of America a success — that, in this country, there’s no substitute for hard work, no substitute for a job well done, no substitute for being responsible stewards of God’s blessings.

What we’re called to do, then, is rebuild America from its foundation on up.  To reinvest in the essentials that we’ve neglected for too long — like health care, like education, like a better energy policy, like basic infrastructure, like scientific research.  Our generation is called to buckle down and get back to basics.

We must do so not only for ourselves, but also for our children, and their children.  For Jordan and for Austin.  That’s a sacrifice that falls on us to make.  It’s a much smaller sacrifice than the Moses generation had to make, but it’s still a sacrifice.  

Yes, it’s hard to transition to a clean energy economy.  Sometimes it may be inconvenient, but it’s a sacrifice that we have to make.  It’s hard to be fiscally responsible when we have all these human needs, and we’re inheriting enormous deficits and debt, but that’s a sacrifice that we’re going to have to make.  You know, it’s easy, after a hard day’s work, to just put your kid in front of the TV set — you’re tired, don’t want to fuss with them — instead of reading to them, but that’s a sacrifice we must joyfully accept. 

Sometimes it’s hard to be a good father and good mother. Sometimes it’s hard to be a good neighbor, or a good citizen, to give up time in service of others, to give something of ourselves to a cause that’s greater than ourselves — as Michelle and I are urging folks to do tomorrow to honor and celebrate Dr. King.  But these are sacrifices that we are called to make.  These are sacrifices that our faith calls us to make.  Our faith in the future.  Our faith in America.  Our faith in God. 

And on his sermon all those years ago, Dr. King quoted a poet’s verse:

Truth forever on the scaffold
Wrong forever on the throne…
And behind the dim unknown stands God
Within the shadows keeping watch above his own.

Even as Dr. King stood in this church, a victory in the past and uncertainty in the future, he trusted God.  He trusted that God would make a way.  A way for prayers to be answered.  A way for our union to be perfected.  A way for the arc of the moral universe, no matter how long, to slowly bend towards truth and bend towards freedom, to bend towards justice.  He had faith that God would make a way out of no way.

You know, folks ask me sometimes why I look so calm.  (Laughter.)  They say, all this stuff coming at you, how come you just seem calm?  And I have a confession to make here.  There are times where I’m not so calm.  (Laughter.)  Reggie Love knows.  My wife knows.  There are times when progress seems too slow.  There are times when the words that are spoken about me hurt.  There are times when the barbs sting.  There are times when it feels like all these efforts are for naught, and change is so painfully slow in coming, and I have to confront my own doubts. 

But let me tell you — during those times it’s faith that keeps me calm.  (Applause.)  It’s faith that gives me peace.  The same faith that leads a single mother to work two jobs to put a roof over her head when she has doubts.  The same faith that keeps an unemployed father to keep on submitting job applications even after he’s been rejected a hundred times.  The same faith that says to a teacher even if the first nine children she’s teaching she can’t reach, that that 10th one she’s going to be able to reach.  The same faith that breaks the silence of an earthquake’s wake with the sound of prayers and hymns sung by a Haitian community.  A faith in things not seen, in better days ahead, in Him who holds the future in the hollow of His hand.  A faith that lets us mount up on wings like eagles; lets us run and not be weary; lets us walk and not faint.

So let us hold fast to that faith, as Joshua held fast to the faith of his fathers, and together, we shall overcome the challenges of a new age.  (Applause.)  Together, we shall seize the promise of this moment.  Together, we shall make a way through winter, and we’re going to welcome the spring.  Through God all things are possible.  (Applause.)

May the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King continue to inspire us and ennoble our world and all who inhabit it.  And may God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)


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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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May 2020



On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory