President Obama urged Americans to turn to faith to assuage their fears amid a time of major changes in the country, in a speech at the 2016 National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday.
The President listed many sources of change in the world—from international conflicts to global warming to new technology—which he said have stoked uncertainties and fears that American progress will stall. But Obama said that faith offers a way of overcoming trepidation about the future.
“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind,” said Obama, drawing from a Bible verse in 2 Timothy.
“Like every president, like every leader, like every person, I’ve known fear,” Obama added. “If scripture instructs me to put on the full armor of God, then surely I can take on these temporal setbacks.”
The President’s speech did not directly reference the divisiveness that has permeated the political contest to replace him in the White House, but his administration has previously criticized Republican candidates for drawing on the fears of the American people in their quest for office. Obama sought to draw a contrast with that message of fear on Thursday, delivering an optimistic speech like the one he gave at his final State of the Union last month.
In the days before the prayer breakfast, Obama visited the Israeli Embassy to honor people who saved Jews during the Holocaust and made his first visit to a U.S. mosque while in office. Both trips informed his speech on Thursday, in which he recalled stories that were relayed to him at each stop, drawing on the theme of not giving in to fear. “I pray,” Obama said after telling the stories, “ that by His grace we all find the courage to set such examples in our own lives.”