(UPI) — For the second time since taking office, President Donald Trump spoke at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington Thursday, continuing a tradition that stretches back more than a half-century.
More than 3,500 people, including members of Congress, attended the 66th annual event at the Washington Hilton Hotel.
Trump said in his remarks that Americans are “strengthened by the power of prayer.”
“Our rights are not given to us by man; our rights come from our Creator. No matter what, no Earthly force can take those rights away,” the president said. “That is why the words “Praise be to God” are etched atop the Washington Monument, and those same words are etched into the hearts of our people.”
Trump discussed the role of faith as lawmakers and political leaders deal with a variety of issues, including immigration, the opioid epidemic and North Korea. He also boasted that U.S. forces had liberated almost all territory formerly occupied by the Islamic State terror group, which also goes by the acronym ISIS.
“For years, ISIS had brutally tortured and murdered Christians, Jews, religious minorities, and countless Muslims,” Trump said.
“Today, the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory just recently held by these killers in Iraq and all throughout Syria.”
Trump tweeted earlier Thursday he looked forward to seeing “great religious and political leaders.”
Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana congressman who was shot last year during a Republican baseball practice, served as the keynote speaker for the breakfast — replacing Vice President Mike Pence, who is in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the Olympics opening ceremony.
Each year, the breakfast is organized by the Fellowship Foundation, a religious organization that aims to unite business, political and religious leaders.
The annual event began in 1953 when lawmakers asked former President Dwight Eisenhower to join them for breakfast “in the spirit of Jesus.” Every president since Eisenhower has spoken at the annual breakfast.
Last year, Trump attended the 65th annual breakfast just weeks after his inauguration.
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