Here’s something you probably didn’t know: the inauguration of the president of the United States did not always include prayer. In fact, the first time that prayers were part of the inauguration ceremony was only 80 years ago.
Since 1937, every presidential inauguration has included prayer — typically two, an invocation (to start) and a benediction (after the oath of office). Harry S. Truman had three. Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan had four. And Richard Nixon held the record at five.
In a stunning interfaith message that underscored his theme of unity and solidarity, President Donald Trump selected six different religious leaders to offer prayers during the inauguration ceremony. That’s a record, according to McClatchy DC.
Prayers were an unmistakable hallmark of the ceremony, with many denominations represented:
- An invocation by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York
- An invocation by Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, president, National Hispanic Leadership Conference
- An invocation by Pastor Paula White, senior pastor, New Destiny Christian Center
- A benediction by Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center
- A benediction by Rev. Franklin Graham, Samaritan’s Purse and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
- A benediction by Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, Great Faith Ministries International
President Trump has personal ties to several of the clergy. He and Cardinal Dolan, both New Yorkers, have been friends for years. Pastor White is considered to be a personal “spiritual advisor. Rabbi Heir, the first rabbi to pray at an inauguration since 1985, is an old friend of the family of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, according to National Public Radio.
Even more telling of Trump’s policy of inclusion and representation for all is that three of the six religious leaders — Dolan, Hier and Rodriguez — openly opposed Trump during the presidential campaign, according to Time.
Definitely not one to “hide his faith under a bushel” (Matthew 5:15), Trump took the oath of office on two Bibles: one given to him as a child by his mother, and the other used by President Abraham Lincoln at his first inauguration on March 4, 1861.
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