Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder

By Max Sherman | Go to book overview

RELIGIOUS FAITH AND POLITICS

AS A “CHILD OF THE MANSE,” FAITH WAS IMPORTANT TO

Barbara Jordan. In 1978 Congresswoman Jordan gave the opening prayer for the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. In 1984 Professor Jordan was the main speaker for the National Prayer Breakfast, along with newly elected President Ronald Reagan. Here are a few of her words: “Know that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.”

She pointed out to that huge audience that those were the closing words of President John F. Kennedy's inaugural address. She then asked the attendees, political leaders, these questions:

Would we behave as we doif we truly believed that we are
God's stewards on this earth? Would our policy decisions be the
same
if we were always consciously aware of our trusteeship
role on this earth? Would our oversight responsibilities be sharper,
more incisive, if we believed that we are God's caretakers?

She then focused on two core values for people of faith that to her are nonnegotiable. Justice, which she called the “flagship principle” and “the highest ideal for society,” was to her very simple. It is where “everyone is treated fairly by everyone else.” Selflessness, which she acknowledged is difficult to attain, especially in a landscape of acquisitiveness, profits, competition, and progress, is the other core value.

She concludes this way: “Let us go forth and lead the land we love, asking [God's] blessing and [God's] help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.”

I regret that neither an audio nor video recording of her remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast is available. The text of her 1978 prayer and her 1984 speech, recorded in the February 22, 1984, Congressional Record—Senate, do give an insight into how Barbara Jordan balanced political leadership with religious faith.

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