President Obama on Sunday told congregants at a church where the late Martin Luther King Jr. sometimes spoke at that faith keeps him calm in pressing times.
On the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Obama spoke to nearly 300 people gathered at the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church – founded by former slaves in 1866 – in Washington, D.C., about King who inspired his generation and those after him to advocate for civil rights, especially racial equality.
Obama, the first African-American U.S. president, called King and those who worked with him in the civil rights movement the “Moses generation.” He called on attendees, whom he called the “Joshua generation,” to return to basics as the country faces the challenges of a “new age.”
Throughout the speech, Obama encouraged those present to be optimistic even in hard times and to see progress, no matter how small. The president said he learned from King to depend on faith when faced with opposition and in difficult situations.
“He (King) had faith that God would make a way out of no way,” Obama said. “Folks ask me sometimes, ‘Why do you look so calm?’"
“I have a confession to make,” he said. “There are times when I am not so calm. There are times when progress seems too slow. There are times when the words spoken about me hurt. There are times when the barbs sting. There are times when it feels like all these efforts are for not, that change is so painfully slow in coming and I have to confront my own doubt. During those times it is faith that keeps me calm.”
Among the specific difficulties Obama said he is facing is trying to lift the country out of the severe economic downtown while also getting health care reform passed.
“Yes, we’re passing through a hard winter – it’s the hardest in some time,” Obama said referring to the economy. “But let’s always remember that, as a people, the American people, we’ve weathered some hard winters before.”
Obama was accompanied to the church by first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, Malia and Sasha.
On Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are participating in a public-servant event, hosting a conversation with a group of African-American seniors and their grandchildren about the civil rights movement at the White House, and attending the “Let Freedom Ring” concert at the Kennedy Center.