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Bush urges prayer at Hispanic event

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush asked participants at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast to pray God “continues to bestow His blessings” on the United States in the final appearance of his presidency at the annual event.

Speaking for the sixth time in the seven years since the event began, Bush thanked the audience of about 650 for their prayers and “spiritual support” that he said had made “a significant difference” during his presidency.

The June 26 breakfast at a Washington hotel was part of a three-day conference sponsored by Esperanza, the country’s largest Hispanic, faith-based nonprofit corporation.

In his speech, the president cited several prayer requests, including:

— stronger families. “We pray that every child in America can grow up in a loving and stable home. We pray for the day when every child in America is welcomed in life and protected in law. And we pray that in every community across this great land, the Almighty will strengthen [the values of the family and the faith],” he said, using Spanish at the close, as he did at various points.

— ongoing success for faith-based groups “aiming to [transform] our great country one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time.” Bush commended Esperanza’s work, especially its charter school in Philadelphia and its program for at-risk young people and former inmates.

— protection for the members of the U.S. military.

— liberty for those who live under repressive governments in Cuba and other countries.

Though Bush’s ratings in public opinion polls have declined dramatically in his second term, he appeared to remain popular with those at the breakfast.

In introducing Bush, Luis Cortes, Esperanza’s founder and president, told the president that Latinos of faith in America are proud of his defense of the country, as well as of his HIV/AIDS policy for Africa; the halting of bombing range testing at Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico; the largest federal bilingual education budget ever; and commitment to comprehensive immigration reform.

Afterward, Bush shook hands and posed for photos with many attendees in front of the platform for a time period longer than his 10-minute speech.

Representatives of both major political parties spoke at the breakfast.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R.-S.C., said he was appearing on behalf of Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., and touted the presidential candidacy of the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee. McCain brought greetings in a brief video but did not ask for the participants’ support.

Rep. James Clyburn, D.-S.C., addressed the attendees, but the House of Representatives’ majority whip did not promote Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, the Democrats’ presumptive nominee.

During the three-day conference, Esperanza announced a partnership with the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI) to address climate change. ECI contends human beings are the primary cause of global warming and supports legislation requiring a cap on carbon dioxide emissions and establishing a system for companies to trade emissions credits. ECI’s position is countered by the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, a coalition of primarily evangelicals and scientists who say the cause of global warming remains uncertain and is opposed to such cap-and-trade measures.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press.

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