Every year, usually on the first Thursday in February, thousands of religious leaders, policymakers, business people and the president of the United States gather in Washington to talk about faith. The event — which includes meetings and seminars before and after breakfast — is an opportunity for the religious community to build productive relationships with political and business communities.
President Trump will speak February 6 at the 68th National Prayer Breakfast, the fourth of his presidency.
The idea for a National Prayer Breakfast first came from a Methodist minister, but today religious leaders of many faiths attend, including other Christian denominations, Islam and Judaism. The event has historically been an occasion for the president to acknowledge the role of his faith in the position of commander-in-chief and to address topics affecting religion. At the 2017 breakfast, Trump spoke of the threat to religious freedom that terrorism poses and, within his first weeks in office, committed his administration to combating that threat.
The National Prayer Breakfast has earned a permanent place on the president’s calendar since it was first held in 1953, when President Dwight Eisenhower spoke before a group of 400 in Washington’s Mayflower Hotel. Attendance in recent years is closer to 4,000. Since the beginning, every president has spoken at the event. It was called the Presidential Prayer Breakfast until 1970.
Among the prayer breakfast’s traditions is a guest speaker whose identity is not announced before the event. Past speakers have included:
- The missionary Mother Teresa of Calcutta, known in the Catholic church as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who devoted her life to caring for the sick and poor (1994).
- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, who spoke about U.S.efforts to fight AIDS and grant debt relief for Africa (2006).
- Ben Carson, pediatric neurosurgeon, whose speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast launched his political career. He is Trump’s secretary of housing and urban development.
“My administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land,” Trump said at the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast. “America must forever remain a tolerant society where all faiths are respected, and where all of our citizens can feel safe and secure.”
A version of this article was previously published on February 6, 2018.