WASHINGTON, D.C. — Four political leaders from both parties spoke at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and they each went in their own directions with their speeches.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Vice President Mike Pence all spoke at the June 14 prayer breakfast at the Grand Hyatt Washington.
Esperanza, a national network of Hispanic evangelical leaders, hosted a three-day conference which culminated in the prayer breakfast.
Pelosi, who focused on the role of faith in both politics and life, said: “Our presence here is a reminder of the unifying power of faith.”
She also drew upon other virtues, saying that “you’ll find hope where you’ll always find it — right between faith and love” as she encouraged the religious leaders in the audience to keep fighting and not lose hope.
When explaining the importance of protecting all human life, Pelosi referred to Catholic teachings on the Incarnation: “When we observe in the credo that Christ came down from heaven and became man, it’s a sacred moment,” she said.
In contrast, she mentioned some policies of the Trump administration, such as separating parents from their children along the U.S.-Mexico border and the “deportation dragnet,” that she said fail to affirm human dignity or protect all human life properly.
“This is a call to action,” she said urging participants to pray and advocate.
Pelosi also touched on the importance of immigrants, saying that “they make America more American and we must respect that.” She expressed concerns that the Trump administration had strayed from the attitude of past administrations toward immigrants: “This is the first time in recent history that the president has not respected the dignity and worth of immigrants.”
Ryan told the group the country has a commitment to “fixing this utterly broken immigration system, and we’re going to find a way to do that.” He encouraged those present to pray for him and spoke about how he believes the prayers of the people helped House Majority Whip Steve Scalise recover after he was shot exactly one year ago.
He also talked about the effect of the economic recovery on the nation, and specifically the Hispanic community, stressing that the Hispanic unemployment rate had reached an all-time low and that “there are now more job openings in this country than people looking for jobs.”
Ryan said that he wanted more than just an economic recovery; he also wants to recover a healthy civil society.
Schumer opened his speech with a personal story showing how God works. He said his father had gone out for a New Year’s Eve meal and had a stomachache the next morning. His mother called, but Schumer persuaded her not to take his father to the hospital. Later in the day, his father fell and hit his head, so they took him to the hospital, where the doctors discovered that he had swallowed a four-inch flounder bone, which perforated his small intestine.
If not for the head injury, Schumer said, his father would have died. The lesson, he said, is that “God works in mysterious ways.”
Schumer focused on the value of immigrants and immigration reform in his speech, and he cited a conversation with Ted Kennedy shortly before he died where Kennedy told him to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.
He also drew on his personal life to explain his passion: “My father was an exterminator who never went to college, and I’m a United States Senator.” He said many immigrants would be able to follow the same path.
“I believe in the American Dream,” he said, “and I believe in the millions of immigrants who come to America.”
Pence took a different approach; instead of focusing on immigration — although he said that Democratic stonewalling was preventing bipartisan immigration reform — he devoted the majority of his speech to discussing the United States’ relationships with various Latin American countries.
Pence focused on Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela; he said the dictatorships in power in those countries needed to be removed so that the people could be free.
He denounced the Castro and Maduro regimes for destroying the economies of their countries and said that he and President Trump were pursuing more united action by the United States and Latin American countries against Venezuela, such as more and harsher sanctions.
“The United States will not stand idly by while Venezuela crumbles,” Pence said.
He mentioned an encounter he had on the border between Venezuela and Colombia with a woman who had fled Venezuela with her grandchildren, all of whom were staying in a refugee camp. Her desperation stuck with him on that trip through Latin America and encouraged him to continue fighting to end political oppression within the Western Hemisphere.
“It is our destiny to be a hemisphere of freedom and we will reach that destiny because we are a hemisphere of faith,” Pence said.