While taking part in the traditional National Prayer Breakfast, President Joe Biden called for opposition to what he described as the "political extremism" that led to events such as the riot at the U.S. Capitol. He also asked Americans to show their collective strength during this difficult period, as reported by the Associated Press.
The annual event brings together politicians of all beliefs who put their differences aside for the morning. The event has proven to be controversial in the past, including former President Donald Trump's use of the 2020 installment as a platform to question the faith of his political opponents. More liberal politicians have also expressed concerns about the conservative faith-based group that organizes the event.
Biden brushed aside any concerns and attended the breakfast as part of continued efforts to be a unifying figure for Americans. During his remarks, the president spoke about his Catholic faith and how he leans on it during difficult periods.
"For so many in our nation, this is a dark, dark time. So where do we turn? Faith," Biden said.
Biden's fellow Delaware Democrat, Sen. Chris Coons praised the breakfast as an "inclusive and positive" event that "recognizes the teachings of Jesus but is not limited to Christianity."
Since Dwight D. Eisenhower first attended the breakfast in 1953, every president has appeared at the annual event. The 2021 edition was entirely virtual in response to the coronavirus pandemic and all speakers appeared through taped remarks. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton sent clips to the event, and Coons shared a message from former President Jimmy Carter, making Trump the only living president to not be involved.
The breakfast takes place during a period of intense difficulty in the United States. The Biden administration is hoping that their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief deal will make strides in solving that issue, but so far it has struggled to draw support from Republicans and is looking likely to require Democrats to pass it alone through a process called budget reconciliation.
Washington D.C. is still recovering in the weeks since the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, which Biden referenced when he spoke of the "political extremism" that fueled the violence. Donald Trump was impeached for the second time over accusations he incited a riot and will face a Senate trial next week.
Biden is hoping his administration can shift from the aggression of Trump in favor of a more traditional relationship between Republicans and Democrats. During the 2020 breakfast, the former president called out Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Sen. Mitt Romney after they voted to convict him during the then-president's first impeachment and held up a newspaper displaying his face with the headline "ACQUITTED."