Scalise Delivers Keynote Address at National Prayer Breakfast

Feb 8, 2018

"The fact that no matter where you are in the world, if you believe in freedom, if you believe in teh ability to express your religious faith, that beacon above the Capitol, the Statue of Freedom, tells everyone around the world that the United States is the place that stands up for those religious freedoms that we all hold so dear because we are a nation taht was founded under God."

WASHINGTON, DC Following remarks from President Trump and an introduction by his friend and colleague, Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-La.), House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) delivered the keynote address at today's National Prayer Breakfast. He shared a heartfelt message of his belief in the importance of religion in our public life, the power of prayer, and placing faith in God during difficult times, as he did on June 14th, the day he was nearly killed at a Congressional Baseball Game practice.

Click here to watch Scalise's remarks. A transcript of his full remarks is below.

President Trump took time during his speech to thank Whip Scalise and remember his experiences of the past year:

"To my friend and everybody's friend, Steve Scalise, we are so glad to have you with us today. Your presence reminds us of Jesus' words in the book of Matthew, 'With God all things are possible.'" 

During his introduction, Congressman Richmond recalled his strong bond and friendship with Whip Scalise and the faith they both called on as they waited to see Scalise through his injury

"As we gathered in the hospital to continue to pray and work out Jennifer and the kids getting here, the one thing that I knew about Steve was his faith in God, his love for his family, and that it would take a lot more than one bullet to keep him from his family, and to make him question his faith."

Click here to watch Congressman Richmond's full remarks.

Scalise noted he hopes their friendship "serves as a lesson to all. Sure, we have differences, our differences are what make our country great, the fact that we're able to express our faiths that might be different, to fight for the things that we believe in. As Cedric said, I do believe we all want to get to the same place. We just sometimes have different roads that we take to get there, but we have that ability because of the way that our country was founded."

Continue reading to see his full remarks.  

Full remarks: 

"Thank you all. Thank you so much, Cedric, for being here to be a part of this, to stand up here and have a little fun, but also get serious about our faith and our friendship, and it's a true friendship. It's a deep friendship and it goes back a long ways. As Cedric said, when we served together in the state legislature, that's when we started to become friends. When Katrina hit, we both represented parts of the city of New Orleans and the water did not know any political boundaries. There were people in deep need and there were people hurting, struggling, who had lost everything, and we needed to come together. We needed to come together quickly and help those people and we did. We stayed close friends ever since.

"I get a rebuttal on some of the things he said about the baseball game. He failed to point out that in 2016 when I did play in the game, we actually beat Cedric and his Democratic colleagues. This last year, I wasn't able to play and we lost, so I am coming back. I am going to fight for my starting job again at second base, and Cedric, it’s going to be a different day in 2018. I can't thank you enough for being here, for being a part of this, for our friendship and our family's friendship. Jennifer and Cedric's lovely wife, Raquel, are great friends. We get together from time to time and we share stories, but we also share a great bond. I think a lot of people are often confused about that, how can they-- the head of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Majority Whip on the Republican side be close friends? I think, hopefully, it serves as a lesson to all. Sure, we have differences, our differences are what make our country great, the fact that we're able to express our faiths that might be different, to fight for the things that we believe in. As Cedric said, I do believe we all want to get to the same place. We just sometimes have different roads that we take to get there, but we have that ability because of the way that our country was founded. As all of you come together for this event, I want to thank you for being a part of this. So many world leaders, so many people of faith, faith leaders all around our country, you are what hold the bond together that make this country so strong.

"Who would have thought that one of the hottest tickets to get in Washington is a gathering of over 3,000 people of faith, to come together at 7:30 in the morning to share our belief in God. This literally is one of the toughest tickets to get in Washington. I really want to thank Randy and Charlie for keeping this great tradition going, sixty-six years of a National Prayer Breakfast. Thank you, Senators Coons and Lankford, as well. It is a great tradition and it is a great reminder that while you hear so much about the political differences that we have in this town, you don't hear about the times that we come together. Whether it's legislation that we’ll pass together, probably even today, where Republicans and Democrats do come to agreement, but also, when we share our faith together in ways like we do now.

"Believe me, this is a nation that was not founded in agnostic views. This was a nation founded with a deep belief in God. Our founding fathers talked about it when they were preparing to draft the Constitution. In fact, Thomas Jefferson… if you go to the Jefferson memorial right now, go read this inscription from Thomas Jefferson, 'God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?' You can't separate church from state...

"I'm a Catholic, we have people of all faiths. This idea that you can just check your faith at the door--people would say, you know, when you're voting on issues, how do you separate your faith from the way you vote? Faith is part of who you are. It's part of who I am. It's part of what establishes the value set that I bring to this job and I would hope everybody brings a set of values rooted in faith when they're making consequential decisions that don't just affect our country, but that affect the entire world. One of the unique things about the United States of America is that we were founded in a deep belief in God. As President Trump just said, the rights that we have were not given to us by men. They were given to us through men from God.

"The first actual right we have in the Constitution, through the Bill of Rights, is the right to express our faith. I appreciate what the President has done to fight for religious freedom, when he challenged us last year to repeal the Johnson Amendment. I'm proud to say the House was able to successfully pass a repeal of the Johnson Amendment last year, so that people of faith aren't threatened in their own workplace. If you're trying to express your own views, you shouldn't be fearing intimidation by your own government that you can't express your faith freely. This all comes to us as part of the founding of this great nation.

"When I was watching that video, it was hard not to tear up a little bit because it brings back so many memories. You know, when the shooting started, I never saw the shooter. I didn't necessarily know the first gunshot, I wasn’t thinking it's a gunshot. We're practicing for a charity baseball game. This is another great tradition of Congress that goes back generations, where Republicans and Democrats come together and go and play a game of baseball and forge great friendships and raise a lot of money for a lot of local charities. Typically, we raise about a half a million dollars for local charities. I am proud to say when I found out after the fact, after the shooting, there was an increased interest in the game. In fact, we had over 25,000 people come to the Washington Nationals' ballpark. Typically, you get about 10,000 people, which is a lot of people, to watch, you know, a bunch of people that might have had maybe a high school career at best, go out and play on a major league ballpark. Instead of raising about $500,000, the event raised over $1.5 million with 25,000 people there.

"There were so many things that were rooted in faith that not only started that day, but carried me throughout the recovery, that I'm still engaged in. The first shot comes and you know, I was looking over in that direction and saw a tractor. I thought maybe a tractor had back fired. All of a sudden, the second shot comes and by the third shot I was hit, and fell to the ground. When I fell to the ground, my first instinct was to start crawling to try to get away. I was crawling and then eventually my arms gave out. Once my body just kind of went into a shutdown mode, I still could hear everything going on. I was hearing a gun fight. It wasn't just one shooter at that time. I knew my Capitol police detail that were there were engaging with the shooter, but I couldn't see anything. The first thing I thought of was to pray. I just started praying. I said, I’m going to put this in God's hands. I’ve always been a man of faith. I don't go around talking about it a lot, but I have a conversation with God. Every night I talk to God. I don't just talk to Him to ask him for things. I try to remember every night to thank God for the good things that happened that day, to thank Him. If there's something I want, I shouldn't be asking Him. It should be a two-way street. We should thank God for the things that He delivers to us every day. He delivers for us in so many ways; we ought to thank Him for it.

"At that point I asked Him for things because I knew--I didn't know how bad it was--I knew I was hit and couldn't move. The first thing that came to my mind, as Cedric mentioned, I’ve got a beautiful family. I have a 10-year-old daughter who is daddy's little girl and I said, God, please don't let Madison walk down the aisle alone. It just hit me and it still draws a lot of emotion from me, but I just didn't want to see that visual carry itself out. Then, I started praying for the ability to see my family again. At that point I’m hearing gunfire back and forth. I’m hearing a different caliber of fire, so I know that David and Crystal had engaged. I prayed that they would be successful at carrying out their duties. Thank God for the United States Capitol Police, some of whom are here today.

"We always ought to thank law enforcement when we see them. There's Secret Service around here, there’s other law enforcement agents. They quietly do their job to keep us safe and usually they don't have to engage, but this day they did. Both were hit. Both were shot in the shootout and continued to battle the gunman. Believe me, this, this would have been a -- this would have been a scene just like Sandy Hook or Sutherland Springs. It would have been a massacre. That's what the shooter set out to do. There were at least 15 Members of Congress who would have been shot, who were right there in that dugout and if not for the United States Capitol police, and then the [Alexandria,] Virginia police who came behind them, it would have been that way. Luckily, through the grace of God it wasn't. Believe me, God answered those prayers. There were miracles that happened on that baseball field that day. Not just to save my life, but so many others.

"Go ask my colleague from Mississippi, Trent Kelly. The first shot that was fired was maybe 30 feet away from Trent Kelly and the gunman was looking right at him. There was a chain link fence in between Trent and the gunman. It was a direct shot and it hit a link in the chain link fence and the bullet veered just enough to miss him. There’s a picture Trent has of that chain link fence with that one link removed. You tell me God was not on that baseball field performing miracles.

"If my colleague Brad Wenstrup from Ohio wasn't there that day. He was playing in the outfield. He was a combat surgeon. He served in Iraq and one of his jobs was, if somebody was injured in the battlefield he would get them ready so when the helicopter took them away they could make it to the hospital. Well, I was his patient that day. He was watching as the shooting was going on and watching me to see if there were signs of life. He said he kept seeing some movement in my feet and arms and knew I was still alive. He knew the way I was hit, it could be really bad because of some of the things he had seen. As soon as the so shooter went down, Brad made a beeline to me, and he applied a tourniquet. My surgeon said that if he didn’t apply that tourniquet I would never have made it to the hospital. Even with that, I arrived with zero blood pressure. I lost almost all my blood. Somehow, miraculously, I made it through.

"Cedric figured out which hospital I was at and was the first one there in his baseball uniform showed up at the hospital. They were initially taking me to George Washington. They didn't have a helipad there, so they were driving me in an ambulance at 7:30 in the morning in Virginia, fighting Virginia traffic. Needless to say, they weren't moving fast. One of the EMTs saw a helicopter coming. Secretary Zinke over there, one of the park ranger helicopters that the Department of Interior has, sent a helicopter. [The EMT] just took a gamble, and said ‘You know what, that helicopter, I think, is coming for Steve. We're not making it to George Washington.’ He told the driver to turn and the ambulance turns off and goes back to the baseball field. Sure enough, that helicopter goes back to the baseball field. They transferred me and four minutes later I’m in the emergency room at Medstar Hospital, where they ultimately saved my life. I would not have made it... if not for that helicopter.

"Jennifer and I refer to those as the little miracles. The true miracles that happened along the way. Then something else happened, as I was in the hospital fighting for my life in those first few days and especially the first few hours.

"By the time Jennifer got to the hospital, Cedric was there, President Trump and Melania came to the hospital and provided great comfort to her as well, as she was wondering whether or not I was going to make it through. Luckily, through the grace of God I did. I had a lot of surgeries. A lot of great surgeons. A lot of blood transfusions. So many people prayed. So many of you prayed for me and I can't thank you enough for those prayers because many of you I know. Many of you I serve with and know through other means, but a lot of you I don't know and never met. Yet, you prayed for me, too.

"Let me just share with you, because you do it all the time. Your faith leaders and you’re asked through a friend, ‘My friend's got cancer, can you pray for them?’ When you pray for somebody you don't know, they feel it. I felt that prayer. The prayers of so many people that I'd never met before. It wasn't just the prayer groups from my local church at St. Catherine’s, but it was colleagues from other states, saying, ‘You know I was in the shopping center and someone said to me, how is that Congressman that was shot, doing? We're praying for him.’ Thank you for those prayers. They are felt and it truly did help lift me up and lifted my family up through incredibly difficult times. As you continue to pray for my recovery, I appreciate it. I'm happy to say David Bailey is back on our team and the Capitol Police detail. Crystal is still working through her recovery so please keep Crystal in your prayers because there's going to be a day when she comes back and is able to serve again. I appreciate all the prayers that you give to all of us who are recovering, and continue to fight through this.

"It's incredibly uplifting as well because you know, as much as some people want to focus on the negative, I never had the opportunity to do that because I was overwhelmed with all of the outpouring of love and support and prayers from so many people. I got to see the good in people. I got to see what is great about this country. It’s easy to harp on the negative things that happen to us every day. Each of us have struggles in our life. If you just tune that out and you look around at all of the wonderful things that God presents to us. He is sending us signals every day and He is sending us signs. There might be bad signs, but there are also good signs. I am lucky and blessed that I am able to focus on the good things that happen. It is because of my deep faith in God.

"As I close, I want to share something that I saw when I was able to return. It was such a wonderful feeling to be able to return to work. I spent over 15 weeks in the hospital battling. To be able to come back to the House chamber, under those words inscribed, 'In God We Trust.' 

"We pray every morning in the House and the Senate. When we open up our business, we say prayers. And, 'In God We Trust' is there above the rostrum. When I went home for the first time and I was in my church again for the first time, during the sermon I started flipping through the missalette. Every day there is a different scripture. I flipped back to June 14. I wanted to read the scripture of that day. I got goosebumps when I read the scripture in the missalette for June 14. I want to read it to you. It’s Psalms 27.

“'The Lord is my light and salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, whom should I dread? When those who do evil draw near, they stumble and fall. The man who meant to do evil, stumbled and fell through the grace of God.'

"That was the scripture on June 14 when I flipped through that missalette. I still get goosebumps to this day when I read it. It is in fact what we put on our Christmas card for our scripture. God is good and God is great. God has blessed this great nation. Not only to bring together so many great leaders that are here today, but every single day. The fact that no matter where you are in the world, if you believe in freedom, if you believe in the ability to express your religious faith, that beacon above the Capitol, the Statue of Freedom, tells everyone around the world that the United States is the place that stands up for those religious freedoms that we all hold so dear because we are a nation that was founded under God.

"Thank all of you for being here and may God continue to bless this United States of America."

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