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My Take: No pressure, Mr. President
Author Eric Metaxas speaks alongside President Barack Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington in February.
December 10th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

My Take: No pressure, Mr. President

Editor's Note: Eric Metaxas is the author of "No Pressure, Mr. President! The Power Of True Belief In A Time Of Crisis: The National Prayer Breakfast Speech."

By Eric Metaxas, Special to CNN

(CNN)–Imagine that the president of the United States had to sit and listen to you for 30 minutes in a public setting. Imagine that he couldn't escape and had to endure whatever you said. If you disagreed with him politically, would you try to embarrass him? What would you say?

Well, this actually happened to me. A year ago I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, an event attended by the president, first lady, vice president, and 3,500 other dignitaries. No one was more shocked at the invitation than I. Previous speakers include Mother Teresa, Tony Blair and Bono. No pressure.

By the way, I disagree with the president in some important ways. But as a Christian, God commands me to love those with whom I disagree, to treat them with civility and respect, as creatures made in God's image. That's a command, not a request or a suggestion. Again, no pressure.

In my speech I spoke about my heroes, William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Wilberforce's faith led him to fight for the Africans being enslaved by the British; Bonhoeffer's faith led him to fight for the Jews being persecuted by the Nazis. I used them as examples of people who passionately lived out their faith by standing up for their fellow human beings when most around them merely gave it lip service.

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I also joked around a lot, because as any of my friends will tell you, one of the ways I show love is by joking and teasing people.  Who said prayer breakfasts had to be boring?  At one point I said that George W. Bush had read my Bonhoeffer book, and then I glanced at President Obama and said "No pressure."  I'm glad he laughed!

Later in my speech, I talked specifically about the idea of loving our enemies. I said this was the test of real faith. Speaking to my fellow pro-lifers, I said that those of us who believe the unborn to be human beings must love those on the other side of that issue. I also said that those of us with a traditionally biblical view of sexuality are sometimes demonized as bigots, but we must love even those who call us bigots. I cited Wilberforce and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as two men who took seriously God's command to love their enemies in the midst of the most serious political battles of their day.  They honored God in how they fought, and he honored them.

At the end of the breakfast the president told me he would read my book on Bonhoeffer, and Vice President Biden took my picture with the president. No kidding. It was an extraordinary day and I'm not telling the half of it.

President Barack Obama holds up a book given to him by author Eric Metaxas

But the reason I'm writing now is that during the past election I was disappointed to see the president's campaign utterly abandoning these ideals of treating your opponents as you yourself would wish to be treated. Good people with principled and profound convictions about when life begins were cynically demonized as "enemies of women."  Americans who had worked hard to build businesses, and who had given millions to charity and to the government, were denounced as fat-cats who weren't "paying their fair share" and whose wealth was ill-gotten gain.

These scorched-earth tactics were not presidential, much less Christian, and because the president openly professes a Christian faith, I feel I must speak about this.

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Of course many will dismiss campaign hardball rhetoric as "what works." This is to miss the point. What we say matters deeply, and how we say it matters deeply.  All of it has serious long-term consequences.  For all of us.

For one thing, our children are watching and listening. We tell them it's less important who wins or loses than how we play the game. Is there no truth to this at all? Do we not see that this behavior erodes faith in the very political process and in democracy itself? Do we not see that by doing this we encourage our opponents to do the same - and worse - the next time around?  Shouldn't we care about that?

Any victory won in an ugly way is somehow a tainted victory. In this case, the president has "won" a deeply divided nation, one that he - alas - has had a hand in dividing. Now what?

If he is to succeed in the tremendous challenges that lay ahead, he must repent of these tactics and must make amends with his opponents, if it's not too late.  Or else he will face gridlock and more gridlock.  He also must show the door to those who cynically encouraged this "winning is the only thing" behavior.

His legacy and America's future depend upon it. Many will be praying for him.

No pressure.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Eric Metaxas.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Politics

soundoff (2,208 Responses)
  1. Kristin

    Mr. Metaxas, thanks for encouraging us to be civil. I do think it would've been good to acknowledge the ugliness on both sides of the campaign, but the point about treating others with respect is well-taken. Unfortunately, most of the commenters are too busy insulting your personal views to see the point of your article. As you said, oh the irony.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  2. Erik

    The irony of all these negative comments is almost comical at this point. Very good points and great observations by Eric Metaxas – one of the best 21st Century writers and one who shows respect to all people. We should follow his example and keep your negative comments at least civil – "our children are watching and listening".

    December 11, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Benjamin

      ... sehr gut beobachtet!!!

      December 11, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  3. Mike

    This is sad! Looks to me like the comments prove the point EM was making.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  4. Nietodarwin

    If you STILL support the GOP, and STILL believe in religion, you should probably not comment on here. You are making your party look really bad, and if you count the number of comments deriding this INSANE article, the numbers are running very much against it. This is because people who support (what used to be) the GOP are disgusted with the religious hypocrisy of the article, and moderate religious christians are disgusted with the cold-blooded hypocrisy (and racism) of the GOP.

    December 11, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Quinn

      If you still "believe" that there is no God. Prove it. If you still "believe" in the liberal premise of taking other peoples money and giving it to others............ Let me know just how you "spin" the history of the USSR and China and Cuba, etc. etc. If you still "believe" that Democrats have all the answers........ then I will show you a Democrat controlled Senate and President that has run up the National Debt to well over 16 Trillion..... and IT. WILL. BE. OVER. 20 Trillion when the current popular President finishes his term. HEY! You get what you ask for sometimes....... and now you are giving it to others.

      Notice there is no name calling here. No: if you are a lib or Dem you must be "insane". No. That is not what I or others I know do. It is, in fact, what you do. Right out of Saul Alinskys playbook.

      December 11, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Ryan

      So if a majority tells me it's right then I should do it? The thing about America AND the Internet is that you can be the only person with your opinion and still make the most sense. Also I can't wrap my head around how this article is religious hypocrisy. Please respond on how this contradicts itself in any way.

      December 11, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  5. gblog

    Listen, children, to a story
    That was written long ago
    'Bout a kingdom on a mountain
    And the valley folk below
    On the mountain was a treasure
    Buried deep beneath a stone
    And the valley people swore
    They'd have it for their very own

    Go ahead and hate your neighbor
    Go ahead and cheat a friend
    Do it in the name of Heaven
    You can justify it in the end
    There won't be any trumpets blowing
    Come the judgment day
    On the bloody morning after who...
    One tin soldier rides away

    So, the people of the valley
    Sent a message up the hill
    Asking for the buried treasure,
    Tons of gold for which they'd kill
    Came an answer from the kingdom,
    "With our brothers, we will share
    All the secrets of our mountain,
    All the riches buried there"

    Now, the valley cried with anger,
    "Mount your horses, draw your sword!"
    And they killed the mountain people
    So, they won their just reward
    Now, they stood beside the treasure
    On the mountain dark and red
    Turn the stone and looks beneath it...
    "Peace on Earth" was all it said

    Go ahead and hate your neighbor
    Go ahead and cheat a friend
    Do it in the name of Heaven
    You can justify it in the end
    There won't be any trumpets blowing
    Come the judgment day
    On the bloody morning after who...
    One tin soldier rides away

    Go ahead and hate your neighbor
    Go ahead and cheat a friend
    Do it in the name of Heaven
    You can justify it in the end
    There won't be any trumpets blowing
    Come the judgment day
    On the bloody morning after who...
    One tin soldier rides away

    December 11, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  6. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    Putting the kibosh/”google” on Mr. Metaxas and also all religions in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    December 11, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • Reality

      See added details on p. 31.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:00 am |
  7. john

    During the campaign I got outlandishly false "forwards" demonizing Obama daily–DAILY; none demonizing Romney. NONE. What is this guy talking about?

    December 11, 2012 at 4:38 am |
    • Quinn

      Hey John, thats funny. I saw, and received daily e-mails, tweets, fb rants, aas well as the Major News outlets: NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC...... all ranting and raving about Romney. (The fact: I also saw the rants and raves about Obama). So are you deliberately planting a false grail?

      December 11, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  8. scoto

    What a sactimonious silly article.

    December 11, 2012 at 4:12 am |
    • Doc1

      You took the words right out of my mouth.

      December 11, 2012 at 4:42 am |
    • Arvoasitis

      Ditto.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:54 am |
  9. Lilybean58

    Obviously, he was NOT listening to the Republican candidate during the campaign. Talk about sauce for the goose . . . !

    December 11, 2012 at 3:58 am |
  10. Bob

    A loss achieved in an ugly way is something the Christian right seems willing to overlook. If ever I've seen ugly in a political campaign it came from Romney and Ryan with their vows to never tax the rich and their promise to take even more away from the elderly, the needy and the millions of Americans still working for starvation wages.

    December 11, 2012 at 3:07 am |
    • rhondajo3

      @ Bob Wow you really need to take those blinders off of your eyes!

      December 11, 2012 at 3:58 am |
    • hpuphd

      I agree with Bob's comment. The remarks of Mr. Metaxis would have more credibility if he had made at least a tacit admission that the faults he talks about could be found in both parties during the recent election. He makes it sound as if the president is the only one at fault.

      December 11, 2012 at 4:09 am |
    • Mark Ramsey MD

      Rhondajo, I'd be interested in hearing what "blinders" you're talkng about

      December 11, 2012 at 4:14 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      The state owes nobody a livelihood.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:36 am |
  11. stevensj64

    Of course, in the interests of equanimity you would have continued to describe the Republican Party as sinking to gutter politics and just plain lies & how disappointed you were with them?

    December 11, 2012 at 3:05 am |
  12. E.J. Germond

    And so, Mr. Metaxas, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone"!

    December 11, 2012 at 3:00 am |
    • Lilybean58

      And the congregation says "AMEN!"

      December 11, 2012 at 4:00 am |
  13. Andreas Kertscher

    Here is a parable: John has to buy a new truck for his company, because the old one's gas guzzling is ruining him. He goes to his dealer, Barack, who gives him a contract with a price, but no model description in it and says: last time You got to pick, so it is only fair that this time I pick after You sign.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:59 am |
    • Athy

      ?

      December 11, 2012 at 3:04 am |
    • End Religion

      Just more insane Repub blather. Man, is this party flushing itself right down the toilet...

      December 11, 2012 at 5:11 am |
  14. Fred Evil

    Blah blah blah, religious nutter says what....?
    If you don't like being accused of waging a war on women, STOP IT.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:39 am |
    • Jay

      Why? He'll just be accused of racism instead.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:05 am |
  15. scott kesson

    so, do they just block posts at random in this forum? Doesn't really encourage me to bother trying to be thoughful .... Is it brevity they are looking for?

    December 11, 2012 at 2:35 am |
    • Helpful Hints

      Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN automatic filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters or some html tricks to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ---
      ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
      co-on.....as in racc-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      crac-ker…
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, sopho-more, etc.
      ho-oters…as in sho-oters
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      inf-orms us…
      hu-mp… as in th-ump, th-umper, th-umping
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      nip-ple
      o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      p-oon… as in sp-oon, lamp-oon, harp-oon
      p-orn… as in p-ornography
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      que-er
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sl-ut
      sm-ut…..as in transm-utation
      sn-atch
      sp-ank
      sp-ic.....as in desp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
      strip-per
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, t-itle, ent-ity, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, salt-water, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!
      wt-f....also!!!!!!!
      There's another phrase that someone found, "wo-nderful us" (have no idea what sets that one off).


      There are more, some of them considered "racist", so do not assume that this list is complete.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:37 am |
    • tallulah13

      There is an automatic filter that blocks certain letter combinations that might be considered offensive. You simply have to add spaces or characters to break up those combinations. For instance:

      Const.itution
      mora.ss
      hom.os.exual

      There's a big list of offensive words that gets posted now and then, but at least this is a place to start.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:39 am |
    • tallulah13

      Whoops! Beat me to it.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:40 am |
    • Nathan

      This makes so much sense to me. So many different times my posts were blocked and I had no clue why. Thank you!

      December 11, 2012 at 3:42 am |
  16. Corey

    Mr. Metaxas,

    You're a fool of the highest degree. It's people like you that are running this country straight into the ground.

    You brag about how you idolize all these men that stood for social justice, but you yourself don't even support marriage equality, which should be a basic human right. Then, you turn around and criticize the left for playing hardball in elections. Well, sir, we have to play hardball, or else narrow-minded imbeciles such as yourself will regain control of the nation.

    And, as long as you want to talk about 'playing dirty,' why not mention those republican governors who tried suppressing the vote so that less ballots would be cast for Obama? I could go on and on about your hypocrisy, but it would be a waste of my time. People like you will never see the truth because your faith blinds you from the bigger picture.

    I wish you nothing but the worst.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:34 am |
    • montrose

      Why would he support gay rights? It's not a basic human right to sin blatantly. You are young and well fed on the lies of the left. Just because Metaxas doesn't agree with your views doesn't make him a hypocrite.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:39 am |
    • Athy

      Why is it sinful to be gay?

      December 11, 2012 at 2:43 am |
    • tallulah13

      Montrose, scientific studies have shown that hom.os.exuality is innate. Orientation is not a choice. On the other hand, there is no evidence to support the existence of any god. Therefore religion is more unnatural than hom.os.exuality.

      I'm sorry that you are offended (and possibly frightened) by people who are different than you, but seriously, if two consenting adults fall in love and want to be married, how exactly does it harm you if they are the same gender?

      December 11, 2012 at 2:44 am |
    • Mark Ramsey MD

      Montrose, Though you choose to believe otherwise, in this country there is a separation of church and state. It is not your right to legislate your religious beliefs to me.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:45 am |
    • mama k

      When Monty finishes with that, we'd still like to know what "secular religion" is. I seem to know of a couple of other posters who dream up crap like that and just move on, kind of like someone who doesn't clean up after their dog.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:48 am |
    • montrose

      i'm not legislating anything just asserting my opinion because atheism or any-ism is just as potent a belief system affecting our legislative process as Christianity.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:51 am |
    • Athy

      Please explain that to us, Monty.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:52 am |
    • Athy

      Explain how atheism affects our legislative process. We're waiting.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:54 am |
    • montrose

      it is a guiding belief system or worldview which carefully de-gods society and begins to see man not as created beings but as units of the state, or as Hitler applied Darwinian evolution to social progress – a rational extermination of problem people.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:55 am |
    • mama k

      Now Monty – if a government is secular, is it atheist? Again, what is a "secular religion" you mentioned earlier?

      December 11, 2012 at 2:56 am |
    • Observer

      montrose,

      The Bible said that God torturously killed EVERY pregnant woman, child, baby and fetus on the face of the earth.

      What was your point?

      December 11, 2012 at 2:57 am |
    • montrose

      there is no void. there is no vacuum. even the vacuum is full even if it is nothing.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:58 am |
    • Athy

      How does atheism "degod" society? Atheism is not an organized movement. We atheists just "degod" ourselves. You're free to believe in whatever silly mythology you want. Just don't push it on others. Is that concept a little too deep for you, Monty?

      December 11, 2012 at 3:00 am |
    • montrose

      secular government is not atheistic.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:00 am |
    • montrose

      what principles will you use to govern? if none, then you have answered my question. if sartre, then sartre. if rawls, then rawls. there is no void.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:03 am |
    • Observer

      montrose,

      If you need a 2,000-year-old book to tell you that murdering everyone is wrong, you aren't too bright. Atheists can figure out a "moral" society without having to be forced into anything by bribes (heaven) or threats (hell).

      December 11, 2012 at 3:06 am |
    • mama k

      Monty: "secular government is not atheistic."

      So earlier, when you said "OR will you impose your secular religion on others?"
      what did you mean?????

      December 11, 2012 at 3:08 am |
    • montrose

      Observer – our time is over. I thought you were beginning to think.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:10 am |
    • montrose

      kind of like 1984. kind of like Ayn Rand. Kind of like Staliinism.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:12 am |
    • Observer

      montrose,

      Stumped? Too bad you have to run away.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:12 am |
    • montrose

      selah

      December 11, 2012 at 3:14 am |
    • Mark Ramsey MD

      Secularity (adjective form secular, from Latin saecularis meaning "worldly" or "temporal") is the state of being separate from religion

      December 11, 2012 at 3:15 am |
    • montrose

      exactly and thus it replaces religious impulse.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:17 am |
    • Mark Ramsey MD

      Montrose,
      Your position shifts like sand under your feet. Perhaps it's because you are being challenged from several different positions at once. Let me clear about mine. There is a concerted effort by many religious groups in the fight to oppose gay marriage. When legal arguments and reason are imposed, opposition to gay marriage always boils down to intolerance based on religion. I don't accept that, and soon it is going to change.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:33 am |
    • mama k

      To me that expression "secular religion" is meaningless. "Separate from religion" indicates "away from"; or "an absence of religion within"; there is no replacement. Now if you were more specific, as in "your belief that there is not god of Israel" – that says something useful that is clear to all parties as to what you mean.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:36 am |
    • mama k

      typo correction: no god

      December 11, 2012 at 3:39 am |
    • Nathan

      For Corey:
      I like how all your replies have nothing to do with your post...granted I will use this to segway back to one of your points. True the right side is corrupt and has its hypocrites sadly what side doesn't in the confusing time when many people purposefully say what they don't mean. But no matter what side you are you have to look at the context of Mr. Metaxas point. He is simply addressing his experience with the president and his view of the president's religious faith and current actions. The blog has a specific focus which is why he is not talking about the right side (Romney) or even the rest of the left. So just thought I would honor you with considering your thoughts and offer you this. Take it or leave it.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:58 am |
    • Nathan

      We can't get annoyed at Montrose or Monty as he is being called now, lol, he is being assaulted by many different statements, questions and arguments from multiple people. I tip my hat to him for just keeping up with everyone granted. I love the one on one face to face conversations. All the people going off on him is making this introvert worn out. lol

      December 11, 2012 at 4:03 am |
    • Mark Ramsey MD

      Nathan,
      You are missing the forest for the trees. Mr. Metaxas pretends to take the high road because, he says, that is what his religion tells him to do. Then he throws in comments here and there to make sure you know what his beliefs are; he's just too "above the fray" to be the one slinging the mud. He is a classic hypocrite.

      December 11, 2012 at 4:22 am |
    • Mark Ramsey MD

      Nathan,
      BTW, in case you didn't notice, Montrose didn't keep up. He left over an hour ago.

      December 11, 2012 at 4:26 am |
    • Nathan

      Ramsey
      What makes him a hypocrite? You can't make a point like that without proof.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  17. scott kesson

    Heavy handed moderation in this forum....?

    December 11, 2012 at 2:24 am |
    • Ted

      None at all, actually. The only thing is a naughty-word filter that won't allow a post with "Consti.tution" or "circu.mstance" because there is a ti.t or cu.m in them.

      Find the naughty bit, do what I did.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:32 am |
    • Dippy

      Constitution. Circumstance.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:39 am |
    • Ted

      Dippy is being cutesy-pie: you can use html coding to say fuck without tricks like adding a period. But that's the advanced course, and you are a beginner.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:45 am |
  18. The Bottom Line

    My best guess is that the Belief Blog wasn't getting enough clicks lately, so the staff put the shallowest, dumbest, most self-impressede Christian they could find and let him talk egotistically about his narrow-minded, hypocritical, idiotic beliefs.

    And presto zippo, over 2,000 responses, the management is happy so the staff is happy.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:20 am |
  19. Tony

    47% of Americans who received some help from the government were demonized as leeches and moochers. Many of them, including seniors and veterans, still voted Republican. Repent, Mr. Romney.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:12 am |
  20. rupert barnes

    it is easy to accept what you believe even if it,s wrong.

    December 11, 2012 at 1:51 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.