home
RSS
My Take: Obama channels Reagan at Boston interfaith service
April 18th, 2013
06:27 PM ET

My Take: Obama channels Reagan at Boston interfaith service

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

At the interfaith prayer service held in today for the victims of the Boston marathon bombing (including Lu Lingzi, a graduate student at Boston University, where I teach), President Barack Obama was once again called upon to play the pastor-in-chief at a moment of national tragedy.

In his speech, Obama did a lot of cheering for the home town, praising Boston as “the perfect state of grace.” He recalled his time as a law student at Harvard. He cheered on the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Patriots, and the Bruins. And he repeatedly referred to Bostonians as a gritty people who would not give in to terrorism in the 21st century any more than they bowed to the British in the 18th.

As I listened to the speech, however, I couldn't help hearing echoes of President Ronald Reagan.

After the 2012 election, and particularly after Obama’s second inauguration, many pundits started to refer to him as the “Liberal Reagan.” Just as Reagan made it OK to be conservative in the 1980s, Obama now seemed poised to make it OK to be liberal. He seemed less worried about failure and more comfortable with his convictions. I see this "Liberal Reagan" in Obama’s outrage at the Senate’s rejection on Wednesday of even the most milquetoast gun control legislation.

But I heard Reagan himself in Obama’s speech at the interfaith prayer service.

Reagan's success as a president turned on his optimism and his resolve. In a sense, these two rhetorical notes are at odds. Optimism can be seen as soft, even wishy-washy. Who but a fool (or a liberal) can be optimistic in the face of communism or terrorism or a difficult Congress? The other is hard and unbending: the resolve to face up to communists or terrorists or Democrats at home whose policies seem designed to drive American society to the brink of extinction.

Yet together optimism and resolve served Reagan well, transforming him into one of our most popular presidents, despite the often polarizing positions he took on domestic and foreign policies alike.

The heart of Obama’s speech today came about halfway in when he quoted from the second letter of Timothy in the Christian Bible: “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Obama then praised “doctors and nurses, police and firefighters and EMTs and guardsmen” for running toward the explosions. “That’s discipline,” he said. He praised “exhausted runners” who themselves became first responders, tending to the wounds of spectators. “That’s real power,” he said. And “when Bostonians carry victims in their arms, deliver water and blankets, line up to give blood, open their homes to total strangers, give them rides back to reunite with their families, that’s love.”

Obama next pivoted to the perpetrators themselves, addressing them directly (and to much applause):

That’s the message we send to those who carried this out and anyone who would do harm to our people. Yes, we will find you. And yes, you will face justice. We will find you. We will hold you accountable.

Obama's speech was a celebration of the spirit of the city of Boston and the resilience of the American people. It was an optimistic speech, and a speech of high resolve.

As Obama turned his attention to the injured, he combined these two Reaganesque notes, looking forward to a better future when those who lost their legs will, through faith and hard work, learn to run again. Your city, your commonwealth, and your country are with you, the president said. “We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that I have no doubt. You will run again.”

Obama then spoke of the resolve of his fellow Americans, and promised that this time next year the Boston Marathon would be run yet again to even louder cheers. But what caught me up was his hope, and his conviction. Yes, "the Democrats' Reagan" was addressing the people of Boston and the American people. But he was also addressing himself, steeling his own resolve, vowing to "run with endurance the race" that is set before him, and resolving to do so with hope and conviction.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Bible • Interfaith issues • Massachusetts • Politics • United States

soundoff (160 Responses)
  1. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    Hallelujah!, means high in limit of my heart and mind.

    April 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Thanks to pizza chefism, greasy-ism of pepperoni thin crust folded, fork eating of deep dish red sauce ANCHOVIES, east coast and their pizza chef ism copy cat pizza chef Anthony, By the slice have lost meanings of traditional crust and alfredo of By the slice, ANCHOVIES, The deep dish red sauce, traditional crust and alfredo of Sappo filthy mall pizza. They hand toss the pie, but on their own pizza chef ism, ignorance. Visit bestpizzapie.com to learn meaning's of Word ANCHOVIES, deep dish red sauce, by the slice and the world ism.

      April 19, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • STFU

      Hallelujah!, means high in limit of my heart and mind. Allah U Akbur, means low in moral and I am ready to die

      April 19, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  2. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    lionlylamb

    Love , submission is of truth absolute GOD, Skinah, peace of heart.
    Hate is of callas, hindu secular ism, filthy self center ism of a person, subordinated to his hindu soul, filthy desire.
    Fear, of not being sure, unbalanced, being un knowledgeable. or of unknown. being in hinduism, darkness, also known as Drass

    April 19, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Closing window to awful sounds of crying babies Barking dogs ism, ambulance noise pollution ism, Nobody cares neighbor ism, open windows, crying babies emergency noise ism Damn fire trucks sirens louder ism in to neighbor one else on front of his main street, at last holidays fire trucks looked at HOME OFFICE and wailed and same was answered by HOME OFFICE, Damn fire trucks spewing water on ash, Damn fire trucks turned in to HOME OFFICE, and HOME OFFICE turned in to Damn fire trucks, ONE ON corner WAS NOT DAMN FIRE TRUCKS BUT HOME OFFICE, EVERY crying babies, puppy follower of crying babies Barking dogs ism, ambulance noise pollution ism making noises to as his Barking dogs, ambulance noise pollution man dog. Visit TurnOffTheNoise.com to learn crying babiesism, denial of noixe absolute chaos, by crying babies noise ism.

      April 19, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Big Shiz

      You mom's had a lot of Hindu dik in her life.

      April 19, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  3. 12 oz Raw Steak

    Did you ever notice how all the cool stuff in this world worthy of God is not claimed by the faithful, and all the stupid boring stuff only a total asshole would like is what religious people cling too? Cults for poor taste and stupidity.

    April 19, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • meifumado

      I have a 24 oz ribeye waiting for me at home!

      April 19, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  4. Hallelujah!

    Do you believe if you go ahead and allow the holy ghost into your heart that you can be cleansed of all your sins and ascend to the kingdom of God? That is what I’m talkin’ about, can I get an amen? Can I get a hallelujah? Do you know if you take two ripe bananas and you put ‘em in a bowl and you put some sugar and you go ahead and bake it at 400 you can pull it out and have yourself banana bread? Hallelujah! Hallelujah, yes you can!

    April 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • meifumado

      That's not how to make Banana bread.

      April 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • Hallelujah!

      meifumado, you have to have faith brother! Yes you can! Hallelujah!

      April 19, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • meifumado

      I tried, but being faith is a non existent ingredient I'm having some issues.

      =)

      April 19, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  5. Peace

    Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    where there is injury, pardon;
    where there is doubt, faith;
    where there is despair, hope;
    where there is darkness, light;
    where there is sadness, joy;

    O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
    to be understood as to understand;
    to be loved as to love.

    For it is in giving that we receive;
    it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
    and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
    St. Francis

    April 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • meifumado

      Whats your point?

      Are you saying we should pardon this kid and forgive him if and when he is caught alive?

      April 19, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Grant to all the Life they all inherited from the flesh.
      Let the many linger along slowly while the few either sink or swim.
      The Love for the Father cannot outdo the Father's Love.
      As a child all did grow outward toward living their lives with hope outweighing despairs.
      We have crossed the intellectual thresholds and are as socialized misfits when brought up against civilized moralities.

      Love Let Us,
      Love Lettuce.
      Let Us Love,
      Lettuce Love.

      G.O.D.

      April 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Right to cast first stone is of , the one who did not commit hinduism sin, and so is forgiveness, none other.

      April 19, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • meifumado

      Is that iceberg or Romain?

      Perhaps Boston bib?

      April 19, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Boston Bib Lettuce sort of 'fits the season', yes?

      April 19, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
  6. 2 Timothy 1:7

    God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline

    April 19, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • ?

      I have never ever seen those behaviors in Christians.

      April 19, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • Peace

      Fantastic verse!

      April 19, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • meifumado

      self-discipline?

      funny.

      April 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Ohwhatever

      Discipline based on religion is not discipline and never will be. Real discipline requires logic to inform those involved on how things really work, otherwise it's all make-believe fake BS. Discipline to pray a thousand times a day? No such thing.
      Psychotic activities that have no relation to real-world events and results is religion. When there is no clear logic to be found in any religion, and no rational or realistic values, rules, morals, etc, then there is nothing upon which to base any discipline whatsoever.
      When anyone can switch cults, make any claim, interpret any text in any way and call it religion, it is total bullsh$t from beginning to end and always will be. Obama violates his oath in front of everyone, but because he is doing it to promote christianity, all the other christians turn a blind eye. If a muslim had forced everyone to listen to him preach the way the prez is doing, everyone would be in an uproar and calls for impeachment would fill the air.

      April 19, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  7. "THIS IS A SETUP" MOTHER OF BOSTON SUSPECTS

    YES THEY WERE SET UP, OR BRAINWASHED BY FILTHY BLOGERS LIKE MOHAMMAD A. DAR

    April 19, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  8. lionlylamb

    meifumado wrote on April 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm, "Love is one of the most intense feelings felt by man; another is hate. Forcing yourself to feel indiscriminate love is very unnatural. If you try to love everyone you only lessen your feelings for those who deserve your love. Repressed hatred can lead to many physical and emotional aliments. By learning to release your hatred towards those who deserve it, you cleanse yourself of these malignant emotions and need not take your pent-up hatred out on your loved ones.”

    Love and Fear admits not hate. Anger though may be misconstrued as hate. Boiling down hate to its commonality bares the hypocrites' muddied resonations. Love and Fear may well be viewed as anger and hate opposites. For all the emotional 'labeling' most folks do, the positive ones are more preferable. Still, without discords rooted stances, there would be little reasoning and intellectual hindsight growing upon and within societal cloisters. Words rule within all socialistic communes.

    April 19, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • meifumado

      While anger can be misconstrued as hate the emotion is not as pure. Anger can subside, pure hatred cannot.

      April 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      So then meifumado,

      Without Love, pure hatred demoralizes ones' psyche, the soul of emotions? Or is such hatred intellectually ordained?

      April 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • meifumado

      This why you need both love and hate, you just need apply them to the correct places.

      April 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • meifumado

      is*

      oops was typing fast and im at work =)

      April 19, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      meifumado,

      Lest they forget, "Hate comes sometimes quickly but mostly arrives at a snail's pace."

      April 19, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • .

      LL is the belief blog pseudo intellect we recommend you just laugh and move on.

      April 19, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
  9. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF FILTHY COOKER ISM, UNDERWEAR ISM

    keep spewing your mithra ism, filthy islamic gutter ism, results of your Koranic teaching are right in front of your eye, blind man; so many dead, so many more to die, while real rats like yourself are going to hide in holes, chewing cheese, getting fat; what a shame !!!

    April 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • Big Shiz

      Shut the Fuk up you crazy basterd.

      April 19, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      hinduism, stupidity of a hindu secular, crook self centered.

      April 19, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF FILTHY COOKER ISM, UNDERWEAR

      According to book of potted plants Fern sim, sun light ism, Green thumb, seed labels, potted plants oxygen loving Fertilizer sprouted in to new blooms else on front of tree parasite, at last rainfall Fertilizer looked at Sun lamp and smiled and growth was answered by Sun lamp, Fertilizer kissed soil, Fertilizer turned in to Sun lamp, and Sun lamp turned in to Fertilizer, ONE ON windlow shelf WAS NOT FERTILIZER BUT SUN LAMP, EVERY potted plants, hippie follower of potted plants Fern ism, sun light ism waters to as his Fern, sun light man potted plant. Visit GreenThumb.com to learn potted plantsism, partial light of grow lamp absolute plant food, by potted plants parasites.

      April 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Posted by a follower of hindu Monkey ism, stupid secular ism, son of a hindu monkey, ignorant secular by faith.

      April 19, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF FILTHY COOKER ISM, UNDERWEAR ISM

      Big Dick & Big Pus sy Mohammad A. Dar, go and just blow each other

      April 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Big Shiz

      Your mother is a Hindu.

      April 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • ISLAM FILTHY BOMB ISM

      Shut up big dick, filthy underwear ism, goon

      April 19, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Big Shiz

      Your mom gets on all fores and worships 7 headed dragons.

      April 19, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  10. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    ISLAM FOUNDATION OF CORRUPTING YOUNG MINDS

    You a barking spewing your hindu secular ism, filthy self center ism, just to please your hindu soul, filthy desire to accuse Muslims and Islam for hindu secular ism by your hindu secular, filthy self centered nature, as usual. As I have posted, it is their own hindu secular ism, criminal self center ism, cause of hinduism, terrorism, not Islam, because, Islam is all about covenant in truth absolute, they made a covenant with USA, and abrogated their covenant with their hindu atheism, filthy self center ism.

    April 19, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Answer

      Islam, goes, boom. Every, day, everywhere. Do it faster. Then begone.

      April 19, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Do not like bloody nose, do not stick it in others business, sons of hindu languor,, crook secular, self centered by faith.

      April 19, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF PULLING WOOL OVER YOUNG PEOPLE'S EYES

      You're a barking dog here, stop pulling wool over people's eyes Mohammad, your religion is murderous filth, look what guys like you did to the two young kids in Boston; they came to the US in search of better life, but a little bit influence of your beautiful Islam, one is dead, other is on the run with explosives tied to his body, stop preaching hate you dirty rat.

      April 19, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • meifumado

      No deodorant ism Paki stinky secular muslim beats off little boys ism diddle diddle little boy ism I bend over for allah cuz it feel good when he puts it in the butt ism secular.

      April 19, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Every hindu criminal barks, spews his hindu secular ism, filthy self center about followers of truth, after truth absolute is applied for his hinduism, criminality, take your hindu secular ism, filthy self center ism, and shove it in hind of your hindu filthy god, Lucifer, filthy secular. hindu, crook.

      April 19, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF PULLING WOOL OVER YOUNG PEOPLE'S EYES

      shut up Mohammad, filthy cooker ism

      April 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
  11. lionlylamb

    Pastoral chieftains of the hierarchal branch tops around socio-political dogmatic surrealisms ooze methodically into social arenas giving rises to and toward individualistic truant behaviorisms bearing havoc and bedlam to the masses.

    April 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • meifumado

      Satan laughs, Damnation sinks its talons deep into the womb of utopia spilling forth great rivers of virginal purity and bliss.

      April 19, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      individualistic truant behaviorisms

      It is also called hindu atheism, filthy self center ism, foundation of hinduism denial of of truth absolute GOD, by hindu monkeys, ignorant secular s, self centered by faith.

      April 19, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Ones' idle adorations entailed upon diaspora leaves the tallying marks of Judaism's finaglers ever vying for worldly treasures always missing the eyes of thoughtfulness done deeds.

      April 19, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      This is what happens, when human stop to be human HIS Desire and follow their hindu soul, filthy desire to be hindu Jews, filthy secular s by faith.

      April 19, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • meifumado

      “Love is one of the most intense feelings felt by man; another is hate. Forcing yourself to feel indiscriminate love is very unnatural. If you try to love everyone you only lessen your feelings for those who deserve your love. Repressed hatred can lead to many physical and emotional aliments. By learning to release your hatred towards those who deserve it, you cleanse yourself of these malignant emotions and need not take your pent-up hatred out on your loved ones.”

      April 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Very true.

      April 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • meifumado

      Glad you liked it , Guess where it's from?

      Anton Szandor LaVey, The Satanic Bible

      April 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  12. meifumado

    Wow, Everyone seems a little angry today.

    Whats with all the childlike insults being thrown about?

    Normally the insults are a little more intelligent and or snide.

    Anyhow, Happy Friday all!!

    It's a wonderful day today without any gods.

    April 19, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
  13. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    He is a Chechnyaian, not an Arab, hindu blinded by hindu soul filthy desire. Way of hindu dogs, stupid secular s.

    April 19, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
  14. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    What is on your hindu begging, self centered list this time by using Favorited tool of hindu Jews, crook secular s. H O L O C A U S T ST.

    April 19, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
  15. TeaPatriot

    As usual, the muslims did it. Why do we allow them to come here?

    April 19, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Maybe our immigration laws 'allow' such to happen?

      April 19, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • sam stone

      TeaParrot: As usual? Wasn't it your people's wet dream, Tim McVeigh who blew up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City?

      April 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      He may have claimed to be Muslim, but he committed hinduism terrorism by justifying his action according to his own hindu atheism, criminal self center ism, not a way of Muslims and Islam, but of hindu Jew, criminal secular s , self centered buy faith..

      April 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Zionism is based on hinduism racism, A product of hindu atheism, criminal self center ism, I have nothing to do with your hinduism stupidity.

      April 19, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF MURDERS, BETRAYAL, LIES, DECEPTION

      do I need to say more about your religion Mohammad? Sc ums, came from Chechnya seeking asylum, Americans gave them gift, accepted them with open arms, and they f ked the people who provided them to live like humans. RATS.

      April 19, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
  16. sam

    Troll harder, dumbass.

    April 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  17. STFU

    @praise him, Obama up your....

    April 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  18. midwest rail

    Nice try. Anyone who reads these blogs regularly knows you stole my screen name. Next.

    April 19, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  19. midwest rail

    @ Praise...see initial reply.

    April 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  20. Larry of Nazareth

    I enjoyed this one a lot: "Evils scientists with their logic and reason are ruining our faith. If only we could thwart their efforts to educate our children with real life facts as opposed to make believe fairy tales and ignorance."

    Tipped your hand on that one, but it's still very funny. Well done!

    April 19, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
1 2 3
Advertisement
About this blog

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.