Barack Obama, T.D. Jakes, Vashti Murphy McKenzie
Pablo Martinez Monsivais  /  AP
President Barack Obama, center seated, and others, lower their heads during a Easter Prayer breakfast with Christian leaders in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday.
updated 4/19/2011 10:32:21 AM ET 2011-04-19T14:32:21

Pausing to observe Holy Week amidst war and the policy struggles, President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that the agony of Jesus Christ through death and resurrection puts mere political struggle "in perspective."

For the second year running, Obama hosted an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House, and the East Room was filled with administration officials and clergy from across the country.

Obama said "critical national debates" are raging, and "my plate has been full as well. The in-box keeps accumulating. But then comes Holy Week ...

"As busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there is something about the resurrection ... of Our Savior Jesus Christ that puts everything else in perspective."

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Obama faces pessimism as he focuses on budget sale

Obama spoke just before heading to a town meeting in Virginia on his deficit plan — the start of a cost-to-coast tour promoting his fiscal blueprint as more balanced than the one advocated by congressional Republicans.

Obama has used previous prayer breakfasts to underscore the depth of his Christian faith in the face of polls indicating some Americans question his religious beliefs. Last August, a Pew Research Center poll found 18 percent wrongly believe that Obama is a Muslim.

Video: Obama takes deficit message on the road (on this page)

On Tuesday, Obama recounted the story of Christ's march to Calvary, the crucifixion and resurrection, the "unfathomable grace" of taking on the sins of the world.

"This amazing grace calls me to reflect, and it calls me to pray," he said.

Obama said his daughters help keep things in perspective for him, and so does having a "strong spouse. ... But nothing beats Scripture and the reminder of the Eternal."

The event included an opening prayer by African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Vashti McKenzie of Tennessee. Other well-known clerics included Bishop T.D. Jakes and Archbishop Demetrios, leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in America.

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Video: Obama takes deficit message on the road

  1. Closed captioning of: Obama takes deficit message on the road

    >>> spring break for the president and his budget message, hitting the road this week for town hall meetings , the campaign swing is the first since the the president formally announced his re- election campaign and pair a fund-raising push with an attempt to rally support ahead of the big fight over raising the debt ceiling. meanwhile, republicans are using tax day to hammer a no new taxes message. dan balls is national political reporter for the washington post and joins us now. you heard congressman gutierrez. the white house view will probably be they have no place else to go, but if they're not enthusiastic, that's a problem in key states we're talking about, nevada, north carolina , florida, the whole southwest. the hispanic community is a very big deal .

    >> no question about it. and the president is going to have to work to make sure that the -- that group of voters among a number of groups of voters are as energized in 2012 as they were in 2008 . they have identified a number of groups that are important to his re-election and hispanics have to be at or near the top of that. and they are not yet as enthusiastic as the white house will need. the obama folks will say, well, they don't have anywhere else to go, in the end they'll be with him, but he has to make sure that all of the parts of the democratic base are enthusiastic because this is going to be a tough election for him.

    >> we saw over the weekend the re-emergence of sarah palin on the republican side at a tea party rally in wisconsin. let me show a little bit of that.

    >> we didn't elect you just to rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking titanic. maybe i should ask some of the badger women's hockey team, those champions, maybe i should ask them if we should be suggesting to gop leaders they need to learn how to fight like a girl.

    >> fight like a girl, dan . she's back. at least somewhat back. i'm not saying she's running, but she's back. what about the dynamic of the republican side ? we'll talk about donald trump and that little exercise, but how do you see the 2012 hopefuls shaping up? is it romney's to lose?

    >> no. i think it is a very unsettled field, andrea. it seems like it is more unsettled the longer we go along. part of it is just the hesitation of people to make a final decision about whether they're running. sarah palin being one of them, mike huckabee of arkansas being another, mitch daniels of indiana being a third. there is so much uncertainty about this field that i don't think you can say anybody is an overwhelming favorite. certainly romney has a lot of attributes he starts this race with. as everybody knows, he's got some liabilities as do others in the field. i think republicans are looking around wondering is this what we have to choose from and if so, what are we going to do.

    >> dan bals, thank you very


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