Last Sunday, my husband and I were honored to participate in services at the Washington National Cathedral. Many presidents and their families have worshipped in the magnificent Gothic structure that sits on the highest point in Washington. But until Sunday, no President had ever taken an active role in a service.
Bill and I were asked first to read the "Prayers of the People" - a responsive litany of prayers and thanksgiving. Then, the President offered his own "Prayer for the New Millennium."
Last weekend marked an extraordinary event in human history, as the world ushered in not just a new year, but a new century and a new millennium. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, billions of people were able to share in the excitement and spectacle of celebrations around the world.
With so much attention focused on the countdown to midnight, it could have been easy to forget the true meaning of the millennium. A Christian concept marking the birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago, the turning of the millennium year offers us an opportunity not only to reflect on the past, but more importantly, a new chance to do better in the future.
God is offering America a new chance as well, for in the new millennium, the world will look to our country for leadership in meeting our common challenges. If we take this opportunity to extend our prosperity to those who have been left behind, then, perhaps, the global economy will bring a better life to the 1.4 billion people who live on less than $1 a day. If we provide our children with a world-class education, then, perhaps, every child in the world will have a chance for a good education as well. And, if we can build one America, making our diversity our greatest strength, then, perhaps, other nations will see the advantage of working to overcome their own ethnic and religious tensions.
On Sunday, Bill's "Prayer for the New Millennium" asked God for the strength and wisdom to meet these challenges. As we take our first steps in the new millennium, I'd like to offer this prayer to you as well:
"Dear Lord, as we awaken to this second morning of a new millennium, help us to remember that all we are and all we do begins with you, for whom a thousand years are but as yesterday when it is passed, and as a watch in the night.
"So we begin this jubilee year in humility, with profound thanks for the divine light first revealed 2,000 years ago that has brought us now to this sacred place today. Each in our own way, we thank you for the blessings of this life. For me and my family, I give you thanks for good health, good fortune, and the opportunity to serve the American people.
"We thank you for the amazing grace you have shown in getting us through and beyond our individual and collective sins and trials. Through the darkest hours of the 20th century, the shameful trauma of racial oppression, the pain and sacrifice of war, the fear and deprivation of depression, when all we could do was walk by faith, it was your guiding light that saw us through.
"We thank you for the promise of the new century, and ask your guidance and grace in helping us to make the most of it; to free our children of hunger, neglect and war; to ease the burdens of the less fortunate; to strengthen the bonds of family; to preserve and protect our earthly home; to use new advances in science and technology to lift all the human family and draw us all closer together.
"Finally, we thank you for the rich and wonderful diversity of human life with which you have graced this planet, and ask you to give us the strength and wisdom to give up our fear, distrust and hatred of those who are different. Teach us instead to learn from each other, and celebrate our differences, secure in the knowledge that we are all your children.
"Our Constitution tells us you created us all equal. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Koran says we must do unto all men as you wished to have done to you, and reject for others what you would reject for yourself. The Talmud instructs us, should anyone turn aside the right of the stranger, it is as though he were to turn aside the right of the most high God.
"By your grace, we have survived in spite of our blindness to this, your truth. Help us now to accept, at long last, the enduring truth that the most important fact of life is not wealth, or power, or beauty, or scientific advance, but our kinship as brothers and sisters, and our oneness as children of God.
This, Holy Father, is our prayer for the new millennium. Amen.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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