Remembering President Roosevelt's D-Day Prayer

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Since the beginning of the Republic when Benjamin Franklin appealed for divine intervention during the Constitutional Convention, prayer has been a part of our national consciousness. And while some today want to ignore the role that prayer has played in the life of our nation, throughout history prayer has comforted us during times of trial and brought us together as a people.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt offered such a prayer during World War II as the Invasion of Normandy began. It is that prayer that is the subject of my legislation, the World War II Memorial Prayer Act.

On June 6, 1944, tens of thousands of Americans joined with allies from around the world in an effort to break through Hitler's Atlantic Wall. They came by amphibious landing craft, by gliders laden with men and materiel, by parachutes deployed deep behind enemy lines. And at places called Omaha and Utah and Pointe du Hoc, they struck a mortal blow to the Nazi regime and began the process of freeing a continent. Thousands would give their lives for that cause. The testament to their sacrifice is written in French fields of white crosses and stars of David.

They did not go into battle alone. They and their allies carried the hopes and dreams of enslaved peoples all over Europe. And they brought with them the prayers of every American.

On that early morning, across our nation word spread through the darkness that the invasion was underway. And people prayed. They prayed in churches and synagogues, in living rooms and town halls. They also prayed in the White House.

As the fate of the world hung in the balance, President Roosevelt addressed the nation by radio. In what he called "this poignant hour," he asked the American people to join him in prayer.

The President prayed for the men who were in battle. He prayed that they would have strength, that they would have success.

"They fight not for the lust of conquest," he said of those who landed on the beaches that day. "They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home."

But President Roosevelt knew that not all the men who went into battle would come home. He prayed for them too, that they would find the peace in death that had eluded them in life.

Together with Sen. Landrieu from Louisiana, I have introduced bipartisan legislation that I crafted with former-Sen. Joe Lieberman directing the Secretary of the Interior to install in the area of the World War II Memorial a plaque or inscription with the prayer that President Roosevelt shared with the nation on D-Day. This prayer brought our country together in a time of great difficulty and left an indelible mark on American history. It is past time that we honored his words.

Our legislation recently received a hearing before the Senate National Parks subcommittee where I was able to talk about this powerful prayer and to submit testimony from the Ohio Christian Alliance, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, and the Christian Coalition of America, all of which strongly support this bill. I hope it will soon move to the floor of the Senate for consideration. It deserves the same reception there it received last year in the U.S. House of Representatives, where companion legislation overwhelmingly passed by a vote of 386-26.

In the end, President Roosevelt's prayer was answered. The beaches of Normandy were captured, and less than a year later the continent of Europe was freed from Nazi domination. We have not forgotten the sacrifices of the men and women who won that victory for liberty, and we have not forgotten the words of President Roosevelt that comforted a nation during one of the most trying times of the war.

Even after 70 years, President Roosevelt's prayer has the power to bring us together as a people, and to remind us that although we may sometimes have our differences, there are so many things that unite us.

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Sen. Rob Portman

Sen. Rob Portman

Guest Contributor

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