When Rabbi Joel Schwartzman got a call over the weekend asking if he’d be free to give an invocation at the presidential signing of the stimulus bill on Tuesday, he briefly hesitated.
"I had a appointment with my accountant to do my taxes," he said. But when he mentioned it to his wife, she responded "Are you crazy?"
So Schwartzman, from Congregation B’nai Chaim in Morrison, Colo., said yes and gave a three- minute prayer Tuesday afternoon at the Denver Musuem of Nature and Science. He was selected for the honor by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. Schwartzman serves on a clergy council advising Hickenlooper on "Denver’s Road Home," a program in which congregations mentor homeless families and place them into housing.
"Long known as people who, when asked to give of ourselves, have come forward with gifts that have astounded and amazed, whose creativity and ingenuity have, time and again, brought betterment to the advancement of the common good; we beseech You, once again, to imbue us with the confidence that there is no challenge too great that we, united together as the American people, cannot overcome it," said Schwartzman in the invocation.
"I tried to strike an optimistic note and reflect that when Americans have been down, they’ve come back stronger — and hopefully that’s where we’re headed," said Schwartzman, who actually delivered the invocation before the president arrived in the building but did get to shake Obama’s hand.
He added that it was a great honor. "To pray for the nation, that’s as good as it can get in terms of being patroitic and being part of a country that I was born in and have served and loved," said Schwartzman.
It was the second time the retired military chaplain had delivered an invocation for a presidential event. In 1997, while in the Air Force, Schwartzman gave the invocation at the Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington Cemetery.
Here’s Schwartzman’s full invocation:
O Lord: on this day and at this noon hour, we invoke Your Presence, Your Good Counsel, and Your Guidance. Given all with which we are confronted as a nation at this moment in history, we admit that we are sorely tried, but are knowingly capable of rising and meeting our challenges.
We look to You, O God, as the model of Strength; but most of all, of Hope. Cause us, as we ponder Your standards of Justice, Righteousness, and Responsibility to unite around these qualities which have undergirded America’s greatness in the past. For, as a people which has collectively sought Your example and Your blessing, we ourselves have benefited, striving together to build a better society, a better nation, and a better world.
Long known as people who, when asked to give of ourselves, have come forward with gifts that have astounded and amazed, whose creativity and ingenuity have, time and again, brought betterment to the advancement of the common good; we beseech You, once again, to imbue us with the confidence that there is no challenge too great that we, united together as the American people, cannot overcome it.
Bless our President, his advisers and counselors. Bless those who fill the seats of government throughout this great nation, and all who serve, guard and defend this country.
And finally, Lord, at this auspicious occasion, one so filled with the promise of our national, renewed wellbeing, we say, blessed are You, O God, who hears our prayers.