At his inauguration on January 20, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower took an unprecedented step: after taking the oath of office, he led the nation in prayer. During his prayer, which historian Kevin Kruse notes helped make Eisenhower’s inauguration as much a “religious consecration” as a “political ceremony,” the new president asked God to “make full and complete [the executive branch’s] dedication to the service of the people.”
Eisenhower’s professed dedication to serve all the citizens of the United States and his willingness to rely upon God’s help were not entirely new.
In ministry here in Harrisburg, in the past five years our congregation has lost eight sons—all murdered in cold blood. Gun violence is a national nightmare, experienced locally and felt personally by so many of us. It should be a Civil Rights issue of our day.
The national parks are rightly considered some of America’s great treasures, but their history is not as serene as their landscapes. A year after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln deeded Yosemite Valley to the state of California, to be maintained for public use for all time. Lincoln hoped these “magnificent lands . . . might offer a unifying peace for a divided nation.” But before Yosemite could be turned into a park for public use, the Ahwahneechee, its native inhabitants, had to be driven out. Similar wars of removal were conducted at the end of the 19th century at the sites of Glacier and Yellowstone parks (Times Literary Supplement, September 2).