First Baptist Church Dallas
11:37 A.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It’s good to be back in church. (Applause.) Pastor Jeffress, thank you for that overly generous introduction. Thank you for your ministry.
To Governor Abbott, Secretary Carson, Senator Cornyn, Attorney General Paxton, my fellow Americans: It is a special joy to be with you today to celebrate freedom on this Sunday in this special place. (Applause.)
You know, the Bible tells us it was for freedom that Christ set us free. And I cannot think of a better place to celebrate freedom than here at First Baptist Dallas with all of you and with a man who just spoke, and who has become so precious to your President, to your Vice President, and to all who serve our nation in the White House. Would you join me in just showing your appreciation — (applause) — for Pastor Robert Jeffress for his voice — for his ministry, for his courage, and for his faith. (Applause.) Thank you.
And speaking of friends of mine, allow me to bring greetings from another friend of mine. I heard he tweeted I was going to be here this morning. (Laughter and applause.) He has been a great champion of everything we will celebrate this morning. And he’s been a great champion of people of faith and all the freedoms that we cherish. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
Just a few days ago, the President said these words. He said, “We will never stop fighting for the sacred values that bind us together as Americans.” We believe that faith and family, not government bureaucracy, is the true way of life. And the President concluded by saying, “We live by the words of our national motto: In God we trust.” (Applause.)
And so it can be said of First Baptist Dallas. Since 1890, when a small group of believers laid the cornerstone of this church, this congregation has understood that the foundation of America is freedom, and the foundation of freedom is faith. (Applause.) Which makes it altogether fitting that we gather in this place and that we will gather, in the days ahead, in houses of worship all across America to celebrate freedom.
So how do we celebrate freedom? On the occasion of the approval of the Declaration of Independence, our first Vice President said that he was, quote, “apt to believe that [the day would] be celebrated by succeeding generations as a great anniversary… commemorated as a day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God… solemnized with pomp and parade, with games and sports and guns and bells and bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other.” And so it has — (laughter) — especially here in Texas. (Applause.)
And even in these challenging times, Americans will find ways, in the days ahead, as we approach our Independence Day, to celebrate just as John Adams described. But those of us who cherish freedom know that we do well to celebrate freedom every day, and to remember, as President Reagan said, that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It’s to be fought for, protected, and handed down to them to do the same.”
And I’m proud to report to you, as your Vice President, that from the first days of this administration, that’s exactly what President Donald Trump has been doing: protecting, defending, and celebrating freedom of every American of every race and creed and color. (Applause.)
And to celebrate freedom means many things. To celebrate freedom means building an economy where every American of every walk of life can live the American Dream. And under this President, we’ve allowed Americans to keep more of what they earn. We’ve rolled back the heavy hand of federal red tape at a historic pace. We’ve unleashed the vast natural resources of this land. And with that renewed freedom, before the pandemic struck, American businesses, large and small, had created more than 7 million jobs in our first three years. (Applause.)
As we work now to safely reopen this state and this nation to put Americans back to work and to worship, let me take this opportunity to commend Governor Greg Abbott for his courageous and compassionate leadership for the people of Texas during this challenging time. (Applause.) Thank you, Governor Abbott.
Working with your governor, we will put the health of the people of the Lone Star State first. And every single day, we’ll continue to reclaim our freedom and our way of life — as each day, we are one day closer to the day we put this pandemic in the past. And when we do, with this governor and this President, we’ll bring Texas and America back bigger and better than ever before. (Applause.)
And as we did this morning, to celebrate freedom also means standing up for and standing with those who defend our freedom at home and abroad. The Armed Forces of the United States are the greatest force for good the world has ever known. (Applause.)
And under President Trump’s leadership, I’m proud to report to you, after years of budget cutbacks that literally saw a — a significant portion of our Air Force aircraft on the ground being used as spare parts to keep other aircraft in the air, we’ve rebuilt our military. We’ve restored the arsenal of democracy. (Applause.)
And as the proud father of a United States Marine and the father-in-law of a Navy pilot, I couldn’t be more happy to report to you that we’re finally giving our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard the resources and the support they need to accomplish their mission and come home safe. (Applause.) That’s how we celebrate freedom as we stand with those who defend our freedom. (Applause.)
And to celebrate freedom also means standing with our allies, with freedom-loving people around the world. And under President Donald Trump, if the world knows nothing else, the world knows this: America stands with Israel. (Applause.)
To celebrate freedom also means standing up for persecuted people of faith all over the world. And under this President, we’ve worked tirelessly to stand with persecuted communities, whether it be in the Nineveh Plain of northern Iraq, where we’ve invested millions to help rebuild Christian and Yazidi communities; or whether it be working, as our President has, to release Americans facing persecution and captivity in places like Egypt and Venezuela. And Pastor Andrew Brunson is home. (Applause.)
I’ll never forget the day we were on the tarmac when three men who had been held in captivity in North Korea arrived at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. They came down the stairs, and with the Secretary of State at my side, they handed each one of us a three-by-five card that’s now framed in my office. On one side was a word of thanks to us and to the President. And on the other side was a Bible verse, as they were praising the Lord for being freed from captivity. They were men of faith and they are free today. (Applause.)
And to celebrate freedom also means honoring and respecting the incredible men and women who serve in law enforcement at every level, every day. (Applause.)
The American people know most of those who put on the uniform of law enforcement every day are the best people in this country. They walk out the door every morning; they risk their lives to protect us and our families.
But we all know the tragic events of recent days. And let me say: There’s no excuse for what happened to George Floyd, and justice will be served. (Applause.) But there’s also no excuse for the rioting, looting, and violence that ensued. (Applause.) Burning churches is not protest. Tearing down statues is not free speech. There will be no tolerance for vandalism or violence in the United States, and we will prosecute those who do it to the fullest extent of the law. (Applause.) That’s how we defend freedom.
Finally, celebrating freedom means standing up for the values and liberties that we hold dear. As Dr. Jeffress said, that includes appointing now 200 judges to our federal courts who will all uphold the God-given liberties enshrined in our Constitution, like the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, and the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. (Applause.)
And none of it would’ve been possible without the strong support of the two senators from Texas who have stood with this President every step of the way. We want to thank Senator Ted Cruz. And join me now in thanking Senator John Cornyn for his principled, conservative leadership for our judiciary and our nation. (Applause.)
And with the steady counsel of Pastor Robert Jeffress, our President has also defended religious liberty from the first day of this administration. We restored enforcement of the nation’s conscience laws. We ended enforcement of the Johnson Amendment so the freedom of speech does not end at the front door of houses of worship in America. (Applause.) And like no other President in American history, President Donald Trump has stood without apology for the sanctity of human life. (Applause.)
This President and our administration celebrate freedom every day by upholding the ideals on which this nation was founded and defending them in each and every action.
And now we find ourselves in a challenging time in our nation’s history. We’ve gone through one of the worst pandemics in the history of this country, an economic downturn none of us expected, and, for a time, we saw chaos engulf the streets of many of our major cities. We’ve seen statues of some of our nation’s greatest heroes being torn down. And one can’t help but wonder that ancient question — that if the foundations crumble, how can the righteous stand?
And yet, in the midst of such trials, American Christians have hope. We remember the countless triumphs we’ve won, even in our darkest hours: victories against empires, against injustice, against diabolical tyrannies across the world. During these times, we do well to remember that the foundation of America is freedom, but the foundation of freedom is faith. (Applause.)
Our first President, George Washington, said, “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society.” And in his farewell address, he warned: “In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens…” He added, “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in the exclusion of religious principle.”
During the tumultuous days of the Revolution, John Adams wrote to a friend that, quote, “It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.” And when he became President, he said,“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
It is the faith of the American people that has sustained us through every dark hour of this nation’s history. And it is the faith of the American people that will sustain us through these days. (Applause.) It’s that faith that has seen us through even greater challenges, guiding us in our relentless drive for a more perfect union, for liberty and justice for all.
As Abraham Lincoln said while visiting Independence Hall in Philadelphia in 1861, speaking of our founding, he said, quote, there was “something in that Declaration giving liberty, not only to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future time.” He added, “It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.” (Applause.) And it happened.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said of the same founding documents that they were a “promissory note” of America — the promise that was made that all are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. And in the fires of a civil war, in the midst of civil rights movement, it was the faith of the American people that drove us toward a more perfect union, and the faith of the American people will continue to perfect our nation for generations to come. (Applause.)
The foundation of America is freedom. The foundation of freedom is faith. And as President Lincoln reminded us in words that, perhaps providentially, have already been on the wall of this church this morning. In a Thanksgiving message, our 16th President said, “It is the duty of nations as well as of men… to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.” (Applause.)
So in these challenging times, let’s — let’s hold fast to freedom. But let’s also hold fast to that faith. (Applause.) Let’s take to heart the title of Pastor Jeffress’s latest book, and let’s start “Praying for America” again. (Applause.)
We’re told — we’re told that “the prayer the upright pleases Him” and that prayer reaches heaven, His holy dwelling place. And in these times of great anxiety for many, the Bible tells us, “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every form of prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, with the promise that the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Applause.)
As our nation faces these difficult days, I believe more than ever that we stand in the need of prayer. In coming here today, I — I thought I — I wanted to encourage you: As you celebrate freedom in this coming week, practice prayer in a renewed way.
As we think about the challenges — the loss of more than 125,000 of our countrymen; when we think of the grief of those families; we think of those that are still struggling with this disease today; those who’ve endured economic hardship in the midst of the challenges we face — let’s claim that ancient promise that if His people who are called by His name will humble themselves and pray, He’ll do like he’s always done through the long and storied history of this nation. He’ll hear from heaven, and He’ll heal this land. (Applause.) He will. He will.
So thank you for letting me join you for this Celebrate Freedom Sunday here at First Baptist Dallas. I would have just come just to sit in the pew — (laughter) — because it has been good for my heart to worship with you all this morning.
And let me also say: It’s a greatest honor of my life to be your Vice President, and I thank you for myself and for my family. (Applause.)
I had a pastor tell me once that everybody is under-encouraged. You have encouraged your Vice President and, I know, all of those in our delegation who are with us today, and we thank you. And I leave here today that — God is at work.
And I had occasion to be reminded that, even when it doesn’t seem that way, God is still working a little bit earlier this week. You see, I received a letter from a pastor who leads a church not far from Jacksonville, Florida. He told me of a time that he and his new bride were attending Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, in 1977. It was a place where they held, in the spring, every year, a Christian music festival. They’d present the gospel with preachers. They’d present what was then the early versions of contemporary Christian music — have young people attend from all over the Midwest.
But he wrote to me that, in 1977, they had decided at the seminary to discontinue the event. But he and his new bride felt called to do the work. He wrote to me and said that, “Several friends told us that it would be very hard on our new marriage, and that we shouldn’t do it.” But he said, “We answered the call. We gathered a few other seminarians to help us,” and they worked a whole year to arrange the event in the spring in 1978.
And then he said, then the night came — the culminating evening on Saturday night, where he and his new bride were walking through the camp area. It was raining, and they were disappointed. They thought it all had been for naught.
And then he said, “And that’s because I didn’t know that that night a future Vice President of the United States of America would be giving his life to Jesus Christ.” (Applause.)
He wrote to me, “I cannot write this without tears,” and I could not read it without tears. Because I remember that night: Sitting on a hillside, it was raining, and it was like I — I heard the words for the first time that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten son, that whoever might believe in Him might not perish but have eternal life.
Then I stood up, and I walked down that night — not out of a sense of intellectual assent, but because my heart was broken with gratitude for what had been done for me on the cross.
I’m working on a letter to that pastor — (laughter) — which I will not be able to write without tears, and I’m simply going to say, to him and his wife, “Now I know who else to thank for that night so many years ago.”
The lesson in his letter was: Even when things don’t seem like they’re going the way we expected, they’re going away He expected. (Applause.)
And we can claim those other ancient words that have been over the fireplace in our home in Indiana, in the Governor’s Residence, in the Vice President’s Residence today. They read, “For I know the plans I have for you — plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
And I believe with all my heart, on this Celebrate Freedom Sunday and every day, that if we will but hold fast to Him, we’ll see our way through these challenging times, we will restore our nation’s health, we will renew our freedom, and we will inspire people across this land with our witness of the love and compassion and strength that comes in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Thank you for letting me join you today. God bless you. And God bless America. (Applause.)
12:06 P.M. CDT