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Psalm 46: Obama's 9/11 Speech References Biblical Passage

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Thousands of viewers cast their eyes on televisions Sunday as they watched the 9/11 memorial services held in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

President Barack Obama made an appearance at each service, but it was the citation of Psalm 46 during his speech in New York City that seemed to make an impression upon audiences everywhere.

Shortly after the President observed a moment of silence for the first plane to strike the World Trade Center, he read the biblical passage that began, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

Yahoo! News describes the passage as "a sure defense in desperate times." But some questioned the President's use of scripture at all.

For example, a user on a Yahoo! Answers forum inquired: "Was it inappropriate for Obama to read Psalm 46 at the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony this morning?"

Responses varied, of course, but the majority of responders did not seem to mind references to religious texts. One user responded with: "It's a verse. It makes people feel better about the lives lost, so why not?"

In a statement released by the White House, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained the decision to use Psalm 46:

The President chose a scripture which he believed was most appropriate -- he believed it was particularly appropriate to use -- to read scripture this morning. And he chose a passage that talks of persevering through very difficult challenges and emerging from those challenges stronger.

"Ten years ago America confronted one of our darkest nights," Obama said during a speech at the Kennedy Center in Washington Sunday evening.

“These past 10 years have shown that America does not give in to fear,” he adds later. (Scroll to watch this speech.)
Obama's comments about America's strength during hardship seemed to tie into the meaning behind the scripture he cited earlier that day.

German scholar Hermann Gunkel has interpreted Psalm 46, and his writings were published in "The Biblical World". He writes:

Terrible troubles -- says the old prophecy -- shall come over the earth in the last days; there shall be dreadful throes to usher in the new age, and earthquake which shall destroy the very foundations of earth. The highest things shall be thrown down, the mountains shall tumble into the sea. But in all these catastrophes and convulsions which come upon the universe we are to have no fear.

This isn't the first time the scripture has been used in a tribute, Yahoo! News reports. Obama referenced Psalm 46 during a speech about the Tuscon shooting that injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed 9/11 child Christina Taylor Green and 19 others.

For the complete Psalm 46 passage, view the video below, or read it on The White House blog.

WATCH the speech at the World Trade Center site:

WATCH the speech at the Kennedy Center:

Editor's Note: A paragraph in this article previously referred to Psalm 46 as a Christian scripture. Psalm 46 is part of the Old Testament.

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