WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump met with inner city pastors Wednesday to discuss prison reform, workforce development and partnering with the faith-based community.
"Throughout our history America's churches and religious leaders have called for change and have inspired us to care and bring hope back to those in need," Trump said.
The White House is working to push the passage of the First Step Act through the Senate aimed to improve criminal justice reform and rehabilitation.
"Our focus on opportunity or every citizen includes helping former prisoners," Trump said. "These citizens reentering society have had a tough time, we want them to get jobs so they don't have to return to a life of crime and go back to the same prison that they just got out."
Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and adviser is spear heading the effort.
"Jared is working on a lot of very important things, this has become I think just about number one on your list – who would have thought?" Trump said.
Pastors, bishops and faith leaders echoed their thanks to Trump for putting religions at the forefront of their administration.
"I'm so blessed and honored to be here and to be able to pray here in the White House," Dr. Alvita King said.
"Thank you for bringing the faith base to the White House," said Paula White.
"You are admired by everybody in this country even if they are not believers most of them admire what you are doing, but maybe we'll make them believers," Trump said.
FULL REMARKS by President Trump in Meeting with Inner City Pastors
August 1, 2018 - Cabinet Room - 1:55 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. It's my great honor to be here today with some of the leading pastors and faith leaders from across our nation. These are great people, most of whom I know. And my administration is open, 100 percent, and we have been. We've had tremendous support, and I appreciate that. I appreciate you all being here today.
In case you don't know, that's called "the media." (Laughter.) They're wonderful people. I like you better.
I'm very happy to welcome these great leaders, including my good friends Pastor Paula White, Bishop Harry Jackson, Dr. Alveda King. Thank you for being here, by the way.
DR. KING: Yes, sir. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Darrell Scott, who's been with me from — I think before I even announced. He was saying, "You should run." Thank you, Darrell.
Today we'll discuss the progress we've made — and it's been tremendous — and the next steps we must take to continue bringing opportunity and safety to all of our citizens.
Throughout our history, America's churches and religious leaders have called for change and have inspired us to care for and bring hope back to those in need. So many people in need. These are the people that — they do a job, and it's really, largely unrecognized, which is something they don't even care about, frankly. They just want to take care of people. But the people realize it, and they love you. They love you very much. You know that.
By cutting taxes, reducing regulation, increasing American energy, and promoting American manufacturing — a situation where, as you remember, the other side of the equation said people don't want to do manufacturing anymore. I said, "Well, they don't want to make things?" Well, it turns out we're doing record business in manufacturing.
We've increased and created 3.7 million more jobs since Election Day. African American and Hispanic unemployment rates have reached the lowest levels in recorded history, meaning history — the lowest levels ever. African American and Hispanic. Asian also. Women also — 66 years.
We've launched a bold workforce training initiative. So far, over 100 companies and associations have already pledged to train and retrain over 4 million Americans. So important, because we have companies, once again, coming back into our country, and they want to employ people. So we're training and working with these people, and we're getting companies to do the same. It's been — actually, it's been a very beautiful thing.
We fought very hard to include "Opportunity Zones" in our tax bill, which, as you know, we have. This tax incentive will bring badly needed investment into distressed communities — communities with high unemployment, communities where it's really tough, and tough to get a job. And already, we're seeing what's happening. We're seeing the benefits.
Our focus on opportunity for every citizen includes helping former prisoners. These citizens reentering society have had a tough time. We want them to get jobs so they don't have to return to a life of crime and go back into the same prison where they just got out. I mean, this has been a tremendous problem. And the best thing we could do, actually, is exactly what we're doing: creating an environment where the country is doing so well.
And prisoners have never, ever, even close, done better than they've done now when they get out, because they're getting jobs. And the reason is, it's hard to get people because we're pretty well filled up. So for the first time probably, I think I could say, ever, they're getting a break.
And I have to tell you, the people that are hiring prisoners — and you've heard me say it — they're loving them. And I don't mean in every case. But in a big percentage of cases, they're loving them. And these are people that are doing, really, an incredible job.
But a lot of people didn't want to do it; they didn't want to hire prisoners. They're doing it. I have one man, a friend of mine, he's now up to number 10. And I don't say he loved all 10, but he liked 7 of them a lot. (Laughter.) In fact, said six of them are better than anybody else he has. I don't think that's a bad percentage. Right? (Laughter.) And he's a fan. And a lot of people are becoming fans.
We passed the First Step Act through the House, and we're working with the Senate to pass that into law. And I think we'll be able to do it. When we say "hire American," we mean all Americans — every American, everybody.
We cannot have opportunity without safety. We're working every day with local and federal law enforcement to reduce violent crime all over the country. I mean, you look all over the world — you think — but all over our country. And the numbers are going down.
Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, surrounded by a loving family, with access to a great education that leads to a lifelong career, and success, and all of the things that go with great success.
We also underscore the crucial importance of faith in fostering strong families and communities. And I just want to again thank you all for being here. And you're very special people. I don't even know if you know that, but you're very special people. You're admired by everybody in this country. Even if they're not believers, most of them admire what you're doing. But maybe we'll make them believers, right? (Laughter.) We're going to work.
And I'd like to ask John Gray, if we might, if you could just start off with a prayer.
PASTOR GRAY: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, John.
PASTOR GRAY: God, we thank you for an opportunity to speak about the hearts of those who sometimes cannot fight for themselves. Thank you for this moment to be able to share our hearts with the President and his administration.
Dr. King said we cannot influence a table that we are not seated at. And so we pray that this conversation will be fruitful, and productive, and honoring of the best traditions of this nation.
We further pray that you will continue to give wisdom and insight to our President and his leadership team to be what our nation needs, to build this country from the inside out, that we will continue to be a beacon of hope and light around this world.
Bless his family, bless his health, and everything that he puts his hands to do. This is our prayer. And bless our time together. Jesus, in your name, I pray. Amen.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, John. I think he's done that before. What do you think? (Laughter.) I appreciate it. Thank you.
Maybe we can go around the room. And we'll start — well, my friend from the beginning. Thank you.
DR. KING: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe just say a couple of words, Alveda, if you will.
DR. KING: I'm so blessed and honored to be here and to be able to pray right here in the White House. And the most recent thing I've noticed that you've done — you've done so many things that were great. Everybody expects me to talk about the life and the babies, and I could do that.
But you opening up the steel mills. And I lived across the street, Pastor, in front of a steel mill in Birmingham. Now, that's when they were bombing us and everything. But the people were at work, so they could go church, they could give (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: They're opening up.
DR. KING: — they had pretty dresses to wear on Sunday, and they weren't hungry.
So you said you were going to reopen those steel mills.
THE PRESIDENT: They're opening up.
DR. KING: I'll leave it at that. I won't take too much time. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: The dumping is stopping. You know, the dumping.
DR. KING: But I saw that. I saw it. Yeah.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, the dumping is stopping and the steel mills are opening.
DR. KING: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: United States Steel just announced another two plants. They're up to eight. Nucor, just yesterday, opening a big one — a brand-new one — $250 million in Florida.
DR. KING: I'm so glad. I'm so glad.
THE PRESIDENT: The steel mills are coming back, and we need steel in our country.
DR. KING: We do.
THE PRESIDENT: We need it for defense. We need it for a lot of reasons. We can't let that happen. They were ready to be gone. It was ready to be extinct. We had to get our steel from other countries. We can't do that.
DR. KING: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: So, thank you for mentioning that.
DR. KING: Really, thank you. I saw that.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Yeah, they're really opening. It's an incredible story.
PASTOR PONDER: Jon Ponder — Las Vegas, Nevada. First of all, Mr. President, I'd like to thank you for recognizing me on the National Day of Prayer —
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
PASTOR PONDER: — for the transformative power of Jesus that had worked in my life. Since that day, I echo your sentiments that the work that is being done in the reentry community as a result of prison reform — there are a lot of employers out there right now that are willing to hire people who are coming home from the prison system.
One of the things that we've learned was that employers are not not willing to hire people; they're not willing to hire projects. And because of the (inaudible) for the initiatives, when we're able to help them to be tremendous assets to the employers, and not liabilities, then they're hiring them all day long.
So we just thank you for the direction that the country is going in, and specifically as our partnerships with law enforcement are beginning to grow. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has given us over 60 men and women from the police department that are serving as mentors and trainers for people coming home from the prison system. And I think that is a direct result of the direction that our country is going in.
So I thank you and your administration for the hard work.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. And, you know, it's something that should have been done a long time ago — prison reform.
And, Paula and Jared, I want to really thank you for the job you've done. It's really incredible. But a lot of people are saying, "You mean it's the Trump administration that's doing this?" You understand. They don't believe it. But we're really making a tremendous amount of progress, and it's a beautiful thing to watch. Thank you, Jon.
REVEREND DE JESUS: Mr. President, I'm Reverend De Jesus, from the city of Chicago, from the community of Humboldt Park, New Life Covenant Church.
First of all, let me just say thank you for your boldness. Thank you for taking a stand for those that are disenfranchised. And I want to say that, in the city of Chicago, there are so many pockets that's not talked about — about revitalization. And I know this is something in your heart, of rebuilding communities. And I look forward to partnering with you and your administration to revitalize the city of Chicago.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
REVEREND DE JESUS: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
DR. MOODY: Mr. President, my name is Van Moody, from the Worship Center in Birmingham, Alabama. And I just want to continue to underscore what's already been said. Thank you for your heart for all people, but particularly your leadership on the issue of prison reform and workforce development. Those are two of the biggest issues facing Alabama. A lot of the individuals that we spend a lot of time ministering to are really hard hit in those areas; corporations. That's the biggest issue right now in Alabama. So thank you for your leadership on this issue.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
DR. MOODY: Thank you for being compassionate and caring about all people.
THE PRESIDENT: It's a great state, too.
DR. MOODY: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Great people. Thank you.
BISHOP SEARCY: Mr. President, Kyle Searcy — Montgomery, Alabama also. I want to echo all that's been said. We're very grateful for your heart toward criminal justice reform, your heart for the urban community. It's very — very amazing.
Montgomery, Alabama is a city that's known for unity and bringing people together. And so many things have come out of that city. And it's just very encouraging that you have a heart to begin to bring people together, work across the aisle to get things done. Many people on our team pray for you every single day.
THE PRESIDENT: That's really nice. I appreciate it, both. Thank you very much.
DR. GOUDEAUX: Mr. President, I'm Phillip Goudeaux from Sacramento, California. And don't give up on California. (Laughter.)
PARTICIPANT: I agree. (Laughs.)
THE PRESIDENT: (Inaudible.)
DR. GOUDEAUX: Please don't give up on California and on Sacramento. I'm right in the capital there, and we're working in every area to try to make a difference in people's lives.
So, I guess the greatest word I can say for you, Mr. President, is that you have given this country expectations, given us a new hope, a new excitement to believe that things are getting better and going to get better. And we appreciate that leadership — your tenacity to keep pushing in against all the opposition that comes against you. Thank you so much.
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. Thank you very much. It's very nice.
MR. HAYES: Mr. President, Travis Hayes. I'm Travis Hayes, and I'm the CFO of Relentless Church in Greenville, South Carolina. I'm honored to be here among — in the presence of greatness. And I'm excited about the opportunity to learn more. I used to be in law enforcement, so I'm really excited to hear about these programs with regards to folks who are just being released from prison and getting them back in the workplace.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
PASTOR LOWE: Mr. President, Pastor Julian Lowe from Oasis Church in Los Angeles. And I've very grateful for this administration and for you personally. I didn't grow up in the church, and I was taught growing up that faith and government were completely separated and completely different. So you offering this roundtable, and giving pastors and faith leaders a voice throughout the country — I heard about the meeting you had yesterday as well, with other faith leaders — and so it's very encouraging, inspiring, and gives me hope to take back to the people of Los Angeles.
I'm honored to be here. And thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: My honor. Thank you.
PASTOR PEREZ: Mr. President, Benny Perez from Las Vegas, Nevada. I'm so honored to be here with all these incredible men and women. Thank you so much.
Being a Hispanic leader, to see what is happening in the Hispanic community, it is the largest, as you know, ethnic community in America. And to have the lowest unemployment rate and to see my family members and my community being really empowered to live a life and not just dream, but actually see the dream become a reality.
Thank you for all that you're doing — it's making a huge difference in Las Vegas — and for acknowledging the churches as we partner with you and the government to make a huge difference in Las Vegas and beyond.
Thank you so much.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. You know, the churches weren't so much acknowledged, you know that, over the last number of years. We acknowledge.
PASTOR PEREZ: Right. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: These are great, great people.
PASTOR PEREZ: Thank you so much.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Paula?
PASTOR WHITE: Pastor Paula White from the Destiny Christian Center. And it's an honor to serve you with our faith initiative and opportunity.
Thank you for bringing the faith-based back to the White House and for all the great things you continue to do.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Paula. Thank you for everything.
PASTOR WHITE: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Jared, would you like to say something?
MR. KUSHNER: Sure. When you asked me to lead your efforts to try to reform our country's prisons and to see what we could do from the federal government, we were running into a little bit of a problem of politics in Congress. And so I reached out to a lot of you to see if you could help get the word out in your communities and to try to let the people in Washington know that making progress on this issue is more important than whatever political differences people may have.
You guys came to the White House. You all mobilized your communities. And we were able to get the bill through the House, and hopefully we'll have the same results in the Senate.
What happened from there, though, is it opened a dialogue between this administration and a lot of you, which has led us to believe that a lot of the policies we've been pushing, under the President's leadership, do help all your communities and do help your different places where you're leading. And it's enabled us to open up a further dialogue.
So I'm very happy today for everyone to be here today to talk about this administration's efforts for prison reform, but also to discuss what we can work on further together to continue to make a difference for all Americans.
THE PRESIDENT: That's really nice. And, you know, Jared is working on a lot of very important things. But this has become, I think, just about number one on your list. Who would have thought? (Laughter.) Who would have thought? It's just been great the way you've done. I think I speak for the room when I say we appreciate it. Great job.
MR. WINANS JR.: Mr. President, it's an honor to be here. When you asked us to speak, the first thing I thought about was my grandfather, and how it's an honor to be here. And, you know, he passed away a few years ago. But he raised 10 kids in the inner city of Detroit.
And when you were speaking, you were talking about how important faith was in the community and how it helps the family. And my grandfather did that, working odd jobs. He was a taxi driver. He cut hair. He did everything possible. But he had them in church and he kept them, you know, together.
He was with his wife — married for, I think, around 50 years before he passed away. But our family was able to do things that a lot of families, you know, aren't able to do without the assistance of faith and having church and having families together.
And so to hear you talking about, you know, keeping that in communities, I think, is super important. And I'm just happy for this opportunity. And just God bless you and everything you're doing. And thank you, Pastor Paula, as well.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Marvin. Great family. Great family.
MR. SMITH: Mr. President, it's been an honor to serve you in this administration. Today is a watershed moment — this opportunity to learn about a community that has felt left behind for years. And the things that you're doing under your leadership could drastically change situations and speak for people who can't speak for themselves. Each one of these leaders speak for a forgotten people around this country who have dealt with pain, regardless of who was President. And it's an opportunity for you to show your leadership to move things in a different direction.
So it's been an honor to serve, and I look forward to continue to workwith you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. That's very nice. I appreciate it. Darrell?
PASTOR SCOTT: Pastor Darrell Scott. I've had the honor and privilege to work with then-candidate, now President Trump, and to observe him behind the scenes and have a number of personal conversations with him.
And people ask me why do I defend him so vociferously. And I say it's easy for me to do it because I know him, and he's shown me his heart, and I know he has a heart for all Americans.
And I will say this: This administration has taken a lot of people by surprise. And it's going to surprise you guys even more, because this is probably the most proactive administration regarding urban America and the faith-based community in my lifetime. And I'll be 60 years old in December.
But when I think back on — well, I mean, I use good hair dye. (Laughter.) And I've got a great makeup artist.
But, to be honest, this is probably going to be the — and I'm going to say this at this table — the most pro-black President that we've had in our lifetime because — and I try to, you know, analyze the people that I encounter. This President actually wants to prove something to our community, our faith-based community and our ethnic community.
The last President didn't feel like he had to. He felt like he didn't have to prove it. He got a pass. This President is — this administration is probably going to be more proactive regarding urban revitalization and prison reform than any President in your lifetime.
If we work together, give him a chance. Don't pay any attention to these guys back here. (Laughs.) And I'll promise you, we will do something that — we will — this administration will continue to make history. It's going to be a lot of positive changes. Great things are on the horizon, I promise.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I have to say one thing about Darrell. So, I didn't know him at all. And I'm watching one of the, I would say, "unfriendly" groups of broadcasters, to put it nicely. And I said, "Who is that guy?" He was destroying them. I say, "Who is he?" And then I saw him two or three times. And I said, "I have to meet him."
But I want to just thank you. You have been incredible. You are some voice. And when I heard — okay, tell them, how long are you married? Tell me.
PASTOR SCOTT: Thirty-nine years — thirty-eight years.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. So I thought he was like 35 years old. (Laughter.) So did you. And then he said, "Say hello to my wife." And he said, "I've been married 39 years." I said, "You're married 39 years? I thought you were 35 years old." Right? (Laughter.)
But you're doing a good job. You're obviously doing it right because you look great and we really appreciate it.
PASTOR SCOTT: Yeah, we're going to be all right.
THE PRESIDENT: Right from the beginning.
PASTOR SCOTT: Ja'Ron has been working with us a lot and, you know —
THE PRESIDENT: Great.
PASTOR SCOTT: — he used to live on my street when he was a kid. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Good job.
PASTOR SCOTT: The same city. Yeah, so.
MR. SMITH: Small world.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Darrell. Appreciate it.
BISHOP COBARIS: Mr. President, I'm Bishop Kelvin L. Cobaris, the Impact Church of Orlando, Florida. I want to thank you, and I echo the sentiments of all of the colleagues that have already spoken for your work as it relates to prison reform. And I definitely thank you for your commitment to partnering with the faith-based community.
I happen to be in many rooms, and in one room in particular, and we had a meeting a year ago in the Oval Office. And you said to all of the faith leaders standing around your desk that "I'm going to untie the hands of the faith-based community. I am going to free you and take the muzzle off of your mouth."
And, in a year's time, I have watched you, day by day, do just that, by freeing the faith community and partnering with us to do what we've been called to do, and that is to impact our communities. So thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, one of the big things we've done is the Johnson Amendment. You know, you're free to do what you want to do now. You couldn't — you couldn't talk because you were afraid of a lot of bad repercussion. And we — as you know, we've taken that off. That's a bad — that was a bad thing.
DR. KING: Yes, it was.
THE PRESIDENT: That was a bad thing that Lyndon Johnson did a long time ago. He had to have a lot of power to get it done, but you now are free to say what you want. And when you want to support somebody, you support that. It doesn't have to be me. Of course, I hope it's me. But you're free.
You know, you're the people that we respect. And you were really not able to say what was on your mind. And we want you to say what was on your mind and what is on your mind. So I think getting rid of that is a big, big factor. And at some point in the not-too-distant future, we're going to put it through Congress. In addition to just an executive order, we're going to put it through Congress. We're going to get rid of it permanently because it should not be here. Okay? We're going to work on that.
PASTOR NESBITT: Mr. President, I'm Sharon Nesbitt, senior pastor of Dominion Church in Marion, Arkansas. I wanted to say thank you for your policies on prison reform and urban initiatives.
As you know, Arkansas has one of the largest prison rates in the country. So thank you for getting us back to the table, and for your faith-based initiatives to let us come to the table.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Great place. Great place. Thank you.
BISHOP HINES: Mr. President, my name is Bishop Darrell Hines, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I pastor the Christian Faith Fellowship Church of God in Christ. And I serve on the general board of the Church of God in Christ, where we have a five-point, faith-based initiative for inner city reform. And, of course, prison is one of them.
And so I appreciate, first of all, being invited to the table. It's an interesting thing because I was watching news — I watch news all the time. And I saw you on the news — this was just last week. And I said, "You know, I would love to go and have him hear me." But I said, "I don't know how that's possible. I don't know anybody who I think — who knows him."
THE PRESIDENT: (Inaudible.)
BISHOP HINES: And then I get the call from — I don't want to call him "Coconut" — but I get it from Marvin, Jr. He calls me and he says, "Listen, I want you to go with me to the White House."
And I think the most interesting thing about this moment is that we hear several things, but to know you hear us is an encouraging moment. And I want to thank you for taking this time to invite us to the White House, and then taking the time to hear us concerning our concerns in our community and in our faith, because they both need the ear of the President.
So thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: That's very nice. Thank you.
So you were surprised to get that call right after you talked to (inaudible), right?
BISHOP HINES: Yes. Right after. God moves in mysterious ways.
THE PRESIDENT: You know who that — right.
REVEREND OWENS: Thank you, Mr. President. My name is Bill Owens, founder and the president of the Coalition of African American Pastors. I'm honored to be here with you today. We've met several times. Thank you, Dr. Scott, for the invitation — and Paula White — to be here. And we are with you 100 percent.
I'm with Bishop Hines and the Church of God in Christ. We are all in it together. So we will work together to make the difference.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Reverend.
PASTOR SCOTT: Can I say something? Reverend Owens has been active with several different administrations in the past as well. He worked with President Reagan, am I right?
REVEREND OWENS: Bush.
PASTOR SCOTT: President Bush.
REVEREND OWENS: Very closely.
DR. KING: He marched with Martin Luther King, too.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
PASTOR FREEMAN: And it was my turn to go, but (inaudible). (Laughter.) Mr. President, I am certainly honored to be here with you. I'm Pastor Mike Freeman, from the Spirit of Faith Christian Center, 10 minutes from this house. You are invited any Sunday you would like to come.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
PASTOR FREEMAN: I'll leave a parking space open for you there so you won't have any opportunity to be delayed.
This is a very critical time that we're in. One of the things I remember the most and recall about a statement you made when you were running, you said if you were able to win the White House, that Christians would have a friend in the White House.
I was really eager to find out whether or not that word would be kept as such. To be sitting here with you today, as a representative of the Christian community, it is so wonderful. I'm elated to know, first of all, that you're a man of your word. Secondly, you have an ear to hear from God. With your having an ear to hear from God, this country is in great hands.
My prayer for you is that your ear will always be open to the wisdom and the spirit of God. And I'm praying for you constantly, and everything I pray for comes to pass. (Laughter.) God bless you.
THE PRESIDENT: That's very nice. And I'll get over there, too.
PASTOR FREEMAN: Yes, sir. That would be great.
THE PRESIDENT: We'll get over there. Thank you.
BISHOP BRONNER: Mr. President, I'm Bishop Dale Bronner from Atlanta, the senior pastor and founder of Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral. And I'm from the business world. My father planted a business in the hair cosmetic manufacturing business — 1947.
THE PRESIDENT: Wow.
BISHOP BRONNER: And so we've been doing business there in Atlanta for all of these years and employing people. So thank you so much. I love the stimulation that I see in the economy now. It is the best that it has been in so many, many years.
And I'm so deeply, deeply grateful for all the prison reform initiatives that I see underway — that is exciting and enthralling to me — as well as the urban initiatives that will help minority communities around this country. Thank you so much for your boldness and your courage to do — to make great things happen. And you're making them happen.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
BISHOP BRONNER: Sure.
THE PRESIDENT: Very nice.
BISHOP JACKSON: I'm Bishop Harry Jackson from right here in the D.C. area. First of all, I really feel called to pray for you. And the year before you — as you ran, I felt that burden; I felt that feeling that you were going to win. And I'm so very thankful, as he said, that you're so open.
Criminal justice reform is so critical because it prevents many African Americans and Hispanics from becoming a permanent underclass.
And I think the opportunities-owned concepts that you're working with are critical because it brings green power. We really don't need black power unless you got some green power working with that black power. (Laughter.) It brings green power to our urban areas. So I believe we can break the generational curse of poverty and people who are isolated, and it's because of your boldness.
And despite all that's been coming against you, you've stood your ground and you've been a champion. God bless you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, Harry. Appreciate it.
PASTOR GRAY: Mr. President, John Gray, Senior Pastor of Relentless Church in Greenville, South Carolina. And I am grateful for the opportunity to be at this table at a time in our country where faith is becoming a bit of a dinosaur. In a time of moral relativism and secular humanism, it is refreshing to know that those of us who have committed our lives to fighting for people who cannot fight for themselves have a seat at the table to share our hearts.
I believe that the very best principles of scripture call us to fight for the poor, for the oppressed, for those who have made mistakes. Criminal justice reform is an opportunity to give a second and third chance to those who want to become productive members of society. Our nation cannot forget the broken. It is in the best tradition of our nation to fight for them.
And when I think about the history of the church in this country, we have always fought for those who could not fight for themselves. So when I think of those who are coming out of prison who want to contribute, this is critical.
When I think of veterans — I have here the obituary of my uncle who passed away a few weeks ago. He was 77. He was a veteran in the U.S. Army and he battled through mental illness and other challenges. And we saw systemic poverty — multi-generational poverty. But had he been resourced with the proper care and had he been resourced with other necessities, he could have contributed even more.
And so I'm very grateful for you, for this administration that's allowing for the conversation. And again, my prayer is that you will continue to have wisdom and insight to lead this nation. Truly, all of us are created equal. And so thank you for giving us an equal opportunity to fight for this nation and what it means to be an American.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, John.
PASTOR GRAY: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: How many people in your church?
PASTOR GRAY: Well, we just started three months ago and we have about 5,500, 6,000.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, that's what I heard. I heard it's really incredible. Very quick.
PASTOR GRAY: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Some of them — 45,000, 50,000 people. Some of you even more than that. So I congratulate you all, and it's an honor to have you here. And you always have a friend in the White House. You know that. Harry, you know that. Right?
Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.
2:26 P.M. EDT