Good morning, ladies and gentlemen:
What a pleasure it is to see you today; and what a pleasure it is to join you for this year’s prayer breakfast.
Some of you in the audience today will remember the very first Prayer Breakfast I attended, shortly after I took office. Today, I return to the theme I sounded then: gratitude. Psalm 136: 26 requires it of us: ”… to give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever”.
Now, this year’s breakfast falls at a good time. In a few days, we will celebrate Madaraka; we will celebrate fifty-four years of self-government. It is easy to take our self-rule for granted. It is even easier to forget two things: the sacrifices our fathers made to win that self-government for us, and the grace of God, which has brought us through half a century of struggle and triumph.
Look around you. This country has more schools, more hospitals, than our fathers could ever have dreamed of. Kenyans live longer than the generation which celebrated the first Madaraka day.
Fewer of our mothers die in childbirth. Many more of our elders live in dignity — a fitting reward for their years of labour. Many more of our children are in school; and many more of them attain the highest international standards.
It is much easier to get around the country now than it was, even a few years ago — and, in a few days, it will be even easier, when we officially commission the first phase of the SGR. These are achievements, but we also know that all our achievements are, in the end, God’s blessings. For although God does not bless those who don’t work, even those who do work should remember the words of Ephesians 2:8: “this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”.
So, there is much to be thankful for. I repeat the words with which I began: “We give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever”. God loves this country; God has blessed this country. We owe him our praise and thanks. I say so – I emphasize the point – for two reasons. First, there are some of us who have forgotten the duty of gratitude. Second, there are some of us who are complacent. Let me take them in turn.
Some of us can only see what is wrong with Kenya, not what is right. Regrettable, but all too true. They cannot see the advances we have made, nor will they give thanks for the achievements that God’s guidance has made possible.
Today, I want to reach out to them, and to remind then of our duty of gratitude. We ought, first and foremost, to thank God, for the distance he has brought us. Second, we have a duty of gratitude to the generations that came before us: the generations that fought for independence, the campaigners for democracy in the 90s; the thousands upon thousands of public servants who keep us safe; and the Churches, temples and mosques which have been such important teachers of moral truth throughout our history.
From my vantage point as your President, I have come to a new appreciation of the power of example — and never more so than the example of the church — in the guidance of Kenya’s affairs.
When I was younger, I sometimes heard it said that an error was a truth pushed too far. And so it is with those who are ungrateful: they can see what is wrong about Kenya, and they mistake it for the whole. There is an opposite error. There are those who see what is right about Kenya, and they too mistake it for the whole. Let us admit, ladies and gentlemen, that we have sometimes fallen short of God’s law. Kenya still has difficulties with corruption. We still have difficulties with leadership. We are still divided among ourselves; we are still divided by religion, by ethnicity, by gender, and by region.
These divisions are not of our own making; they are problems we have inherited. But even though they are not of our own making, they are most certainly ours to solve. And solve them we will. The first step is prayer: I hold in my mind the words of Psalm 133:1: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” The second step is to recognise that our diversity is part of God’s plan. I was reminded of this by a beautiful verse in the Qur’an, recently pointed out to me: “O Mankind: We created you from a male and a female; and made you into tribes and nations that you may get to know each other”. There is nothing wrong with our diversity; but our goal must be unity.
Of course, this is not the place for detailed examination of the work of my government, and other Kenyans of goodwill, such as yourselves, to protect and defend our unity. Rather, our purpose today is to consider the broad principles, which govern that unity, and to see whether we have lived up to them. If we haven’t, then fraternal correction is in order; where we have lived up to them, fraternal congratulation is appropriate.
We will have more to say to each other about this today, and in the weeks to come. Today, I want to close my remarks with a word or two on the elections. We thank God for the opportunity to choose our leaders freely. It is a very precious gift. But we cannot take gifts for granted.
That is why we in government have made every preparation for a free and fair election. But you know, as well as I do, that this is a matter not just for government but for every Kenyan — and, most especially, for all of Kenya’s leaders, not least among them her spiritual leaders.
By and large the leaders of our churches and mosques and temples have kept Kenyans and their leaders on the straight and narrow path. I ask you, once again, to play that role. Pray for us; and pray for the country. Preach peace; and teach us to love God and our country ever more intensely.
Thank you. God bless you all.