Myrlie Evers-Williams, a civil rights activist, former head of the NAACP, and widow of the slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, gave the invocation prayer on Tuesday, January 21, 2013 at the ceremonial inauguration of President Barack Obama. She is the first layperson ever to do so.
Below is the text of her prayer.
America. We are here. Our nation's capital.
On this day, January the twenty-first, twenty-thirteen, the inauguration of our 45th president, Barack Obama.
We come at this time to ask blessings upon our leaders. The president, vice president, members of congress, all elected and appointed officials of the United States of America.
We are here to ask blessings upon our armed forces, blessings upon all who contribute to the essence of the American spirit, the American dream. The opportunity to become whatever our mankind, womankind allows us to be. This is the promise of America.
As we sing the words of belief, this is my country, let us act upon the meaning that everyone is included.
May the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of every woman, man, boy and girl be honored.
May all your people, especially of the least of these, flourish in our blessed nation.
One hundred and fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation and fifty years after the March on Washington, we celebrate the spirit of our ancestors, which has allowed us to move from a nation of unborn hopes and a history of disenfranchised votes, to today's expression of a more perfect union.
We ask too, Almighty, that where our paths seem blanketed by throngs of oppression and riddled by pangs of despair, we ask for your guidance toward the light of deliverance and that the vision of those who came before us and dreamed of this day, that we recognize that their visions still inspire us. They are a great cloud of witnesses unseen by the naked eye, but all around us, thankful that their living was not in vain.
For every mountain, you gave us the strength to climb. Your grace is pleaded to continue that climb for America and the world.
We now stand beneath the shadow of the nation's Capitol, whose golden dome reflects the unity and democracy of one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Approximately four miles from where we are assembled the hallowed remains of men and women rest in Arlington Cemetery. They who believed, fought and died for this country. May their spirit infuse our being to work together with respect, enabling us to continue to build this nation, and in so doing we send a message to the world that we are strong, fierce in our strength, and ever vigilant in our pursuit of freedom.
We ask that you grant our president the will to act courageously but cautiously when confronted with danger and to act prudently but deliberately when challenged by adversity. Please continue to bless his efforts to lead by example in consideration and favor of the diversity of our people.
Bless our families all across this nation.
We thank you for this opportunity of prayer to strengthen us for the journey through the days that lie ahead.
We invoke the prayers of our grandmothers, who taught us to pray, "God make me a blessing." Let their spirit guide us as we claim the spirit of old.
There's something within me that holds the reins. There's something within me that banishes pain. There's something within me I cannot explain. But all I know America, there is something within. There is something within.
In Jesus' name and the name of all who are holy and right we pray. Amen.