After Vice President Al Gore's concession to Texas Gov. George W. Bush in a live TV broadcast last night, evangelist Billy Graham urged people to continue praying, and to follow the "gracious example of reconciliation" Gore and Bush modeled in their addresses to the nation.
Graham said that he had followed the election contest the last few weeks with "growing concern about the division among the people of our country. This division of the spirit of our nation can only be healed by prayer and repentance toward God, followed by reconciliation with those of differing perspectives -- extending the love that only He can give."
Graham said that he was encouraged that democracy had prevailed as the country had negotiated a difficult impasse. The time had come to put aside the strong rhetoric that could only divide people and unite for a greater good. "During these historic days let us renew our prayers that God will bring healing to our nation and a clear vision of His will for the future. Let us pray especially that we may turn afresh to God, seeking His help and acknowledging our dependence on Him."
Graham's call was echoed by Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of The Potter's House church in Dallas, who said that the country had come through an exceptionally close election, but could now move forward together, stronger. Under "extremely difficult circumstances," both Bush and Gore had displayed "admirable strength and tenacity to stand firm for what they deeply believe. I applaud them and the American people for their unwavering commitment to the democratic process, and for their reasoned concern for the collective well-being of our nation."
Jakes said he was confident the president-elect would "prayerfully lead a diverse people in a positive direction." He asked "fellow clergy and all Americans to join me as we cover our president and other leaders in prayer. Let all of us lay our political differences aside, put the process behind us, and direct our energies and emotions toward standing as a united people under President-elect Bush's leadership."
The forthcoming 43rd president appealed for prayer for himself, Vice President Gore and "this great nation" in his speech in Austin, Texas, last night. As the work of "healing our nation" began, he urged "respect for each other, respect for our differences, generosity of spirit and a willingness to work hard and work together to solve any problem." The president-elect said he has faith that "with God's help we as a nation will move forward together, as one nation, indivisible...I was not elected to serve one party, but to serve one nation."
In a concession speech that was widely applauded by political commentators, Gore said that the election had been extraordinary, but "in one of God's unforeseen paths, this belatedly broken impasse can point us all to a new common ground, for its very closeness can serve to remind us that we are one people with a shared history and a shared destiny." He said that for him the campaign ended as it had begun, with the love of his family, and "with faith in God and in the country I have been so proud to serve."