Thursday, February 04, 2010

President Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast

Cranmer has just been sent the following by The White House (they are soooo good at this...). In the context of recent conversations, it seems timely and apt for His Grace to reproduce it in its entirety.

Of course, if a British prime minister were ever to give such an address, they might be accused of being ‘a nutter

Or would (s)he?

Though THIS didn't take long.


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release February 4, 2010


Washington Hilton
Washington, D.C.

9:08 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Please be seated.

Thank you so much. Heads of state, Cabinet members, my outstanding Vice President, members of Congress, religious leaders, distinguished guests, Admiral Mullen -- it's good to see all of you. Let me begin by acknowledging the co-chairs of this breakfast, Senators Isakson and Klobuchar, who embody the sense of fellowship at the heart of this gathering. They're two of my favorite senators. Let me also acknowledge the director of my faith-based office, Joshua DuBois, who is here. Where's Joshua? He's out there somewhere. He's doing great work. (Applause.)

I want to commend Secretary Hillary Clinton on her outstanding remarks, and her outstanding leadership at the State Department. She's doing good every day. (Applause.) I'm especially pleased to see my dear friend, Prime Minister Zapatero, and I want him to relay America's greetings to the people of Spain. And Johnny, you are right, I'm deeply blessed, and I thank God every day for being married to Michelle Obama. (Applause.)

I'm privileged to join you once again, as my predecessors have for over half a century. Like them, I come here to speak about the ways my faith informs who I am -- as a President, and as a person. But I'm also here for the same reason that all of you are, for we all share a recognition -- one as old as time -- that a willingness to believe, an openness to grace, a commitment to prayer can bring sustenance to our lives.

There is, of course, a need for prayer even in times of joy and peace and prosperity. Perhaps especially in such times prayer is needed -- to guard against pride and to guard against complacency. But rightly or wrongly, most of us are inclined to seek out the divine not in the moment when the Lord makes His face shine upon us, but in moments when God's grace can seem farthest away.

Last month, God's grace, God's mercy, seemed far away from our neighbors in Haiti. And yet I believe that grace was not absent in the midst of tragedy. It was heard in prayers and hymns that broke the silence of an earthquake's wake. It was witnessed among parishioners of churches that stood no more, a roadside congregation, holding bibles in their laps. It was felt in the presence of relief workers and medics; translators; servicemen and women, bringing water and food and aid to the injured.

One such translator was an American of Haitian descent, representative of the extraordinary work that our men and women in uniform do all around the world -- Navy Corpsman Christian [sic] Brossard. And lying on a gurney aboard the USNS Comfort, a woman asked Christopher: "Where do you come from? What country? After my operation," she said, "I will pray for that country." And in Creole, Corpsman Brossard responded, "Etazini." The United States of America.

God's grace, and the compassion and decency of the American people is expressed through the men and women like Corpsman Brossard. It's expressed through the efforts of our Armed Forces, through the efforts of our entire government, through similar efforts from Spain and other countries around the world. It's also, as Secretary Clinton said, expressed through multiple faith-based efforts. By evangelicals at World Relief. By the American Jewish World Service. By Hindu temples, and mainline Protestants, Catholic Relief Services, African American churches, the United Sikhs. By Americans of every faith, and no faith, uniting around a common purpose, a higher purpose.

It's inspiring. This is what we do, as Americans, in times of trouble. We unite, recognizing that such crises call on all of us to act, recognizing that there but for the grace of God go I, recognizing that life's most sacred responsibility -- one affirmed, as Hillary said, by all of the world's great religions -- is to sacrifice something of ourselves for a person in need.

Sadly, though, that spirit is too often absent when tackling the long-term, but no less profound issues facing our country and the world. Too often, that spirit is missing without the spectacular tragedy, the 9/11 or the Katrina, the earthquake or the tsunami, that can shake us out of complacency. We become numb to the day-to-day crises, the slow-moving tragedies of children without food and men without shelter and families without health care. We become absorbed with our abstract arguments, our ideological disputes, our contests for power. And in this Tower of Babel, we lose the sound of God's voice.

Now, for those of us here in Washington, let's acknowledge that democracy has always been messy. Let's not be overly nostalgic. (Laughter.) Divisions are hardly new in this country. Arguments about the proper role of government, the relationship between liberty and equality, our obligations to our fellow citizens -- these things have been with us since our founding. And I'm profoundly mindful that a loyal opposition, a vigorous back and forth, a skepticism of power, all of that is what makes our democracy work.

And we've seen actually some improvement in some circumstances. We haven't seen any canings on the floor of the Senate any time recently. (Laughter.) So we shouldn't over-romanticize the past. But there is a sense that something is different now; that something is broken; that those of us in Washington are not serving the people as well as we should. At times, it seems like we're unable to listen to one another; to have at once a serious and civil debate. And this erosion of civility in the public square sows division and distrust among our citizens. It poisons the well of public opinion. It leaves each side little room to negotiate with the other. It makes politics an all-or-nothing sport, where one side is either always right or always wrong when, in reality, neither side has a monopoly on truth. And then we lose sight of the children without food and the men without shelter and the families without health care.

Empowered by faith, consistently, prayerfully, we need to find our way back to civility. That begins with stepping out of our comfort zones in an effort to bridge divisions. We see that in many conservative pastors who are helping lead the way to fix our broken immigration system. It's not what would be expected from them, and yet they recognize, in those immigrant families, the face of God. We see that in the evangelical leaders who are rallying their congregations to protect our planet. We see it in the increasing recognition among progressives that government can't solve all of our problems, and that talking about values like responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage are integral to any anti-poverty agenda. Stretching out of our dogmas, our prescribed roles along the political spectrum, that can help us regain a sense of civility.

Civility also requires relearning how to disagree without being disagreeable; understanding, as President [Kennedy] said, that "civility is not a sign of weakness." Now, I am the first to confess I am not always right. Michelle will testify to that. (Laughter.) But surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith, or, for that matter, my citizenship. (Laughter and applause.)

Challenging each other's ideas can renew our democracy. But when we challenge each other's motives, it becomes harder to see what we hold in common. We forget that we share at some deep level the same dreams -- even when we don't share the same plans on how to fulfill them.

We may disagree about the best way to reform our health care system, but surely we can agree that no one ought to go broke when they get sick in the richest nation on Earth. We can take different approaches to ending inequality, but surely we can agree on the need to lift our children out of ignorance; to lift our neighbors from poverty. We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are -- whether it's here in the United States or, as Hillary mentioned, more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.

Surely we can agree to find common ground when possible, parting ways when necessary. But in doing so, let us be guided by our faith, and by prayer. For while prayer can buck us up when we are down, keep us calm in a storm; while prayer can stiffen our spines to surmount an obstacle -- and I assure you I'm praying a lot these days -- (laughter) -- prayer can also do something else. It can touch our hearts with humility. It can fill us with a spirit of brotherhood. It can remind us that each of us are children of a awesome and loving God.

Through faith, but not through faith alone, we can unite people to serve the common good. And that's why my Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships has been working so hard since I announced it here last year. We've slashed red tape and built effective partnerships on a range of uses, from promoting fatherhood here at home to spearheading interfaith cooperation abroad. And through that office we've turned the faith-based initiative around to find common ground among people of all beliefs, allowing them to make an impact in a way that's civil and respectful of difference and focused on what matters most.

It is this spirit of civility that we are called to take up when we leave here today. That's what I'm praying for. I know in difficult times like these -- when people are frustrated, when pundits start shouting and politicians start calling each other names -- it can seem like a return to civility is not possible, like the very idea is a relic of some bygone era. The word itself seems quaint -- civility.

But let us remember those who came before; those who believed in the brotherhood of man even when such a faith was tested. Remember Dr. Martin Luther King. Not long after an explosion ripped through his front porch, his wife and infant daughter inside, he rose to that pulpit in Montgomery and said, "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend."

In the eyes of those who denied his humanity, he saw the face of God.

Remember Abraham Lincoln. On the eve of the Civil War, with states seceding and forces gathering, with a nation divided half slave and half free, he rose to deliver his first Inaugural and said, "We are not enemies, but friends… Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection."

Even in the eyes of confederate soldiers, he saw the face of God.

Remember William Wilberforce, whose Christian faith led him to seek slavery's abolition in Britain; he was vilified, derided, attacked; but he called for "lessening prejudices [and] conciliating good-will, and thereby making way for the less obstructed progress of truth."

In the eyes of those who sought to silence a nation's conscience, he saw the face of God.

Yes, there are crimes of conscience that call us to action. Yes, there are causes that move our hearts and offenses that stir our souls. But progress doesn't come when we demonize opponents. It's not born in righteous spite. Progress comes when we open our hearts, when we extend our hands, when we recognize our common humanity. Progress comes when we look into the eyes of another and see the face of God. That we might do so -- that we will do so all the time, not just some of the time -- is my fervent prayer for our nation and the world.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)


Blogger John.D said...

One helluva speech. But as for making him the Pope - get a grip of yourself man.

4 February 2010 at 19:38  
Blogger john in cheshire said...

Imagine it's Tony Blair saying these things. Would you believe them? Well, in my opinion Mr Obama is the American equivalent. So, either I am very wrong or you are very naive.

4 February 2010 at 20:32  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

Did Obama eat the bacon and the pork sausages? The nation must be told.

4 February 2010 at 20:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JohnD, problem is a lot of Americans think he is holier than thou and more so than the pope, rather than him being a chicago politician.

4 February 2010 at 21:26  
Anonymous graham wood said...

John In Cheshire said:
"Imagine it's Tony Blair saying these things. Would you believe them? Well, in my opinion Mr Obama is the American equivalent. So, either I am very wrong or you are very naive."

No not naive. This speech could have been made by any of these:
1. Tony Blair (dead right there!)
2. The ABC.
3. Gordon Brown in religious mode
4. Our "Dave" Cam. (Aspiration)
5. 'Rabbi' Lionel Blue
6. Banki Moon
7. Cherie Blair
8. Dalai Lama
9. Pope Benedict (latest)
10.Hilary Benn (if PM)
11. Patricia Hewitt

And so on - do add to list - I'm sure you will have some of your own to fill in.
Its an example of a wonderful 'typecast' rentamob speech which has all the potential for use over and over again by 'Statesmen' all over the world, and for year to come. Just the slightest modification here and there needed. He could make a mint out of it.
Anybody know his speechwriter ?

4 February 2010 at 21:27  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Mr Graham Wood,

Of course His Grace knows who the speechwriter is.


4 February 2010 at 21:31  
Anonymous Gerry Diswell said...

Well Obama got the nobel prize without doing anything, so they may as well given him the vatican whilst they are at it.

4 February 2010 at 21:33  
Blogger Sproglet said...

You're quite correct, if this had been Tony Blair Britain would have been lobbying immediately for his removal from a position of power.

It's interesting to note the profound difference between two nations that most people view as otherwise rather similar.

4 February 2010 at 21:41  
Blogger OldSouth said...

Civility also requires relearning how to disagree without being disagreeable; understanding, as President [Kennedy] said, that "civility is not a sign of weakness." Now, I am the first to confess I am not always right. Michelle will testify to that. (Laughter.) But surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith, or, for that matter, my citizenship.

These words from the lips of a man who rose to power on the force of unlimited invective, race-baiting, and cynical manipulation. Let's consider whose sermons he absorbed for twenty years, for openers.

Forgive me if I hesitate to stand and cheer. He is asking me to suspend disbelief, as if I were entering the theatre to view a Shakespeare play.

Perhaps, in his first full year of adult life, when he has had to make real decisions that have real consequences, it has dawned on him that failure is a very real probability. He looks and sounds increasingly like Jimmy Carter, and the country is reacting in much the same manner as they did in the late 1970's.

So, I'll wait and see. Let's see if the war against media outlets that dare to disagree continues. Let's see if his staff continue to refer to any who may disagree as 'AstroTurf'. Let's see if Miss Nancy and Mr. Harry actually allow debate, and bills to come to the floor that they may not necessarily profit from. Let's see if the President's people stop playing the race card when they don't get their way. Let's see if he means these words, even if he understands them as something more than sounds written by someone else, for him to read from a teleprompter, for the purpose of manipulating the audience before him on that day.

Let's see if he understands that math doesn't lie, that money cannot be endlessly printed without incurring an horrific human cost in the lives of those for whom he claims to care.

Let's see. Because he doesn't understand that the nation does not trust this person who cannot address an elementary school class without a teleprompter. And, unlike the great majority of the citizenry, he can't seem to produce a certificate of live birth. It's up to him, after all the half-truths and outright lies, the hyperbole and manipulation, to move in the direction of the country he has so thoroughly alienated in one short year.

Maybe next year, he can address the prayer breakfast with similar words, and be believed by the citizenry.

Who knows? He might, with his Harvard education, deign to write his own speech.

Let's wait and see...

4 February 2010 at 22:12  
Blogger Lord Lavendon said...

Your Grace, President Obama is good at making speeches, but I fear little else. My gut instinct went against him a while back, but a few events convinced me.

What I found particularly difficult was the way in which he treated Brown (I am no Brown lackey) during the recent G20. It was wrong of him to talk to every other leader and leave Brown having to meet him in the hotel kitchen, as if he were some kind of servant. At least President Bush, whatever his faults, acted as a gentleman and always treated a British Prime Minister with courtesy and respect.

I also found it difficult during the summer, when the President was humming are aring about troop deployment in Afghanistan (and the leaks which implied Britain was not up to the job- we are contributing the next largest force in Afghanistan and have been loyal to the Anglo-American relationship since we declared we would "stand shoulder to shoulder" with our American allies).

Also the President seemed more intent on wooing the French and the Germans on his European visits that Great Britain. But a warning to the President, France can be treacherous and Germany unwilling to get involved. Britain is your one solid ally. How long, though, before even Britain decides to give the two fingered salute because we are fed up of this treatment.

Furthermore, whilst I do not feel it is my place to comment upon the US domestic politics, it would appear that ultra left wing socialists dominate the Congress. I did watch the full 1-hour speech Obama gave to the Congress and noticed that every time he finished a sentence one part of the chamber, leapt up to clap and some were practically dancing. To be sure, I suppose much of this is cultural difference (as we do hear, hears in our Parliament), but it seemed a bit too sycophantic for my liking. Even the Duchess seemed to wince at it.

Anyway, I am off to read Mr Old South's blog for some commentary on US politics.

4 February 2010 at 23:18  
Anonymous Theresa said...


I hate to let facts get in the way of a good polemic, but healthcare in America currently costs 15% of the GDP as opposed to 8% in this country and 47 million of your fellow Americans are uninsured. The most common cause of bankruptcy in America is unpaid health bills. I don't agree with everything Obama says, but I think he is quite right to drive health reform and try to bring in a universal health care system where the risk pool will be big enough to deal with the sickest, while at the same time not spending inordinate amounts on health checks; something which health care organisations in America excel at and actually doesn't have a better outcome in terms of health. Pay less and get a better service. What could be more enterprising and American than that?
Ps the next pope probably will be black or Latin American, your Grace, but it won't be Obama..

4 February 2010 at 23:25  
Anonymous Pause for thought said...

Theresa, what about an English Pope? Could that happen?

4 February 2010 at 23:30  
Anonymous Not another Jimmy Carter! said...

"looks and sounds increasingly like Jimmy Carter, and the country is reacting in much the same manner as they did in the late 1970's. "

Not another Jimmy Carter! Heaven help us now.And we all know what bought down old Jim- Iran!!

4 February 2010 at 23:31  
Anonymous len said...

The fact that Obama is both holding the Twisted Cross and wearing the Dagon Fish Hat demonstrates his loyalty to the False Religious System out of which the actual False Prophet will arise.Perhaps a prophetic picture of what is to come?

4 February 2010 at 23:34  
Anonymous Inquisition said...

Len, when will you realise that there is one true Church, the Church of Rome?

"quoniam punitio non refertur primo & per se in correctionem & bonum eius qui punitur, sed in bonum publicum ut alij terreantur, & a malis committendis avocentur"

5 February 2010 at 00:17  
Blogger Theresa said...

'What about an English Pope? Could that happen?'

Hmm - don't see it. Sadly I think there's just not enough talent over here (and I include Scotland and Wales in that) for a Pope. You never know, but not from the present bunch.
Reminds me of an old joke. JP II is talking to God and he says,

'Lord, will there ever be married priests?'
'Not in your time, JP.'
Will there ever be women priests?'
Not in your time, JP.'
Will there ever be another Polish pope?'
'Not in my time, JP!'

The old ones are the best..

5 February 2010 at 00:22  
Anonymous The Grand Inquisitor said...

Len, repent now and convert to the one true church. Or be forever dammed.You know in your heart of hearts that the Church of Rome is calling....

5 February 2010 at 00:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could Rowan Williams be the last Pope "Peter the Roman?", you never know, especially if the anglican church reunites with Rome.....

5 February 2010 at 00:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama is one of the most talented liars who has ever existed.

5 February 2010 at 00:49  
Blogger Simon said...

Your Grace, did the White House see fit to send you a list of invitees/attendees? The reference to "Heads of State" at the start troubles me, as the only foreign person of note appears to have been Zapatero, who after all is Head of Government in Spain.

5 February 2010 at 00:53  
Anonymous not a machine said...

I wish I could say more but it would probebely sound nuts , broadly agree with John in Cheshire , Blair could have made the same speech.

looking at some other religous news in the UK I can see some people are finding it hard to tell what is right to defend , I can see trouble ahead at some point and I dont think Blair speak will stop it . I am not sure myself what it means to my own feelings on defending keeping church and state together and if it breaks the usshering in of liberal politics/legislature running it .

I will give it some thought , although by the looks of it a financial crisis may get there before me , I rather wish we as country had not been put in this position , and its enivitable polarisation due to labours policies .

5 February 2010 at 02:20  
Anonymous len said...

I see the catholics are searching for kindling, got plenty of practice at it!

The is only one true church Jesus Christ is the head of it.

ps, I don`t speak latin I prefer my truths in plain English it cost many men their lives to put the word of God into a language that the common man could understand.

5 February 2010 at 08:14  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Your Grace

You have been soooo mischievous in recent months that I wondered whether the Obama Prayer breakfast speech was one of your little jokes...

...especially with Hilary Clinton as some sort of Mother Superior (or maybe Mother Inferior with her record on abortion rights)

Also it must be a first for any blogger - to make George Bush and Barack Obama papabile in successive days. I wonder what names they would have chosen?

5 February 2010 at 09:00  
Blogger I am Stan said...

Yo Grace!

Sorry but what hypocritical comments,a devout christian gives a speech about faith etc and the "devout" christians here knock him for it....strange but not surprising and rather sad and pathetic...creepy.

No doubt in the next post and comments the shrill screams of "our faith is under attack and no one in power is speaking up for us" will be screamed from every bell tower in the land..sigh!

5 February 2010 at 09:46  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Obama's first year, and particularly those he continues to engage as his advisors, necessarily invite a cautious approach to his words. There is no doubt that he can
"Talk the talk" but let us remember that he has repeatedly struck the political pose towards his opponents of "Sit down and shut up" and the odious Nancy Pelosi has made it clear that " Nothing will stop us".

Happily, Scott Brown and the people of Massachusetts have spoken, and there is the strongest likelihood that having had a year in which
he was all powerful, there is a dawning of the sense that all men - including Presidents are grass.

It is a good speech. I long for the day when such a speech could be given in the UK and listened to respectfully.

Those of us who know the story of Peter ad Paul must continue to be open to the possibility of "Change we can believe in" - but not as President Obama once defined it.

5 February 2010 at 10:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I am Stan", you are only defending Obama because of his race. If it had been Bush, you would have been complaining like the atheists do. More chips on I am stans shoulders.

5 February 2010 at 11:15  
Blogger I am Stan said...

"I am Stan", you are only defending Obama because of his race. If it had been Bush, you would have been complaining like the atheists do. More chips on I am stans shoulders.

5 February 2010 11:15

Hahaha what utter twaddle,that is like me saying comments here only criticise Obama because of his race,

I have on occasion stated clearly that I dissagree with Obama on some things so stop making assumptions and using decades old slights you silly litte anonymouse person.

My comment was not even particularly defending him but pointing out what I see as typical hypocrisy by some comments,bemoaning their faith being under attack by leaders one minute and then bemoaning the leader of the "free" world when he expresses his one can win ever with some!

5 February 2010 at 12:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just testing.....

5 February 2010 at 12:37  
Anonymous TheGlovner said...

I would criticise Bush because the man was a bloody imbicele.

A would sing the praises of a loaf of bread as the president following that fool.

5 February 2010 at 12:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps Obama's dislike of the British is due to fear!

I understand that the old Colonial Office kept impecable records; and his Granny is adamant that he was born in Kenya.

5 February 2010 at 13:16  
Anonymous Francis Sausage and Bacon said...

Anon, I thought Obama was born in America? Is there something about you having to be born in America to get elected over there?

5 February 2010 at 13:36  
Anonymous Ned, the talking horse said...

Glovy, Bush was a brilliant war leader and head of the country. you will soon regret praising obama.

5 February 2010 at 13:38  
Anonymous Marie Devine said...

With great civility, and for President Obama’s good and the good of all religious leaders and people of all nations, I remind him and all that the thing that drowns out the sound of God’s voice is our own opinion. The God of the whole earth, in all holy books has denounced homosexuality because it is unfulfilling and robs a child of two parents that produced the child and all the relatives. The severe punishments are preventions. Homosexuality is not genetic or permanent according to God’s word. God requires us to “target gays and lesbians for who they are.” We are to warn them as God warned them, with love, to save them from His punishments.

“Mrs. Clinton denounced “religion cloaked in naked power lust, used to justify violence” in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.”

Mrs. Clintons statement can be turned against the United States and its religion of ignoring God’s word. That naked power lust justifies our violence against people who are trying to follow God’s word, about women at home, modesty, homosexuality, indecency in media, ETC. When we want God to rule our nation even through the Ten Commandments, we will not need weapons in Islamic nations. God commanded them for Muslins too. Then we can refer all disagreements to the word of God and let that settle issues.

President Obama said, “Surely we can agree to find common ground when possible, parting ways when necessary, but in doing so, let us be guided by our faith and by prayer.”

“Surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith,” Mr. Obama said, “or for that matter my citizenship.”

He is missing the whole point of religion. God has warned us of what to watch for, great deceptions in government and religion in these last days. When policies of leaders differ from the word of God in any holy book, how can we not question their faith? When President Obama insists on hiding his identity and his father is not a US citizen, which should make him ineligible to be president according to our Constitution, whether he was born in Hawaii or Kenya, how could we not sound the alarm as God warned us?

If we want to be one nation under God, we must be guided by His wisdom. It is not a religion; it is truth. Thousands of religions use the Bible and or point to using the Bible. Any nation that ignores the word of God and fails to adhere to the primary principles of the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 as written, including the 7th day Sabbath of no work for anyone, does not understand God or the consequences for failure to follow His ways. Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 should change that.

God bless our president, his family and administration with humility and a genuine desire to do the will of God. It is the only way to save them, our nation and the world. We will continue to pray for them all as God commanded us.
God has solutions to world problems we created by ignoring His wisdom.

5 February 2010 at 15:45  
Anonymous English observer said...

Marie Devine, still don't understand why you want him impeached? Isn't he entitled to be president of the USA?

5 February 2010 at 16:24  
Anonymous TheGlovner said...

Read again Ned.

I never praised Obama, I merely make the point that anything or anyone would be an improvement after bush.

Who was a bloody fool.

Brilliant war leader, I would take that to be sarcasm, except most Americans wouldn't do sarcasm without announcing "NOT" at the end of the sentence.

5 February 2010 at 23:14  
Blogger Ronald said...

Obama the second president in a row who reliised that he had to 'do god' to get elected in America.

6 February 2010 at 16:58  

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