Prayers for a President, Part 1 of 3

The American Flag
The American Flag

Prayers for a President: Part 1 of 3

[Dr. Jonathan Doll usually blogs for the Huffington Post on school violence prevention issues and wellness issues. In this three-part series (connected to the debates), he will examine some aspects of faith and the importance of maintaining a positive perspective during the campaign season.]

As Americans ponder the September 26, 2016 Presidential Debate of Secretary Hillary Clinton and Mr. Donald Trump – the first of three debates – I thought it would be fitting to reflect on some important prayers for our future nation’s leader. The debate was at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, and was hosted by NBC’s Lester Holt who did an amazing job as a moderator.

PRAYER NUMBER ONE FOR A PRESIDENT: Harmony in a difficult era of differing opinions in America. May the next president learn how to unite our country in new ways and inspire a greater sense of pride than we have seen in generations.

In this article, I aim to cover a few topics that may receive less attention by the mainstream media outlets. Issues of faith in America are important to all of us – from those who have some measure of faith in a higher power to those who follow more organized religions. All religions are respected here in this discussion – from Judaism to Christianity, from Hinduism to Islam, from amazing indigenous Native American and Alaska Native beliefs to agnostic ideologies and the hopes of those who claim no faith at all. I’m a firm believer that faith in a Higher Power is going to help person who has it so that they draw to understanding that we are only a small part in an amazing story across this planet.

We have so much to be thankful for in life, and faith is just one thing. Truthfully, even Americans who do not hold a common faith tradition are still a living and breathing part of the freedom of religious worship that is enjoyed in America. We must hold fast to our shared freedoms and remember that our union as a nation is stronger in a world context than we may ever know.

With that short introduction, I want to share that the debate was a great start for both candidates in working together. It seemed that each had the chance to see their opponent at times in a good light – to share things they agreed about. There was a fair share of sparring, which is to be expected after the years-long election season.

I was struck by the assurance that Secretary Hillary Clinton gave to our allies that as president she would work to honor agreements that previous presidents had set in motion. World diplomacy will be important for our next president. It was also striking that Mr. Donald Trump chose in between a number of unsavory statements to continually address his opponent as Secretary Clinton. Such a move made it seem a little odd when Ms. Clinton kept referring to Mr. Trump as ‘Donald,... Donald,... Donald…’

Make no mistake, both candidates will make improvements between now and October 9 when the second debate is set to occur at Washington University in St. Louis. I’ve argued in the past (link) that we need to focus ourselves as a nation on the strengths of both candidates. And what are those strengths?

For Secretary Clinton, I think that her strengths include having tested time in the White House and as a senator in the great state of New York. I would so strongly hope that she would assess her Gallup strengths according to the strengths-based leadership paradigm and report them publicly. In 2008, Gallup wrote about her strengths as a potential fit for the presidency instead of the future president, Barack Obama. Those strengths included her tested leadership in New York, her stance on woman’s rights, and that she would be the first-ever woman to lead the nation as president. Indeed, Ms. Clinton’s strengths should be used to put her in a better light against her opponent, we can only hope.

September 26, 2016 Hofstra University Presidential Debate #1
September 26, 2016 Hofstra University Presidential Debate #1

For Mr. Trump, there is no question in anyone’s mind that he is able to use bombast in his frame of mind and way of dealing with conflict. This is the nature of a New Yorker in some sense – and I say that with great pride as a fellow New Yorker from the western side of the empire state. As I mentioned before, Mr. Trump showed at times an important sense of repose in not unleashing a tirade of hostility towards his opponent. He was focused on the economy and addressing global inequalities that affect American jobs. We can hope that he continues in this moderate role and lessens the frequency and veracity of excessive viewpoints – whatever they are – so that he may also appease moderate Americans as well.


So that it is known, I do not have the habit of ever making my presidential choice until after the debates are finished. I’ve done this for the last 20 years and felt a complete sense of peace in allowing both candidates the freedom to win (or lose) my vote.

This freedom of choice is a hallmark of nation’s democracy and I think that a lot of Americans are invoking it for this election season. Though the pundits hinted that 4-15% of voters were currently undecided, as compared with 25% during the summer, I find this a bit hard to believe. What if the number were actually higher? Somehow, I think the numbers may actually be much higher.

Many Americans believe that we are ready for a change – whatever that change may be. And I am not yet sure which candidate will be the best for the challenge, but I have hope in both of them. May we as a country continue to unite around our democratic process and celebrate the power of reform in this election season.


Dr. Jonathan Doll is the author of the book, Ending School Shootings: School and District Tools for Prevention and Action. He is a registered voter with no allegiance to either party, but votes his conscience every 4 years. His opinions are his own.