Tuesday, when you see President Obama give his State of the Union address, you will see four things: the president entering the hall, the president ascending the rostrum to be greeted by the vice president and the speaker of the House, the president giving his speech and the reactions of members of the Congress and others in the hall.
Here is the one thing you will not see and probably have never seen. You won’t see what is behind the president and above the vice president and the speaker of the House. And because you won’t see it, you won’t know that you are missing something of surpassing importance.
Think about it for a moment. Why do television cameras never pull back and give a wide-angle view of the president delivering his speech? That is certainly routine for TV: It is considered uninteresting to TV viewers to have a fixed view of a subject.
Why, then, have almost no Americans ever seen what is located above the president, the vice president and the speaker of the House?
I discovered the answer when I attended President Obama’s speech on health care to a joint session of Congress.
I saw chiseled in the marble wall behind the speaker and vice president, in giant letters, the words “In God We Trust.”
My immediate reaction was to wonder: Why had I never seen that before? I have, after all, been watching presidential State of the Union addresses for about 40 years.
Here is my theory — and I say “theory” because I cannot prove it.
A generation of Americans has been raised to regard any mention of God outside the home or church as a violation of the deepest principles of our country. To the men and women of the left-leaning news media, in particular, “In God We Trust” is an anachronism at best, an impediment to moral progress at worst. The existence of those giant chiseled words so disturbs the media that, consciously or not, they do not want Americans to see them.
I do not for a moment believe that there is any conspiracy here. In some ways, I actually wish there were. I wish a handful of media executives had gotten together and conspired to instruct their various cameramen to avoid a wide-angle view of the president.
But, alas, no such conspiracy is necessary. The words “In God We Trust” emblazoned in giant letters behind the president of the United States just don’t sit well with the secular media. So you won’t see them.
We have been led to believe that America is supposed to be a secular country. But that was never the case. We were founded to be a God-centered, God-based country with a nondenominational government. And that is what those chiseled words affirm.
Yet millions of Americans — religious and secular alike — would be stunned to see what every member of the House sees almost every working day.
When I mentioned this to some congressman after I addressed the Republican members of the House two weeks ago, they told me that just as remarkable is the fact that when the president is speaking in the House chamber, he is facing a giant sculpted image of Moses holding the Ten Commandments.
Imagine how this scene would go over in American homes — behind the president of the United States are the words “In God We Trust,” and in front of him is Moses carrying the Ten Commandments.
This would astound and even confuse an America raised to believe that the words “separation of church and state” are in the Constitution, that those words prohibit the government from acknowledging even a nondenominational God and that no speaker at any public high school graduation ceremony may say “God bless this graduating class.”
That is why, I am convinced, no camera tonight will give you a long or wide view of the president. It might change more than Americans’ views of the presidential rostrum. It might change Americans’ views of America.