Zapatero in USA

Spanish president attends the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington

At yesterday’s meeting of the Fellowship Foundation, also known as ‘The Family’, the Spanish president, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, spoke at about the government’s commitment to helping the unemployed. During his speech, which lasted for 15 minutes, he also spoke about his government’s commitment to the ‘Alliance of Civilizations’ and quoted a passage from the bible. In addition he called for solidarity with the victims of the earthquake in Haiti and championed freedom and tolerance.

The Foundation consists mostly of representatives of America’s political class. This year the US president, Barack Obama, invited Zapatero to speak at the ‘National Prayer Breakfast’ at which around 3,500 people were present.

Zapatero was unable to speak to Obama before the meeting due to the US president’s delayed arrival but Obama did greet the Spanish president warmly and sat just two seats away from him.

During Obama’s speech to the foundation he referred to Zapatero as his ‘dear friend’ and recognised Spain’s contribution to helping US forces in various missions around the world. At the end of the meeting Obama exchanged a few words with Zapatero. According to a spokesperson for the White House he expressed his desire to carry on developing good relations between Spain and the US.

Zapatero began his speech to the foundation by thanking those present for allowing him to speak in Spanish. He also highlighted the ‘admirable conquests’ on the subject of advances in freedom and plurality in the US. He said that ‘both our countries owe much to those who come from other countries without whom we would not be who we are’. He also called for solidarity with those who were unable to come as well as the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

The Spanish president also insisted that the most pressing issue for governments was ‘creating employment’. But he also said that these jobs should guarantee the rights of workers. To illustrate his point he read chapter 24 from the book of Deuteronomy. “Do not exploit the poor needy labourer as he is one of your fellow men or a foreigner that lives in one of the cities in your country. Pay the labourer before the sun sets because he is needed and your life depends on his day’s work”
Zapatero also spoke of the Rights of each person to ‘moral autonomy’ and ‘to live with a person they loved’ which he also linked to the issue of freedom and tolerance. He said that ‘it is freedom which makes us people and citizens and which allows us to look to the future and know the truth’. He also said that hate bred ignorance and intolerance.