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Opening day kicks off with appeal for help from above

As Virginia's General Assembly prepared to open its regular session Wednesday, outgoing Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and incoming Gov.-elect Robert F. McDonnell joined with other members of Virginia's political firmament in leading more than 1,000 early risers in prayer at the Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast at the Richmond Convention Center.

With Lt. Gov. William T. Bolling presiding, members of the Virginia Military Institute Glee Club sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and prayers were offered on behalf of the U.S. armed forces, the judiciary, lawmakers, young people, people in need, and crime victims. NFL Hall of Famer Art Monk, the keynote speaker, received a standing ovation after relating his personal story of religious transformation, and House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell read Bible passages. Several speakers alluded to the difficulties ahead as the state confronts staggering budget deficits and an economy struggling to recuperate from the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

Del. Rosalyn R. Dance prayed for lawmakers to treat each other with respect and kindness when the budget-cutting knives come out.

Justice Donald W. Lemons got a rousing laugh from the crowd after Bolling inadvertently skipped over him on the program for a member of the House of Delegates, and Lemons said, "I note that the judiciary has been passed over. Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the legislative session, I pray it is passed over again."

The breakfast also set a gracious and bipartisan tone for Kaine's valedictory and McDonnell's inaugural ceremonies this week. Kaine, describing McDonnell as a friend, offered a prayer on his behalf that he said he had often invoked for himself: "I hope that every piece of paper that comes across your desk speaks to you with a human voice."

Kaine also prayed that McDonnell's tenure would only strengthen the governor-elect's marriage and family, especially at a time when the political landscape is littered with examples of other leaders whose lives fell apart under the strain of serving in office.

Kaine, who will take over the Democratic National Committee chairmanship fulltime when his term expires Saturday, also talked about readjusting to the ordinary rhythms of life. Clad in sweats and moccasins and stumbling outside with a fully loaded recycling bin after returning to his private residence, he noticed the amusement among his security detail and thought:

"My term for governor is not ending--I'm just being recycled."

In his turn, McDonnell praised Kaine's service and wished him success in all his endeavors - except at the DNC.

"I was a little surprised about the recycling comment I thought it was a little early to announce you're running for reelection in 2013," McDonnell joked before asking for heavenly guidance in leading the commonwealth.

"Plant in each one here the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job and the heart of Jesus to serve our fellow man," McDonnell prayed. "And may all we do be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our Redeemer. Amen.

Fredrick Kunkle

By Anita Kumar  |  January 13, 2010; 9:58 AM ET
Categories:  Bill Bolling , Robert F. McDonnell , Timothy M. Kaine  
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