At the 32nd annual National Day of Prayer Luncheon hosted by the Thanks-Giving Foundation, more than 400 supporters came together at the Fairmont Hotel for a multicultural event focused on religious freedom, peace and prayer.
The crowd was a beautiful mix of community leaders — all colors and religious backgrounds — which set the tone for tolerance and unity at the afternoon event. After a powerful invocation led by Rabbi Nancy Kasten and a performance by the St. Philip's School girls, Eboo Patel modestly took center stage.
Patel, a two-time author and TED speaker, was named one of America's Best Leaders 2009 by US News & World Report. He also founded the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core and received the Roosevelt Institute's Freedom of Worship Medal.
In his speech, Patel talked about religion as a bridge of cooperation, rather than a barrier. He told the audience that it's his unique background — Islamic faith, Indian heritage and American citizenship — that brought him to this conclusion.
Peaceful devotees — including co-chairs Rachel and Chris Trowbridge, Don Glendenning, Christopher Quadri, Corey Admire, Peter Altabef, Ahurag and Gunjah Jain, Alfonso Mantiel, and Anthony Kennedy Shriver — applauded Patel and his message.
Later, Chris Slaughter, president of the the Thanks-Giving Foundation, led the room in the Unity Interfaith Prayer before the St. Phillip's girls closed the luncheon with a moving rendition of "God Bless America."
To further support the Thanks-Giving Foundation — which maintains Thanks-Giving Square and promotes unity in our community, nation and the world — guests bid on art created by students who entered the Expressions art and essay competition.
This year's Expressions theme was "I am Grateful for the Values of Sports," focusing on leadership, teamwork, friendship and cooperation in athletics. The winners will be recognized at an award ceremony in February 2014.