Bret Baier, chief political anchor for Fox News Channel, spoke about the power of prayer and the problems in Washington during the 11th annual University of Mobile Leadership Banquet on April 28.
The annual fundraiser for the Christian university has raised more than $2.5 million toward scholarships since it was started 11 years ago. This year the event raised nearly $128,000 as an audience of about 700 gathered at the Mobile Convention Center to hear Baier’s talk, along with performances by universty ensembles Voices of Mobile and Welsh Revival. Special guests were over 35 World War II veterans, including a 105-year-old dressed in uniform.
“Voices of Mobile – spectacular! I think they should be in Washington and do some things there, maybe turn some things around,” Baier said.
He told the audience that the political system in Washington is broken, and something has to change.
“Both sides will tell you it’s broken,” he said. “But there is hope. There are people thinking about big things, on both sides of the aisle.”
Baier spoke about hope on a more personal level as he told about the birth of his first son, Paul. Paul was born nearly nine years ago with five congenital heart defects and has had three open-heart surgeries and eight angioplasties. Baier wrote a New York Times best-selling book about the experience, titled “Special Hearts.”
“He was our first son, and we were ecstatic when we were told he was a boy. I was thinking Master’s champion, Super Bowl ring, all kinds of things,” Baier said. After Paul was born, “The doctor comes in and says, ‘your son has to have emergency surgery in the next few days, or he’s going to die.’ So we went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in a matter of minutes. And all those things In my head changed dramatically,” Baier said.
He recalled the period after Paul’s first surgery.
“At that moment, we’re in the cardiac intensive care unit. Our son is there; they leave the chest open with a clear plastic bandage over the middle of the chest. Amy and I were over the crib, watching Paul’s heart, a little walnut-sized heart, beat – in his chest. At that moment, it all changes. You pray to God and say, thank God that this heart was still beating – every beat, I was saying that. You thank God for the doctors and nurses who performed this amazing thing. But you’re scared. And it changes your world view.”
He sent out a daily email to family and friends to give them updates from the hospital, and the email was shared again and again. Then they started to receive emails back – people were praying for them.
“The thing that got us through it were the prayers of people, sending in prayers on emails. Every day I would get about 300 prayers on email. And I would sit by Paul with Amy and read them,” he said.
One email was from a pastor in Katy, Texas.
“He was a Baptist pastor. I emailed back and forth with him, and said, ‘You understand I’m Catholic.’ And he said, ‘I don’t care what you are.’ And I said, ‘Well, I appreciate the spiritual connection we have. And his prayers really seemed to lift us up.
“And suddenly we were thinking we had to be the parents that Paul needed us to be. It was time to change the dynamic. We were going to be optimistic, and every day was about one day closer to getting Paul home.”
Later, on a book tour, Baier made a point to stop in Katy, Texas, and meet Randy White, then pastor of First Baptist Church of Katy.
“We cried in Barnes and Noble. I gave him a big hug. And I said, ‘That helped us. It helped us.’ I still talk to him, all the time. So this Catholic has a spiritual advisor who is a Baptist pastor in Katy, Texas.”
Baier said the experience has taught him two things.
“One, think big, think optimistic. Think that you can control your future. Two, trust in the guy upstairs, and make it about family and friends,” he said. The experience, he said, changed his life and changed his perspective, making him a better person.
“You all, and your talk about faith, encourages me to bring that home,” he told the crowd of UMobile supporters. “I’m not afraid to talk about it, as you can see, and hopefully that changes something along the way. I think that’s what we all hope for.