Only a few people recognized the words written more than 150 years ago when David Floyd read them at Bardstown Baptist Church during a God and Country emphasis.
David Floyd of Bardstown, Ky., prepares to fly a cadet airplane at the Air Force Academy. He later spent 22 years in military service.
Citing a call to “public humiliation, prayer, and fasting” to be observed by all Americans, the state representative and military veteran shared these words of proclamation to his church:
“Whereas it is fit and becoming in all people at all times to acknowledge and revere the supreme government of God, to bow in humble submission to His chastisements, to confess and deplore their sins and transgressions in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and to pray with all fervency and contrition for the pardon of their past offenses and for a blessing upon their present and prospective action.”
What may have sounded like words from a pulpit were actually those of President Abraham Lincoln when he signed Proclamation 85 on Aug. 21, 1861, proclaiming a Day of National Humiliation, Prayer, and Fasting.
“In our history, the most intelligent men were men of faith,” Floyd said. “I accept the gospel by faith, but I also accept it intellectually.”
The retired Air Force officer and current Kentucky state legislator then asked his fellow church members if their country was worth praying for.
“I compared it to praying for your child,” Floyd said of the occasion. “You don’t have a moment of silence on behalf of your child; you cry out to God.”
The 30-minute presentation that Sunday was challenging but rewarding.
Whenever he speaks to local fifth-graders, state representative David Floyd invites a student to read the preamble of the U.S. Constitution.
“While I was speaking, I will say that every eye was on [me] and they were still,” Floyd said of the attentiveness. At the invitation, several went to the altar to pray for America.
The lifelong Southern Baptist is one of four brothers who served America in the Air Force and Navy as they followed the example of their father who was in the Medical Corps during World War II.
Two sisters, Carolyn and Ruth, accidentally drowned in a pond on the Floyd’s Nelson County farm in 1959 when Floyd was 8. The tragedy taught him a lesson about the frailty of life that served him well during his deployment to Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
When a potential chemical attack threatened his base, Floyd said he remained calm though for a moment death seemed imminent.
“I was at peace,” Floyd said. “That experience revealed to me the peace that knows all will be well. This world is just a stopover. That was a defining moment in my spiritual life to understand that it’s going to be okay.”
Mandatory churchgoing while growing up plus mandatory chapel attendance at the Air Force Academy helped Floyd stay focused on matters of faith.
However, he does admit to a time as a child when he rebelled.
State representative David Floyd speaks at a rally in January to gain support for a bill in the Kentucky legislature to vacate and expunge certain class D felonies that typically had been minor offenses.
“I stuck my shoes in the toilet so I wouldn’t have to go to church,” Floyd said. “So I went to church barefoot that Sunday.”
At the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Floyd attended services in the majestic Cadet Chapel that opened in 1962. The structure is 150 feet tall and has 17 spires, which he jokingly says represent the 12 disciples and five Joint Chiefs of Staff.
During a 22-year career with the Air Force, Floyd and his wife Cheri lived with their two daughters in multiple places in the U.S. and Europe.
“Even though I grew up in a Baptist church and all my brothers were baptized, I was never baptized,” Floyd said. “So I was baptized in Germany in a swimming pool.”
For much of his military career, Floyd flew KC-135 Stratotankers that refueled other military aircraft in flight during their sorties. He also flew U-2 aircraft.
In Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the KC-135s made an estimated 18,700 “hookups” and delivered 278 million pounds of fuel. Floyd was a wing operations officer.
After retiring from the Air Force, Floyd returned to Bardstown where he and his brothers built an assisted living center that now has personal and nursing care.
“As a family, we had a common mission,” Floyd said of the endeavor.
Floyd served as CEO of the retirement community until Nelson County residents elected him as their representative to the Kentucky General Assembly in 2004. During his legislative tenure, Floyd calls his signature achievement the passage of a bill that vacated and expunged certain class D felonies, which are typically minor offenses.
“Through this, past sins can not only be forgiven but washed ‘white as snow,’“ Floyd said.
Just as he has been loyal to his country, Floyd is loyal to his family. He has announced that he will not seek re-election to the Kentucky legislature this year while an adult daughter faces a tough cancer battle in Middle Tennessee. The Floyds want to be available to help their daughter, her husband and their 18-month-old grandson during this time.
As a retired lieutenant colonel with more than 20 years in the Air Force, Floyd remains a staunch proponent for young adults serving in the military.
“It’s a mission field,” Floyd said of the military. “It’s an opportunity to be sought and not avoided. As a Christian, you should look at it as an opportunity.”
As Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day on July 4, Floyd encourages patriotism.
“Serve your country and your community,” he said. “Be grateful that you were born in America and love your country, despite its flaws – approaching your love for a child who will disappoint at times.”
Each fall, Floyd visits fifth-grade classes in his local district to champion representative democracy. He typically asks a student to read the preamble of the U.S. Constitution that begins with “We the People,” which he then underscores throughout his presentation.
As he departs the classroom, he asks, “What are the three most important words in America?”
“I always have a lump in my throat when they call out ‘We the People’ in unison,” Floyd said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton is a photojournalist and writer living in Atlanta.)