Darnell "SuperChef" Thompson, left, and Gov. Andy Beshear at Thursday's Prayer Breakfast in Frankfort. Thompson was the keynote speaker. (State-Journal/Anna Latek)

FRANKFORT, Ky. - The 55th annual Governor’s Prayer Breakfast was held Thursday morning at Kentucky State University’s Exum Center, welcoming citizens, clergy of all faiths, and elected officials to join together in faith and fellowship ahead of the closing weeks of the 2023 legislative session.

Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman served as emcee of the event, and spoke on the nature of unity in Kentucky, saying that “Diversity is our strength - our values are stronger than our differences.”

“Those of us in public service and elected office have the power to help Kentuckians, and we are called specifically to help those who are vulnerable, overlooked, and underserved. We miss the mark when we bicker with one another and focus on things that do not matter. Let us serve all Kentuckians with humility, grace, and kindness. Because our job is not about right and wrong, but about doing what is right to make sure no Kentuckian is left behind.”

Among the religious leaders who offered prayers to the almost 1,000 attendees were Louisville’s Rev. David L. Snardon of Joshua Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church and Rev. Dr. Valerie Washington of Hughlett Temple A.M.E. Zion Church, as well as Lexington Rabbi David Wirtschafter of Temple Adath Israel.

Welcoming attendees, Gov. Andy Beshear exclaimed “It is early!” to laughter from the crowd. “And if you are a Frankfort High baseball parent it is especially early, because the game in Mercer County went pretty late last night.”

“Today marks the 55th annual prayer breakfast,” Beshear said. “And I thought about just how important this event is. The fact that each spring it brings Kentuckians together year after year. I wondered what has made this tradition so important to our people, and to me the answer was clear - it is prayer.”

“You know, as a dad and as a governor, I spend my time thinking about the questions that keep people up at night…the ones that after they put their kids to bed, they can’t answer. They worry,” he continued. “When we lay down our heads, we talk to God, and we pray for those we love. Those who are sick, who are gone. And we pray for a way to overcome the challenges we are faced with, and to do it in the right way.”

Beshear thanked musical guest Walker Montgomery, son of county star John MIchael Montgomery, cadets from the Bluegrass ChalleNGe Academy who were in attendance and served as the event’s color guard, American Sign Language interpreters from the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and organizers from the Executive branch who spearheaded the event.

The event’s guest of honor was celebrity chef, Sullivan University graduate, and Food Network star Darnell “SuperChef” Thompson, who spoke candidly with the governor about the importance of faith, fortitude, and service.

“Now while many may celebrate his many accomplishments as a chef,” Beshear said, “I would argue that his biggest wins are the work that he does to lift people up.”

Thompson detailed his youth, how he came to join the culinary world, and the importance of his faith in pursuing his dreams. He likened faith to preparing a multi-course, gourmet meal, where community, perseverance, and giving all create a perfect balance.

“The dessert of life - the sweetest part - is giving. That is the sweetest thing of all,” Thompson told the audience. “I remember someone once told me that success is when you plant a shade tree that you will never sit under, but someone else will. A tree never eats its own fruit, it is the nutrients of the tree that make the fruit grow. And by sharing your successes with your community, we all grow stronger.”

Invocations were offered by members of each of the three branches of state government, including State Representatives David Hale (R - Wellington) and Pamela Stevenson (D - Louisville), Justice Christopher Shea Nickell, and former Kentucky representative Charles Booker.

Beshear closed out the event by presenting The William Cooper Faith and Community in Action Award to the Rousseau Volunteer Fire Department in Breathitt County for their work following last summer’s devastating floods.

The award was named for Rev. William Jefferson Cooper, Sr., who founded the prayer breakfast in 1968.