Biden calls for ‘common purpose’ at the National Prayer Breakfast.

In a normal year, thousands of people would have gathered in Washington on Thursday for the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual Christian event that has come to double as a political influence-peddling forum. It happened in person last February — one of the last ordinary political events, in fact, before the coronavirus triggered lockdowns in the country and changed day-to-day life.

This morning brought the new, virtual pandemic edition. But for all the strangeness of the format, the event seemed in some respects more normal than last year’s.

In a video address, President Biden said Democrats and Republicans needed to unite to “defeat political extremism,” a year after then-President Donald J. Trump used the breakfast as a forum to attack Democrats as “very dishonest and corrupt people.”

“Faith shows the way forward as one nation in a common purpose: to respect one another, to care for one another, to leave no one behind,” Mr. Biden said. “These aren’t Democrats and Republicans going hungry in our nation — they’re our fellow Americans, fellow human beings. They aren’t Democrats or Republicans going without health care in America — they’re our fellow Americans, fellow human beings.”

Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also recorded messages for the breakfast, and Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, read a message from former President Jimmy Carter.

Mr. Trump, whose speech last year was a stark departure from the usual tone of the event, was the only living former president not to participate.

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Jonny Richards

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