Romney builds inter-faith bridge in Liberty U commencement address
May 12th, 2012
11:36 AM ET
2 years ago

Romney builds inter-faith bridge in Liberty U commencement address

Lynchburg, Virginia (CNN) - Mitt Romney used the commencement address he delivered Saturday at Liberty University to draw lines between the faith of the evangelical university - especially its founder, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell - and his own.

Among the shared values are Romney's view on marriage, which the GOP presidential candidate raised on Saturday for the first time in a speech since President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday that he personally supports same-sex marriages.

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"Culture matters. As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate," Romney said. "So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman."

Romney said that "people of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes wonder where we can meet in common purpose, when there are so many differences in creed and theology."

"Surely the answer is that we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview," he continued. “The best case for this is always the example of Christian men and women working and witnessing to carry God's love into every life."

His invitation to keynote the graduation was initially eyed skeptically by some students and others, who took to social media in protest of the Mormon's presence.

But Romney never mentioned his Mormon faith, and both he and the school sought to look past their differences.

The trustee board executive committee chair Mark DeMoss introduced Romney and encouraged the audience to recognize the difference between knowing someone personally, and simply knowing of them.

"You see, you can know about someone simply by reading about him or her," he said. "But you can only know someone by spending time with them."

DeMoss, who is also a senior advisor to Romney's campaign, recounted a meeting between Romney and the late Falwell, whose son is now chancellor of the school, as well as his own support of the candidate, which stretches back to Romney's term as governor of Massachusetts.

Romney offered a tribute to Falwell, who founded Liberty 40 years ago, remembering him as "courageous and big-hearted minister of the Gospel."

He praised the school for instilling "conviction and confidence" in its students, and lauded the graduates' "moral certainty, clear standards, and a commitment to spiritual ideals," which they share with other greats from history.

"Christianity is not the faith of the complacent, the comfortable or of the timid. It demands and creates heroic souls like Wesley, Wilberforce, Bonhoeffer, John Paul the Second, and Billy Graham," he said. "Each showed, in their own way, the relentless and powerful influence of the message of Jesus Christ. May that be your guide."

Some students, such as J.D. Wilkinson, a worship and music studies major from Springfield, Massachusetts, told CNN that they liked that Romney spoke out on the same-sex marriage issue.

"This school has always been about being not politically correct, just saying it, just telling the truth how it is and I thought he did that," Wilkinson said. "I think that's fresh in today's world and I think that's needed."

Another, Michael Kildare, said he doesn't identify strongly with a particular political party but is open to hearing more about Romney after today's speech. Kildare, who is from Orlando, Florida, will return to his home city to take a job as a computer technician.

"I was kind of skeptical at first but he definitely said some things that I have to take into consideration," he said. "He's definitely a good candidate for the presidency and I definitely look forward to his other speeches and other campaign ideas."

Romney did let his politics slip into his remarks, including an apparent jab at President Barack Obama.

"Lately, I've found myself thinking about life in four-year stretches," he told the 6,000 graduates present. "And let's just say that not everybody has achieved as much in these last four years as you have."

In a sign that the heated GOP primaries are behind him, Romney tipped his hat to former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, crediting his one-time rival for sharing statistics which support his own marriage stance. And Romney recalled the challenges of those primaries when he recognized restaurant founder Truett Cathy, who Liberty University recognized for his philanthropic efforts.

"The Romney campaign comes to a sudden stop when we spot a Chick-fil-A," Romney said. "Your chicken sandwiches were our comfort food through the primary season, and heaven knows there were days that we needed a lot of comfort."

Looking out at the graduates, who he noted are entering the job market, the presidential candidate teased about his current occupational hopes.

"Promotions often mark the high points in a career," he said. "I hope I haven't seen the last one of those."


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Same-sex marriage • Virginia
soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. vidal808

    yea, Jerry Falwell, thanks the Lord he is gone but his son is here now....oh well, let them all eat chicken – they will need a lot of comfort food this fall when the elections are being held....

    May 12, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  2. Sirned

    My son went to liberty for one year only. He was constantly told his Catholc faith was evil by the other students... We had warned him of this but a few of his friends were going there so we gave it a shot... Lousey desicion they are even more bigoted than I thought...

    May 12, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  3. Sheepleherder

    To think I almost convinced myself this guy was the future. Boy, did I turn out to be a bad judge of character.

    May 12, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  4. normajean @ verizon ,com

    How can a man who has lived a dream life such as Romney has possibly speak with clarity about the world these young people are going out into?? He has never faced a bill he couldn't pay or a car he couldn't afford to replace, a medical bill that was scary, loss of a job that was the difference between eating properly and just staying alive..... This person couldn't face the problems that most of the economically deprived citizens face every day, but he sure can talkand talk and talk a good game. Money cannot buy character nor integrity and he has neither.....
    .

    May 12, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  5. ST

    Revelations predicts one world religion formed by a false prophet. Is Romney the anti-christ?

    May 12, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  6. Marie MD

    Does he have any other look than that sinister grin?
    His faith, mormon church, believes in magic underwear and that they all get their own planet after they die.
    As crazy as most religions are, the virgins or everlasting life this one sounds just as kooky!

    May 12, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  7. NoTags

    Mitt said; "“The best case for this is always the example of Christian men and women working and witnessing to carry God's love into every life."

    Sorry Mitt, Mormonism is not a Christian religion. It was founded by a false prophet based on a false ideology.

    May 12, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  8. Anthony

    Mitt Romney said, I quote: "Christianity is not the faith of the complacent, the comfortable or of the timid. It demands and creates heroic souls like Wesley, Wilberforce, Bonhoeffer, John Paul the Second, and Billy Graham,"

    Did you notice he did not mention the founder of Mormon (Joseph Smith) or any past or present Mormon bishops. Did Mitt just acknowledge here with this statement that Mormons are not Christians? So now he is flirting with christians telling them their christian religion is superior than any other religion just to get their vote.

    This is so typical of Mitt Romney. He would say anything, change positions, believes as long as it gets him the votes.
    We might even hear before the election that Mitt is now a Christian and no long a Mormon. Mitt Mitt Mitt....can't take one position or stand for anything.

    May 12, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  9. penguin

    It's certainly a bridge to nowhere!

    May 12, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  10. madmaninthemiddle

    He should send a thank-you card to Joe Biden. He was in a tight spot – appeal to religious conservatives who inherently distrust Mormons while trying to move to the center for the general. Solution -reiterate his position on a hot button issue which just became relevant.

    May 12, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  11. nyumbu

    He praised the school for instilling "conviction and confidence" in its students, and lauded the graduates' "moral certainty, clear standards, and a commitment to spiritual ideals," which they share with other greats from history.

    I wonder if theyre also teaching that bigotry and assault is ok at this school

    May 12, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  12. tnt

    While Romney is right that those of different religions can work together on issues where there is shared moral conviction, he is wrong to claim that these convictions stem from a common worldview. He himself admits that there are creedal and theological differences between Mormons and evangelical Christians and it is precisely creeds and theology which are foundational for a worldview. If they are different then there is not a shared worldview. Here Romney dissembles by acknowledging there are differences and then proceeding as if there aren't.

    May 12, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
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