Romney builds inter-faith bridge in Liberty U commencement address
May 12th, 2012
11:36 AM ET
9 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. MJ

    I believe you mean INTER-faith bridge. INTRA-faith would be within one faith.

    May 12, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  2. Bill from GA

    "People of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes wonder where we can meet in common purpose"

    Are the Mormons going to suspend their 'missionary' work to convert Christians until after the election?

    May 12, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  3. allen in Houston

    Romney will build Bridges , Obama has been an extremist President , bent on divisive methods to tare down . Christians will rally behind Romney in large numbers and actually campaign and vote for him. No one cares if your Jewish, or Mormon or Christian , they care about solving problems . Obama is not a problem solver he is problemmatic .

    May 12, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  4. Debbie

    I was a Republican for 35 years. I am now an Independent. I have always been a moderate. I tend to vote center right. I left the GOP because they moved from center right and compromise to far far far right socially, economically and religously. This continued moved by the GOP on religion and what happens in people bedrooms has now superceded how I will vote come this Nov. It has now come to a point where I must vote for liberty and freedom over economic issues. I am a Christian and feel my brothers and sister in Christ have been horribly deceived and the GOP moves are holding people in bondage and oppression in what "they" hold true vs Christ. I believe Mr. Romney, many people in the GOP, and my brothers and sisters in Christ are of good heart, but the GOP has allowed evil to enter. While I would vote for many in the GOP as individuals I risk losing my freedoms and liberties by the GOP party. They have gone to purity tests and no moderate can exist or compromise without severe party risk. Trying to control people puts them in bondage and removes Gods gift of free will choice. I will not vote GOP this year or until the party finds its balance and center point.

    May 12, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  5. Donkey Party

    As usual, Romney lies again. He said he was going to leave politics out of his speech. But then again, what else would you expect from a serial liar?

    May 12, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  6. Lenny Bruce

    I believe you included "let politics slip in.....jab at Obama" as a partisan attack.
    He mentioned only "I found myself thinking about life........last four years as you have", which is only talking about himself and the students. It typically takes 4 years to graduate, in case you forgot.
    I also heard Obama endorses poop fornication now. Did you get to congradulate him on his "evolution" from logic?

    May 12, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    believe it or not God loves GAY people, too. The school you are talking at Mitt just doesn't want folks to know that.

    May 12, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  8. Squigman

    There's something wrong in a world where religion, takes center stage over hunger, being homeless and fearing elected leaders who make wrong decisions, effecting employment and lifestyles for millions of people. The 800 pound gorilla in the room isn't whether people believe in one faith or another, it's whether they can live day to day providing for their families and themselves. WAKE UP PEOPLE.

    May 12, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  9. PJ/Tx

    It seems to me that Romney temporarily burned the bridge of his faith by agreeing to give a commencement
    speech at Liberty University, a school that teaches Mormonism is a cult.
    Instead of standing up for Mormonism, and rejecting the clear intolerance of Liberty University toward his
    religion, he chose to pander to them, all in the name of getting votes.

    May 12, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  10. TheMagusNYC

    Yes, the does equivocate in its use of key Christian terms, even calling their Father (embodied), son (a created being), and Holy Ghost (?) a "trinity," but Mormons are unitarian, not trinitarian, denying the core teachings of Christianity, while claiming to have restored the "true" sense. Mormons reject "christianity" to the same extent as Christians reject the beliefs, practices, and rituals of Mormons. And there is not shame in holding to each other's differences. Thus, MJ, you got that right concerning "inter-faith" bridge in terms of shared service, but irreconcilable beliefs.

    May 12, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  11. GI Joe

    Romney - One can draw a straight line from the young man who pinned down a terrified teenager and walked a blind man into a closed door, to the adult who put the family dog in a kennel and strapped it to the roof of the car, to the businessman who laid off hundreds of people, cancelled their health benefits, and paid himself millions while their company went bankrupt. And the line continues: the governor who slashed education and raised fees on the middle class, and the possible president who would use his power to cut taxes on his fellow millionaires while pushing for the gradual demise of traditional Medicare.

    May 12, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  12. John in Brooklyn

    So, considering the extraordinary differences in theology between mainline Christianity (let alone fundamentalist evangelical Christianity) and Mormanism AND Mr. Romney's efforts to demonstrate an inter-faith connection between them, how far is he willing to go? Is Mr. Romney suggesting that his faith-informed political platform is consistent with other faiths with theologies equally divergent from mainline Christianity such as Scientology, Unitarianism, or Baha'i? Or can we conclude that this is not an effort to reconcile theological differences but, rather, is simply an effort to politically pander to evangelical Christians?

    May 12, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  13. B.

    All that Romney accomplishes is consistent negative jabs at Obama with NO positive plans for the future except how he is going to dismantle everything that has been built towards progress for most middle class people in the country.

    May 12, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. bcrunner

    Kind of funny they invited him to speak so they can have someone of another faith and beliefs to speak, even though they don't agree with him and they think his religion is a cult. However, they will not allow students who are democrats to organize in the university (but they do allow Republicans to organize) because students who identify themselves as deomcrats believe a woman should have the right to choose and believe in gay marriage.. Some voices are "worth" more than others??

    May 12, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  15. luigim

    It would be so nice if you practiced what you preach.

    May 12, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. Larry L

    Inter-cult is more accurate.

    May 12, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  17. Marty

    Very good speach, I believe it to be heart felt.

    May 12, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  18. BT

    It depends where you are seeing it from, there are two sets here, faith and its complement, If I am not in faith I can use intra or if I am in faith I go with inter.

    May 12, 2012 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  19. Steven Colo

    So he eats at Chik-Fil-A. Completely committed interfaith outreach effort.

    May 12, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  20. lies from the right but mostly hate

    Someone needs to give willard mitt robmey a swirly

    May 12, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  21. Thomas

    I believe you mean bridge to nowhere !

    On page 173 of the course catalog for Liberty University, the ... “The history, doctrines, and present state of the major cults such as Mormonism.

    Evolution of Religion , we have a long way to go

    May 12, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  22. Whitney

    Thank you for writing an unbiased article. This is really refreshing, and particularly rare in the arena of politics.

    May 12, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  23. Brett B

    Mormonism is a cult. Romney bad choice for President.

    May 12, 2012 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  24. carly

    Let Romney and the GOP continue their assault on marriage equality, women's rights, minorities and on and on and thye will sink faster than a rock in November. Vote all right wingers out in 2012.

    May 12, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  25. longshot

    The christian fundamentalists call Mormonism a cult, and now suddenly they're all behind Romney. Looks like their racism (oops, sorry, I mean their opposition to the Mus|im socialst kenyan terrorist) is greater than their love of Jesus.

    May 12, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
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