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. Michael Y

    Is surprising Romney spoke about our values as Christians in this country and why we should not suppress religious freedom, well his own religious freedom was suppressed at liberty because he couldn't talk about his own religious beliefs which is perceived by school as a cult. We Americans are hypocrites. Christians talk about religious freedom, but we say that because we want it for ourselves, not for Muslims, Buddhist, Atheist, etc. We try to influence the laws to our favor while depriving others who don't share our faith, is ironic. We use the bible as the basis for the laws in this country (remember, the founding fathers sought to get religion out of governing, the believed there was a God, but appreciated all the various means by which everyone got there, they sought to make us different from the Europeans, whose society was ridden with religious controls and oppression) yet this country is not for only those who believe in the bible. The laws knows no religion, no culture and no person, is the laws that protect your faith and my faith, my belief and my belief not to curtail ones own over the other.

    May 12, 2012 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  2. Myviewis

    I don't think there are enough Christians in our country to take Romney to a win against Obama who has Hollywood celebs plus the gay community behind him. I don't think Christians have enough money to go up against Obama's very large campaign monies from Clooney. Obama has collected more money than any candidate in history and will continue to collect more money while Romney is looking at very limited campaign funds. If anything Romney will loose against Obama based on limited campaign monies.

    May 12, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  3. Martha in CF

    It is the republican party that is cutting most of the funding to our schools and colleges. With the cuts they propose the graduating classes will be much, much smaller. Sorry, our students are hurting. The redumblicans will not be of much help here............

    May 12, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  4. NameFrank Deery

    I am a gay, Catholic, who lives in San Francisco and is Republican. As a Catholic first, I cannot accept gay marriages, but have in my 68 years seen much progress and tolerance for us in our great country. I think thar is great.

    Gay marriages are not a civil rights issue, as liberals contend, but a religious one. Romney's attempt, as a Mormon, to build bridges at Liberty University is very important
    in these times, is very important. As a complex nation, we need to face all of these challenges.
    Obama,linder media-pressure, came out before Nov., but, with his "flip-flop" record here, and his 15million fund-raiser in Hollywood days after, his "gay" largesse
    is sadly suspect. At least Romney is clear here, but not threatening.
    is sadly suspect. At least Romney is cleat on his beliefs, like it or not.

    May 12, 2012 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  5. Johnson

    He will want to convert them all to Mormons. His faith really deserves some good scrutiny as a reputable religion.

    May 12, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  6. happyfrenchman

    Inter faith "bridges" have alot of trolls underneath them.

    May 12, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  7. happyfrenchman

    The fact that he never even mentioned his own Mormon faith, tells you what kind of interfaith bridge he is building.

    May 12, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  8. 2012liberal

    Please please romney take santorums advice. Run around screaming the sky is falling, earth is cracking open and spewing lava down streets! Do it do it! BULLY! Once a bully always a bully. Thats all gop knows.

    May 12, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  9. NoMoreLies

    Imagine Americans one day wanting higher taxes! Imagine Americans one day striving for bigger government. Imagine Americans one day willing to give up their individual freedoms and rights.
    You can't imagine it because this kind of thinking is truthfully unAmerican. We were founded and prospered with lower taxes, less government and more individual freedoms. Now look at us.

    Imagine one day REAL Americans decide enough is enough.
    Imagine November 6, 2012

    May 12, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  10. hottpoker

    Mitt had to undertake what has become the rite of passage if you want to be taken seriously by the fanatical rightwing of the republican party: take this trip down to their madrassa in Lynchburg Virginia, located on a city with a very appropriate name if you are reaching out to the black community.

    May 12, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  11. jumpinjezebel

    Inter is correct. His and the Tali-evangels have only one thing in mind for America – dominion over all things. This university is the Madrass for that kind of thinking that tries to infect all aspects of American life – constantly pushing the envelope for the "presecuted Xians" meme.

    May 12, 2012 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  12. trex

    .............Romney bridges.........................Toll $5.00..........................each way.........

    May 12, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  13. TheMendicantBias

    Inter-faith? THIS WAS INTRA-FAITH.

    Willard was talking to Evangelicals being a mormon himself. That's intra-faith, not inter-faith.

    May 12, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  14. tazbasin

    Decided to watch Romney's speech in it's entirety. I know there were protests earlier against Romney speaking at a Christian University. I wanted to see if there was any sign that a man who believed in so called cult, would show at least a glimpse of something that dild not coincide with Christianity at it's very core of beliefs? As I am getting to know Romney, I am convinced that he is a good man with spiritual depth. Dali Lama said the man he admires most is George Bush Jr., because he thought he was a good man. It appears Romney is a good man too! We need someone to focus on the debt! I hope Romney will come up with a plan soon that outlines how he can do it.. I hope he spends most of his campaign showing how he is going to change things and balance the budget.

    May 12, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  15. gg

    that crowd would have been there with or without mitt -so don,t let it go to your heads. poor kids

    May 12, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  16. Dan

    Nope, intra-faith is correct (Christianity.)

    May 12, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  17. tony

    Of course there are multiple faiths because the one god wants people to have differing ideas about him/her. Or to allow for what ever your conscience stretching needs. The RC Pope forgives IRA terrorists for blowing up little children for example. But hey if they all vote, that's all we need.

    May 12, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  18. theINDEPENDENTone

    Nice change from OBAMA's divisive and divide and conquer nature of race, religion, economic background and gender. Romney seems to respect all and seeks to achieve a unity by which to end the polarization of our nation, government and people. OBAMA's divisiveness has only polarized everything to prolonged stagnation. Romney is aiming to lead by consensus which is what America is predicated upon.

    May 12, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  19. Flipper Rmoney Failure Ahead

    A man who pretends to be Christian, speaking in front of a bunch of people who pretend to be Christian, at a school that pretends to educate, named after the liberty it pretends to support. This shows how far into the moral and intellectual cesspool the GOBP cult has sunk,

    May 12, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  20. PaulC

    Do we still have copies of the inquisition manual? You will be examined for Satan's mark and judged by the Holy Inquisitor.

    May 12, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  21. sayquitter

    Mitt's taking the requisite pergrinage to Madrassa University to beg for the support of the fascist wing of the republican party.

    May 12, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  22. makescents

    Mitt Romney lead a group of students in a violent act of prejudice where he forcefully cut off another student's hair because Mitt wanted him to conform to his beliefs of how people should look and act. Now he cannot remember the issue (even though the others involved clearly remember the details and are very sorry they followed Mitt's lead). Is this someone we want to give the power of the presidency? He is a bully who takes pleasure in firing people who do not please him and cutting the hair off people who don't meet his approval.

    May 12, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  23. Chad%Biff

    Do any of these rubes know what Mormons believe?

    May 12, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  24. Leftcoastrocky

    “Mitt's great grandfather's idea of a traditional marriage was between a man and a woman - and another woman, and a third woman, and a fourth woman and a fifth woman”

    May 12, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  25. a disgrace

    obama says he is for vacations and parties! as long as its him going and the fools who vote for him paying!

    May 12, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
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