Text of Mitt Romney's commencement address at Liberty University
May 12th, 2012
02:29 PM ET

Text of Mitt Romney's commencement address at Liberty University

Mitt Romney used the platform the commencement address at Liberty University to reach out to the evangelical community and discuss the importance he puts on faith. Per the Romney campaign, here are Romney's prepared remarks:

For the graduates, this moment marks a clear ending and a clear beginning. The task set before you four years ago is now completed in full. To the class of 2012: Well done, and congratulations.

Some of you may have taken a little longer than four years to complete your studies. One graduate has said that he completed his degree in only two terms: Clinton’s and Bush’s.

In some ways, it is fitting that I share this distinction with Truett Cathy. The Romney campaign comes to a sudden stop when we spot a Chick-fil-A. Your chicken sandwiches were our comfort food through the primary season, and there were days that we needed a lot of comforting. So, Truett, thank you and congratulations on your well-deserved honor today.

There are some people here who are even more pleased than the graduates. Those would be the parents. Their years of prayers, devotion, and investment have added up to this joyful achievement. And with credit to Congressman Dick Armey: The American Dream is not owning your own home, it is getting your kids out of the home you own.

Lately, I’ve found myself thinking about life in four-year stretches. And let’s just say that not everybody has achieved as much in these last four years as you have.

That’s a theme for another day. But two observations. First, even though job opportunities are scarce in this economy, it is not for nothing that you have spent this time preparing. Jerry Falwell, Senior, long ago observed that “You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent or wealth, as the world does, but rather by what it takes to discourage him.” America needs your skill and talent. If we take the right course, we will see a resurgence in the American economy that will surprise the world, and that will open new doors of opportunity for those who are prepared as you are.

Of course, what the next four years might hold for me is yet to be determined. But I will say that things are looking up, and I take your kind hospitality today as a sign of good things to come.

I consider it a great life honor to address you today. Your generosity of spirit humbles me. The welcoming spirit of Liberty is a tribute to the gracious Christian example of your founder.

In his 73 years of life, Dr. Falwell left a big mark. For nearly five decades he shared that walk with his good wife Macel. It’s wonderful to see her today. The calling Jerry answered was not an easy one. Today we remember him as a courageous and big-hearted minister of the Gospel who never feared an argument, and never hated an adversary. Jerry deserves the tribute he would have treasured most, as a cheerful, confident champion for Christ.

I will always remember his cheerful good humor and selflessness. Several years ago, in my home, my wife and I were posing for a picture together with him. We wanted him to be in the center of the photo, but he insisted that Ann be in the middle, with he and I on the sides. He explained, by pointing to me and himself, “You see, Christ died between two thieves.”

Maybe the most confident step Jerry ever took was to open the doors of this school 41 years ago.

He believed that Liberty might become one of the most respected Christian universities anywhere on earth. And so it is today.

He believed, even when the first graduating class consisted of 13 students, that year after year young Christians would be drawn to such a university in ever-greater numbers. And here you are.

Today, thanks to what you have gained here, you leave Liberty with conviction and confidence as your armor. You know what you believe. You know who you are. And you know Whom you will serve. Not all colleges instill that kind of confidence, but it will be among the most prized qualities from your education here. Moral certainty, clear standards, and a commitment to spiritual ideals will set you apart in a world that searches for meaning.

That said, your values will not always be the object of public admiration. In fact, the more you live by your beliefs, the more you will endure the censure of the world. 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. Each showed, in their own way, the relentless and powerful influence of the message of Jesus Christ. May that be your guide.

You enter a world with civilizations and economies that are far from equal. Harvard historian David Landes devoted his lifelong study to understanding why some civilizations rise, and why others falter. His conclusion: Culture makes all the difference. Not natural resources, not geography, but what people believe and value. Central to America’s rise to global leadership is our Judeo-Christian tradition, with its vision of the goodness and possibilities of every life.

The American culture promotes personal responsibility, the dignity of work, the value of education, the merit of service, devotion to a purpose greater than self, and, at the foundation, the pre-eminence of the family.

The power of these values is evidenced by a Brookings Institution study that Senator Rick Santorum brought to my attention. For those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and marry before they have their first child, the probability that they will be poor is 2%. But, if those things are absent, 76% will be poor. Culture matters.

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

The protection of religious freedom has also become a matter of debate. It strikes me as odd that the free exercise of religious faith is sometimes treated as a problem, something America is stuck with instead of blessed with. Perhaps religious conscience upsets the designs of those who feel that the highest wisdom and authority comes from government.

But from the beginning, this nation trusted in God, not man. Religious liberty is the first freedom in our Constitution. And whether the cause is justice for the persecuted, compassion for the needy and the sick, or mercy for the child waiting to be born, there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action.

Religious freedom opens a door for Americans that is closed to too many others around the world. But whether we walk through that door, and what we do with our lives after we do, is up to us.

Someone once observed that the great drama of Christianity is not a crowd shot, following the movements of collectives or even nations. The drama is always personal, individual, unfolding in one’s own life. We’re not alone in sensing this. Men and women of every faith, and good people with none at all, sincerely strive to do right and lead a purpose-driven life.

And, in the way of lessons learned, by hitting the mark or by falling short, I can tell you this much for sure.

All that you have heard here at Liberty University – about trusting in God and in His purpose for each of us–makes for more than a good sermon. It makes for a good life. So many things compete for our attention and devotion. That doesn’t stop as you get older. We are all prone, at various turns, to treat the trivial things as all-important, the all-important things as trivial, and little by little lose sight of the one thing that endures forever.

No person I have ever met, not even the most righteous or pure of heart, has gone without those times when faith recedes in the busy-ness of life. It’s normal, and sometimes even the smallest glimpses of the Lord’s work in our lives can reawaken our hearts. They bring us back to ourselves – and, better still, to something far greater than ourselves.

What we have, what we wish we had – ambitions fulfilled, ambitions disappointed … investments won, investments lost … elections won, elections lost – these things may occupy our attention, but they do not define us. And each of them is subject to the vagaries and serendipities of life. Our relationship with our Maker, however, depends on none of this. It is entirely in our control, for He is always at the door, and knocks for us. Our worldly successes cannot be guaranteed, but our ability to achieve spiritual success is entirely up to us, thanks to the grace of God. The best advice I know is to give those worldly things your best but never your all, reserving the ultimate hope for the only one who can grant it.

Many a preacher has advised the same, but few as memorably as Martin Luther King, Jr. “As a young man,” he said, “with most of my life ahead of me, I decided early to give my life to something eternal and absolute. Not to these little gods that are here today and gone tomorrow. But to God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

In this life, the commitments that come closest to forever are those of family.

My Dad, George Romney, was a CEO, a governor, and a member of the President’s Cabinet. My wife Ann asked him once, “What was your greatest accomplishment?” Without a moment’s pause, he said, “Raising our four kids.”

Ann and I feel the same way about our family. I have never once regretted missing a business opportunity so that I could be with my children and grandchildren. Among the things in life that can be put off, being there when it matters most isn’t one of them.

As C.S. Lewis is said to have remarked, “The home is the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose, and that is to support the ultimate career.”

Promotions often mark the high points in a career, and I hope I haven’t seen my last. But sometimes the high points come in unexpected ways. I was asked to help rescue the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

I’m embarrassed now to recall that when this opportunity was first presented to me, I dismissed it out of hand. I was busy, I was doing well, and, by the way, my lack of athletic prowess did not make the Olympics a logical step. In fact, after I had accepted the position, my oldest son called me and said, “Dad, I’ve spoken to the brothers. We saw the paper this morning. We want you to know there’s not a circumstance we could have conceived of that would put you on the front page of the sports section.”

The Olympics were not a logical choice, but it was one of the best and most fulfilling choices of my life. Opportunities for you to serve in meaningful ways may come at inconvenient times, but that will make them all the more precious.

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. 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 – people like the late Chuck Colson.

Not long ago, Chuck recounted a story from his days just after leaving prison. He was assured by people of influence that, even with a prison record, a man with his connections and experience could still live very comfortably. They would make some calls, get Chuck situated, and set him up once again as an important man. His choice at that crossroads would make him, instead, a great man.

The call to service is one of the fundamental elements of our national character. It has motivated every great movement of conscience that this hopeful, fair-minded country of ours has ever seen. Sometimes, as Dr. Viktor Frankl observed in a book for the ages, it is not a matter of what we are asking of life, but rather what life is asking of us. How often the answer to our own troubles is to help others with theirs.

In all of these things – faith, family, work, and service –the choices we make as Americans are, in other places, not choices at all. For so many on this earth, life is filled with orders, not options, right down to where they live, the work they do, and how many children the state will permit them to have. All the more reason to be grateful, this and every day, that we live in America, where the talents God gave us may be used in freedom.

At this great Christian institution, you have all learned a thing or two about these gifts and the good purposes they can serve. They are yours to have and yours to share. Sometimes, your Liberty education will set you apart, and always it will help direct your path. And as you now leave, and make for new places near and far, I hope for each one of you that your path will be long and life will be kind.

The ideals that brought you here … the wisdom you gained here … and the friends you found here – may these blessings be with you always, wherever you go.

Thank you all, and God bless you.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Mitt Romney • Politics

soundoff (97 Responses)
  1. tstorm92

    Ironic that Romney would speak at "Liberty" University when it is anything but! Guess that shows his true colors!

    May 14, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • William D. Lee

      All Christians in America, remember, that all of our highly respected Bible schools and Seminaries teach, in their Apologetics courses, that Mormonism is a cult. How will you vote now?

      May 14, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  2. nc1965

    The anti-christ (Mitt) is a bully. This is now fact. And what is that bullies do? Start wars.

    Romney called Russia "our geopolitical enemy number one." "Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe. They – they fight every cause for the world's worst actors," said Romney

    After his career at Bain Capital where he helped outsource American jobs to China, Romney has now accused China of “cheating” and "stealing American jobs". He warned China that if he is in the White House, there will be consequences for unfair trade, “Unless China changes its ways.

    Romney supported the invasion of Iraq and the "troop surge". Romney has expressed support for an eventual reduction in military presence in Iraq but has strongly opposed a timetable for withdrawal.

    In a June 2007 New Hampshire Republican debate, Romney was asked if he agreed "that the use of tactical nuclear weapons, potentially, would be possible if that were the only way to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb?" Governor Romney responded that "You don't take options off the table, but what you do is stand back and say, 'What's going on here?

    May 14, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • KM

      (((Yawn)))....manufactured maneushia that has made the rounds before, emanating from liberal mouths...

      May 14, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  3. FactsRBad

    When Jerry F said to Mitt “You see, Christ died between two thieves.” – did Romney just say that Jerry F identified him as a thief?

    May 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  4. mc tampa

    Glad to hear a presidential candidate is giving a speech at a school that openly and proudly discriminates. A harbor of things to come i think.

    May 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  5. Tex71

    "Liberty U."
    The Liberty to force every American to blindly obey whatever parts of your own Bronze Age set of taboos that you feel like imposing on them – whether they like it or not!
    I don't think I like that brand of "Liberty".

    May 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Exactly right

      May 23, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  6. ChristopherM

    Wow, a speech glorifying a con artist (Falwell) AND a felon (Chuck Colson)! Appropriate for anything at a fourth-rate university.

    May 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  7. IdaJean

    Romney needs to remember, he can't win without the minority votes!!! A true christian does not hate!!

    May 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Use your brain

      Thank goodness Romney isn't a hater or a divider. He doesn't have any issues with races or religions.

      (95% of blacks/African Americans voted for Obama.... based on race over qualifications. I wonder if that will change. Obama has taken them for granted and, as a whole, that segment of society has struggled more during his presidency)

      May 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • jim

      My experience with christians tells me that "true christians" DO hate, everyone but other christians.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  8. ShawnDH

    Romney is a pathological liar and possibly a sociopath, and right-wing evangelical Christians are deranged religious fanatic nutballs. They want us to live under Christian sharia law. No thanks.

    May 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Joe (live2believe.org)

      Wow, good thing people like you are so fair-minded and logical.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • KM

      You must be the presdient of his fan club then...."birds of a feather..."...

      May 14, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  9. Use your brain

    Good speech. Hope people were listening.

    May 14, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • mc tampa

      "good speech" yep, to bad gay people are banned from the school and the campus..Oops, thats discrimination right??

      May 14, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  10. Thomas

    A man without guile and who really believes in Christians serving one another for the whole of our society.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • jim

      Boy, are you gullible!!!

      May 14, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Tex71

      One can only assume you mean "serving" in the sense of serving turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  11. Karl

    To evangelicals who consider Romney's religion a cult and would only vote for a Christian: hey, there's a Christian running against Mitt. Are you more Republican or more Christian? This election should really separate the hypocrites from those who still stand by their faith commitments.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Lame Excuse

      Lame argument to vote for the downfall of America!

      May 14, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  12. Simeon Namore

    "In his 73 years of life, Dr. Falwell left a big mark." Yeah, a long stinking brown one that won't wash out.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Use your brain

      Another 'classy' liberal/democrat remark.... hopefully, most are a little more mature than you.


      May 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • jim

      @Use your brain It may not have been a classy remark, but it certainly was a true one. I can't think of a viler creature than his satanic majesty Jerry Falwell!

      May 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • KM

      Perhaps if he had washed really hard, you might have disappeared....

      May 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  13. Sue Church

    What a beautiful speech! So appropriate to the occasion and with many instances of lifting up American and Christian ideals. May God grant Mitt Romney his wish for one more promotion! He and his family are truly a class act and we are lucky and blessed to be able to campaign and to vote for them!

    May 14, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Karl

      Christian ideas? No, not really. Central to Christian theology is the tenant that our salvation is by God alone. Even the very faith we exercise to believe is a gift of God and not holey of ourselves. Yet, Mitt mentions clearly that our salvation, our spiritual condition, is something "we have complete control of." This is orthodox Mormonism but quite heretical to Christian orthodoxy. So, call him what you want, and vote for what you want, but don't praise him as some outstanding example of Christianity because at its very roots, he doesn't buy it.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Use your brain

      Agree. Romney gave a good speech. Hope those students that were against him coming were able to attend.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Karl Get Your Religious Facts Straight

      Karl get your religious facts straight before you comment about Mormonism! Apparently your hatred for Mormons is too strong to educate yourself about the history and beliefs of the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Tex71

      The Romneys are a clas act like the Beverly Hillbillies, with whom they share more than a few similarites.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • mc tampa

      blessed to be able to campaign for them ha ha ha....you are truly an idiot. You go ahead and pound the pavement while they drive in their multiple cars to their mansions so their servant,s (like you) can drink their kookaide.

      Ha Ha, some people are nothing but lemmings. (bet you don't know what they are either do you, look it up!)

      May 14, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  14. Reality

    What should have been said but was not:-----–>>>

    Dear Liberty students:

    – from a guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. ...

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

    Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use":

    1a. (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)
    1b. (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)

    Followed by:
    One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
    Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
    The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
    Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
    IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)

    Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).

    May 14, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • mc tampa

      Get help quickly!!! before you explode!

      May 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Reality

      For those who are reading challenged:

      Practice Safe-S-ex !!!

      May 15, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    May 14, 2012 at 4:25 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.*!~

      May 14, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • KM

      Prayer as a procedure...what a concept...

      May 14, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  16. best baby bathing tubs

    Fantastic items from you, man. I have take into accout your stuff previous to and you're just too wonderful. I really like what you have acquired right here, really like what you are stating and the way in which by which you assert it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it sensible. I cant wait to learn much more from you. That is really a great website.

    May 14, 2012 at 4:14 am |
  17. University Student

    Mitt Romeny, could you please stop bashing Obama to further your personal agenda long enough to deliver a politically-neutral commencement address that doesn't revolve around you? Apparently not. You're doing it wrong.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:39 am |
    • Use your brain

      Are you OK with Obama bashing republicans and Romney?

      Obama has been bashing Romney for months. The latest attempts have been weak at best... although CNN has run them as main stories.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Use your brain

      Note: Romney didn't say anything about Obama or democrats in the whole speech. Please read it...

      May 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • KM

      Personal agenda? He's running for POTUS. What do you expect him to do, explain how Obama is so much more qualified to be POTUS than he is (Which isn't really true)? Both candidates have done plenty of mud slinging. I'd expect this practice to continue, given the fact that it is an ELECTION....

      May 14, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  18. IslandAtheist

    You graduates were so receptive, Romney is going to baptize you all Mormons when you die.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  19. john allen

    I was impressed by the fact that Christian religions with different doctrines and theologies can, on so many issues, agree and enthusiastically support standards and values. As we more fully realize this I feet there can be a powerful force felt throughout the country for the standards and values Mr. Romney espoused at Liberty University.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • QS

      "I was impressed by the fact that Christian religions with different doctrines and theologies can, on so many issues, agree and enthusiastically support standards and values."

      Indeed – many people from many religions can all set aside their own differences and come together under a banner of hate and loathing for the entire gay community....such a sense of togetherness!

      May 14, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Karl

      Once you come down out of the clouds long enough to reason and write a coherent sentence, consider a central Christian belief: Jesus spoke more about the evils of money and justice to the poor and downtrodden than any other subject, and his views on this could hardly be construed as Republican.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  20. IslandAtheist


    May 13, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Use your brain

      Anti-mormon propaganda? Wow.

      There will always be bitter people that leave an organization or job. This is no different. I left a job several years ago and disliked them greatly. I've since moved on. Hopefully, this kid can move on.

      May 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
1 2 3
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.