LYNCHBURG, Va.- Gov. Mitt Romney spoke to over 6,000 graduates and 34,000 attendees at Liberty University’s 39th commencement, the largest audience Romney has addressed in his political career.
Before his speech, both Romney and Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy were conferred honorary Doctorates of Humanities for excellence in business.
The presumptive Republican took to the stage amid a standing ovation. He began by commending the graduates as well as saying that “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.”
Romney paid homage to the schools founder, Jerry Falwell, saying that he was “a courageous and big-hearted minister of the gospel who never feared an argument, and never hated an adversary” and that Falwell “deserves the tribute he would have treasured most, as a cheerful, confident champion for Christ”
Despite reports that he may steer clear of the topics on faith and same-sex marriage, Romney dove right in stating emphatically, and to extended applause, that “Marriage is between one man and one woman.”
Citing Harvard historian David Landes he asserted that the key to “understanding why some civilizations rise, and why others falter” is that “culture makes a difference. Not natural resources, not geography, but what people believe and value.”
Romney continued by saying “In this life, the commitments that come closest to forever are those of the family” and that he has “never once regretted missing a business opportunity so that I could be with my children and grandchildren.”
Appealing to his audience, Romney suggested that “there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action.
He struck at the heart of conservatism when he said that “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 fill 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.”
Amid buildup from various media outlets concerning potential tensions at having a Mormon speak at an Evangelical schools commencement, the crowd seemed welcoming and engaged.
They laughed at Romney’s jokes (the ones that were actually funny), cheered heartily on multiple occasions and the predicted walkouts were nowhere to be seen.
Romney remarked, “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”