Mitt Romney today delivered the commencement address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. What his remarks lacked in brevity, they more than made up for in tedium. Having spent 37 years in corporate America and listened to thousands of hours of meaningless speeches delivered by soul-less empty suits, your intrepid diarist has crafted the following annotated version of the commencement address that reveals the sentiments that Mitt would have conveyed, if only he had a shred of moral honesty.
Without further ado:
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.Yeah. Store-bought chicken sandwiches? Not for “moi” of course. I mean, they don’t even use Grey Poupon mustard! Who knows if those people even washed their hands?! No, these were just for the campaign staff. You gotta love those kids: they’ll eat just about any kind of fast food, and that saves us a lot of time so we can get to the hotel and I can have my chateaubriand with quail eggs, baby asparagus, and truffles.
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.You see what I did there?! That was pretty funny! Ann’s not kidding; I really am a wild and crazy guy! By the way: pay no attention to those losers who whine about paying off student loans at exhorbitant rates. It’s important for you kids to get a good start in the working world, and I’m sure your folks will be only too happy to advance you the money to buy your own place or start your own business.
[Follow along below the vacuum of Mitt's soul for the rest of the address...]
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.I, for example, have expended about as much money as the GDP of a medium sized country, and I haven’t achieved a gosh darn thing. But all that is about to change, my friends.
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.Shorter version: promise me that you’ll work for my campaign and vote for me, and I’ll wrap up this speech and you kids can go off to your parties and I can get back to my Western White House With Car Elevator.
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.My adversaries will tell you that I hated them, and bullied them, but you know, at the end of the day, we were just kidding around. They knew that. It was no big deal. Like you kids say, that's how we roll.
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.
[Somewhere far away, Christ is doing a facepalm]
Maybe the most confident step Jerry ever took was to open the doors of this school 41 years ago.If you’re going on a crusade, you gotta have armor. Same if you're going to be convicted, if you think about it. Hmm. Gotta write that one down.
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.Some in the media have questioned my commitment to spiritual ideals, but if you look at my record, you can see that I have maintained an unwavering commitment to important values of financial success and personal dominance over the unworthy.
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.It’s like Rick Perry said: a prophet is never recognized in his own land. I really kind of miss that fellow; he had a lot to offer, and people never really gave him a chance. Maybe we can find something for him to do in our administration, running one of the departments that still exists. Agriculture maybe. I think he'd like that, I mean, he's an Aggie, right?
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.So there’s no connection – none – with the fact that we only conduct our imperialistic adventures in countries with favorable petroleum geology.
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.Of course none of this pertains if your so-called family is anything other than a Caucasian man and woman with children. I’m assuming that this goes without saying with virtuous folks like you. You know what I'm talking about with those Other sorts of people.
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.That Rick has a pretty strong sense of personal morality. It makes him a kind of tough guy to work with, but as you can see, I’ve gotten his enthusiastic endorsement now, and that’s good, because we really need a guy on board who’s committed to the idea that only a “snob” would want their kids to go to college.
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.Unless of course you’re one of my ancestors, in which case it’s one man and a bunch of women. But as you’ve heard me say before: my dad and my grand-dad, God bless them, were good people, but they really never achieved the sort of success that I have, so we can leave their antiquated views behind.
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.Amazingly, not a single person in the history of the world has ever suffered or died as a result of Christianity, so you can see that it’s a pretty effective approach. All we’re trying to do is to ensure that we can keep things working well.
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.Fortunately for me, and for those in my family, I really haven’t fallen short of the mark. In fact, as a self-made man, I’ve done better than most. Way better, in fact. My own purpose-driven life speaks for itself: I set out to amass great wealth and build a successful business and reach the highest levels of government. I am just about there! It’s a wonderful feeling!
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.For me, of course, these trivial things aren’t a problem at all. I have people for that. That frees me up to deal with what’s really important, like overseeing the construction of my car elevator, and making sure that the good folks running my SuperPAC are taking care of business.
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.Well, except for the investments part. I think I’ve been pretty well defined by my investments, and I have no problem with that. I took a risk, even if it was with other people’s money and livelihoods, and it worked out great. For me.
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.That’s certainly my plan. I’ve got the Romney Dynasty well underway. My sons are serving their country working on my career, while building the businesses that I launched for them. They'll have a bunch of sons, and they'll help them launch their own businesses. It's like a Ponzi scheme, except that it's perfectly legal. The money is all channeled into our accounts, so we can continue doing the Lord's Work of bringing enlightenment to the heathens and providing return on investment for the shareholders. It's all good.
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."Now, as the media is spreading all those exaggerated stories about my hijinks and pranks at Cranbrook Academy for Offspring of the Obscenely Rich Who Don't Want Them at Home, you can see why he’d say that. Oh, other than the fact that he really didn’t have much else in the way of accomplishments. I mean, look at Detroit? The place has become kind of a dump. That's a testament to absolutely nothing. Thank goodness I stepped up and saved the auto industry after he left it in such a mess and that Obama fellow was standing around looking clueless.
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.So, as I said: I have people for that. You can’t always be home when you’re busy bankrupting companies, selling them off, throwing people out of work, and transferring operations to countries where you don’t have to worry about labor unions, workplace conditions, or fair wages.
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."My lovely wife Ann, with the help of our devoted army of nannies, gardeners, housekeepers, chauffeurs, tutors, dog-walkers, and concierge doctors, has done a marvelous job raising our boys. Let’s give the little lady a nice round of applause for mother’s day! She’s going to make a fantastic first lady, don’t you think?
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.What a bunch of kidders! Just like the old man. Guess they were usually scanning the business section and the police blotter, or maybe the obituaries, for news of my latest activities.
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.You remember Chuck Colson, the guy who would have run over his own grandmother in the Nixon administration? Good. That’s the kind of personal commitment that makes for a successful career. Not everyone has that kind of commitment, but if you're fortunate enough to find someone like Chuck, you can learn a lot.
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.Or, if you can't help them with their troubles, maybe you could just hold them down as they scream for mercy while you, laughing uproariously, hack off their hair with a pair of scissors. That might actually be the best way to take their mind off whatever was bugging them. Worked for that guy! [Laughs]
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.What? Can I wrap it up? No! I’m not done! I’ve paid for this microphone! Let me finish!
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.Wait. That didn’t sound right. I think I mean that your path will be kind and your life will be long. But how can a path be “kind”? What I mean is, I hope that you will be comfortably off in this world, with a good job, a supportive husband or wife, a family, a home – all the sorts of things that people in my position have been able to take for granted. Things that other kids who don’t share your education and your beliefs and your work ethic can only dream of.
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.Where’s my limo? I gotta get to my private jet. No, I'm not sticking around to meet with anybody. I gave the darn speech; that was the deal, so unless there are some donors wanting to meet with me, I'm out of here.
Thank you all, and God bless you.