“Over the last year, we have embarked on a national debate on how best to preserve American leadership. Today, I wish to address a topic which I believe is fundamental to America’s greatness: our religious liberty. I will also offer perspectives on how my own faith would inform my presidency, if I were elected.
“There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation’s founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adams’ words: ‘We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion… Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.’
“Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
Some time ago a friend who is a professor asked me: “Mitt what do you think were the great inflection points in American history?” I thought a minute and then I answered, “What do you mean by inflection points?” And then he explained, “If you look back at American history you will find that there are points in time when everything shifts, when military strategy shifts, when economic strategy shifts, culture shifts, even the role of government shifts.”
One of these historical shifts came at the turn of the 20th century. America went from an agricultural society to an industrial society. Warfare changed, with modern artillery, tanks and aircraft. Our culture revolved around new, large cities and government assumed a more active role in the economy.
The Civil War was another decisive turning point: America became inexorably committed to Union and to the principle that the Constitution applied to every single citizen.
And if you go back one step further in history, you get to the Revolution – the greatest turning point of all. Up until this time, the world believed that the King or the government was sovereign and that the citizen was servant. The Revolutionaries had a different premise. They believed that the citizen was sovereign and government was the servant. And the power of that idea gave birth to our country, and changed the world forever.
I believe that America is at another inflection point today. Militarily strategies are changing, our economy is changing. Our culture is changing. At a fundamental level, we’re engaged in a great debate about the duties of government and the rights of citizens. And as much as ever, we need to remember and live up to the principles of America’s founding.
Now, to all of you, thank you, here, for caring enough about America to show up, to speak up, to stand up for conservative principles. As I said to you last year, conservative principles are needed now more than ever. We face a new generation of challenges: challenges which threaten our prosperity, our security and our future.
I’m convinced that unless America changes course, we could become the France of the 21st century. Still a great nation, but not the leader of the world, not the superpower. And to me that’s unthinkable.
Look, it was a while ago Shimon Peres came to Boston for a visit. He was asked what he thought about the war in Iraq. “First,” he said, “I have to put something in context.” He said, “America is unique in the history of the world. In the history of the world,” he said, “whenever there’s been conflict, the nation that wins takes land from the nation that loses. One nation in history, and this during the last century, laid down hundreds of thousands of lives and took no land: no land from Germany, no land from Korea, no land from Japan. America,” he said, “is unique in the sacrifice it has made for liberty, for itself and for freedom-loving people around the world.”
And Colin Powell added, “The only land we took after the last great conflict was enough land to bury our dead.” The best ally peace has ever known and will ever know is a strong America.
As conservatives, we face this new year with resolve, but without resentment. Our country has a new president, and he has our prayers and best wishes. In the last eight years, we saw how a president’s political adversaries could be consumed by anger, and even hatred. That is not the spirit that brings us together. We want our country to succeed, no matter who’s in power. We want America to be prosperous and secure, regardless of who gets the credit. At our best, that has always been the mark of the conservative movement – in good times and bad, the interests of this great nation come first.
Right now the interests of America will depend in many ways on the decisions of President Obama. Those choices are his to make, whether or not we see eye to eye. We won’t be afraid to disagree with him when we must. And we won’t be afraid to agree with him when we can. One thing the President can know is that when he takes strong action in defense of the United States, we will stand by him. And we will always support the brave men and women of our nation’s military that he now commands.
We make these commitments out of principle, and our principles don’t depend on elections won or lost. Contrary to what you hear from some commentators on the left, the 2008 elections did very little to settle the most serious differences of opinion in American politics. Some of those issues were hardly debated at all in the fall campaign. As conservatives in opposition, we have a duty to press on …a duty to state our case with confidence.
Some critics speak as if we need to redefine conservatism. I think that misses the mark. America’s challenges are different from year to year, but our defining principles remain the same. Conservatives don’t enter each new political era trying to figure out what we believe. Facing new and complex problems, we find the answers in principles that endure. Ronald Reagan used to say that “the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that what they know is wrong. ” Conservatives don’t claim to know everything, but what we know is right.
We know that America has always endured a chorus of critics, —people who claim that every ill, every failure in the world is America’s fault.
But it has never before had a President who was conducting that chorus.
He told an Arab TV station that America has dictated to other nations. No, Mr. President, America has freed other nations from dictators. He told the Europeans that America has been arrogant, dismissive and derisive. No, Mr. President, in defending liberty, America has been diligent, dedicated and decisive.
Sure, when an American president journeys abroad, it’s always nice to see him applauded and praised. But when the price for that adoration is one apology after another for alleged offenses by the United States of America, it’s not worth it. Frankly, I’d rather see a president greeted abroad by complete silence, as long as he is defending our country’s character and not playing to our country’s critics!
These are times that call for a strong America.
China is on track to become the largest economy in the world. Russia under Putin is edging back to its old totalitarian ways, killing journalists, harassing political enemies, and invading a sovereign neighbor. Jihadists murder and threaten innocent people in nations around the world, and plot to attack us here at home.
The regime in North Korea sacrifices its own people to serve its nuclear ambitions. The regime in Iran, too, is moving fast to develop a nuclear weapon. And all the while, our economy is reeling and our debts are mounting.
Let me say it again: these are times that call for a strong America.
Mitt Romney’s speech at Heritage Foundation kicked off a series of events as part of The Heritage Foundation’s Protect America Month. This speech was delivered at United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. on 06/01/2009.
More than 180,000 of our people in uniform are still deployed to theaters of war. And any discussion of America’s national security has to begin with those wars, and the absolute necessity of winning them. The missions in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t receive as much attention as in years past. It wasn’t long ago that most politicians and pundits had pretty much decided Iraq was a lost cause. But our former president was undeterred, and instead of retreating he moved forward with a surge of operations. The astonishing success of our soldiers has silenced the critics. And most importantly, it has preserved freedom for millions of people, denied Jihadists a base from which they could finance and launch attacks, and eliminated the threat Iraq represented to the region. Events have proven the critics wrong, and the coming victory in Iraq will be to the lasting credit of the American servicemen and women who have fought in the finest tradition of the American military.
Just a few days from now, we will mark the 65th anniversary of D-Day. I’m sure many of you have been to Normandy. I have. I saw the beaches. I saw the acre upon acre of crosses and stars that mark the resting place of those who gave the last full measure of devotion to their country’s cause. They were sent by an awakened American nation to liberate a continent. In the shadow of World War II’s desolation, they resolutely shouldered the burden of defending freedom.
That burden did not end with that war. Since that time, American soldiers have fought in remote places. America sacrificed the blood of its sons and daughters and sent treasure abroad, helping nurture democracy and human rights all over the world. We sustained a network of alliances and built military prowess that at first contained and then defeated Soviet communism. Because of what America did in the 20th century, there are hundreds of millions of people around the world who now live in freedom – who, but for the price paid by the United States, would have lived in despair. I know of no other such example of national selflessness in the history of mankind. That is why America is the hope of the earth.
That is also why, with all due respect, I take issue with President Obama’s recent tour of apology. It’s not because America hasn’t made mistakes—we have—but because America’s mistakes are overwhelmed by what America has meant to the hopes and aspirations of people throughout the world.
The President also claimed on Arabic TV that America has dictated to other nations. No, America has sacrificed to free other nations from dictators. Britain’s Guardian newspaper noted that Mr. Obama has been more critical of his own country, while on foreign soil, than any other president in American history. That would be a most unfortunate distinction at any time. But it is particularly so today: with all that is transpiring in the world, in Iran, North Korea, Georgia, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, this is the time for strength and confidence, not for apologizing to America’s critics.