.- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said that the morals and values held by a culture are important because of the role they play in a nation’s ultimate success or failure.
“Culture matters,” said Romney, who delivered the May 12 commencement address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., the largest Christian university in the world.
He referenced the work of Harvard historian David Landes, who studied why some civilizations rise and others fail to do so.
“Culture makes all the difference,” Romney said. “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,” he stated.
Romney explained that the American culture supports personal responsibility and the dignity of work, as well as service, education and the foundational role of the family.
He pointed to a Brookings Institution study brought to his attention by former competitor Rick Santorum, which found that individuals who graduate from high school, get a full-time job and wait to have children until marriage have only a two percent chance of living in poverty.
If those elements are absent, however, 76 percent will be poor.
This shows that a culture’s values determine the future of the nation, and they must be strengthened, Romney said.
In the same vein, the presidential contender also discussed the importance of defending marriage, reiterating his belief that marriage “is a relationship between one man and one woman.”
The position puts him squarely at odds with President Barack Obama, who recently announced his unprecedented support for redefining marriage to include homosexual couples.
Romney emphasized the importance of family in his own life, saying that he has “never once regretted missing a business opportunity so that I could be with my children and grandchildren.”
He also commented on the importance of protecting religious liberty, the “first freedom in our Constitution.”
“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,” he said.
He observed that from its very beginning America has “trusted in God, not man,” and added that “there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action.”
Freedom of conscience has become a key issue in the election year, as the Obama administration has come under fire for issuing a federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
The mandate has elicited criticism from religious leaders and communities across the country, giving religion a prominent voice in the debates surrounding the election.
Romney’s Mormon religion has also been a topic of discussion throughout the primary season.
In his Liberty University address, the former Massachusetts governor touched on common ground between Mormonism and other faiths, such as Evangelical Christianity.
Despite “differences in creed and theology,” members of different faiths can “meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview,” he explained.
“The call to service is one of the fundamental elements of our national character,” he said. “It has motivated every great movement of conscience that this hopeful, fair-minded country of ours has ever seen.”
Romney warned the graduates gathered before him that living out their values will often lead to “the censure of the world” rather than “public admiration.”
“Christianity is not the faith of the complacent, the comfortable or of the timid,” he said.
However, he added, it is worth the spiritual effort to keep our focus on “something far greater than ourselves.”
“Moral certainty, clear standards, and a commitment to spiritual ideals will set you apart in a world that searches for meaning,” he explained.
Liberty University graduated its largest class in history this year, with 14,012 graduates.