Skip to comments.Liberty University Commencement Address – May 10, 2014 (Governor Bobby Jindal)
Posted on 05/15/2014 7:17:38 PM PDT by marktwain
Liberty University Commencement Address May 10, 2014
Posted on May 10, 2014 by Hillary
I have to warn you in advance Ive done a number of these graduations and you will have to bear with your parents today. You may witness them shedding a tear or two. And when you see that, you will think that they are replaying the years in their minds you will think that they are remembering when you first learned to ride a bike, when you took your first steps, you will think they are sadly wondering where the years went.
But you would be wrong about that. No, those tears you see are actually tears of joy. Joy derived from knowing that the tuition bills from Liberty University will finally stop coming. In fact, because of this, the truth is that your parents are the most genuinely happy people here today.
By the way, this is probably a good time to let you know that I hate giving commencement addresses. I just really do. Because the graduates and their families simply want to get on with it. The only thing worse than having to sit through a commencement address, is having to sit through a commencement address by a politician. All I can say about that is to use the college vernacular it sucks to be you right now.
I thought about giving a speech today lecturing you about going out into the world and working hard and all that stuff but I got bored with that.
I thought about giving a speech telling you of all the great things we are doing in Louisiana, but I knew you would be bored with that.
I thought about giving a speech telling you that if you like your health care plan you can keep your health care plan, but I decided I didnt want to lie to you.
And I thought about giving a speech telling you that debt is good, redistribution of wealth is smart, and personal morality doesnt matter, but you only need to know those things if you are planning to go to work for the federal government in Washington.
Let me start today by telling you a very few things about my story. My parents immigrated to this country nearly a half century ago. They came without much, but they had heard about the idea of America. And thats what America really is, its an idea, and the central tenant of that idea is freedom.
When my folks arrived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1971, my mother was already pregnant with me. I was what you would call a preexisting condition. So my dad didnt look around for handouts or for the government to pay the hospital bill no, he worked out paying for me on an installment plan. In fact, shortly after I was born, he asked the hospital if they would take me back if he failed to make a payment. He was hopeful, but they said no.
My dad grew up dirt poor. He was the only one in his large family to get past the 5th grade. But he knew that the idea of America was that if you work hard and apply yourself, you will be successful. So when he got to Baton Rouge he decided to get a job by simply calling through the yellow pages. He finally wore some guy down on the phone which is amazing as my dad has quite an accent, and not a southern accent like mine. He convinced a guy to not only hire him, but also to come pick him up for work as he didnt have a car.
I could tell you a lot of amusing stories about my folks adjusting to life in America, but I want to fast forward to the most significant thing that has ever happened to me, and it happened when I was a child. A friend I knew gave me a rather odd Christmas present, he gave me a Bible.
Some time later, a girl I knew invited me to church. Here I was, looking for a date, and meanwhile she was looking to save my soul. I found the Gospel message intriguing, but I was skeptical. Im an analytical sort of person, so I decided I would have to investigate all these fanciful claims. So I started reading this Bible, often times in my closet, as I wasnt sure how my parents would respond. The short story is this, I read the words of Jesus Christ and I realized that they were true. I used to think that I had found God, but I believe it is more accurate to say that He found me. And it happened because people were brave enough to plant seeds of the Gospel in my life.
Many years later, when I became a candidate for political office, in one of my first debates, I got the question What is the single most important moment in your life?
I had just endured countless hours of debate prep sessions with my political consultants and staff. Thats where you sit around and get savagely grilled by people you pay your political consultants and staffers. I knew exactly what they hoped I would say they would argue that I should try to appeal to female voters by offering a touching story about when I asked my wife Supriya for her hand in marriage, or about the birth of my first child. And yes, those were great moments.
But instead, I decided to do something new in politics, I told the audience the truth that the most significant moment of my life was when I turned it over to Jesus Christ and acknowledged Him as my Savior.
My political consultants then began shifting uncomfortably in their seats and I have to admit I enjoyed that.
I thought of Matthew 10:33 which says whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. And of Romans 1:16 which says For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes
It is said that college is an intellectual pursuit, involving reason and logic. I went to Brown University in the Ivy League, a place that prides itself in intellectual reasoning. One of the good things about going to Brown is that I was able to become the President of the College Republicans on campus almost immediately. The other Republican student at Brown was the Vice President.
Some kids go off to college and lose their way, they become convinced that their faith is not an intellectual pursuit.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Reason and logic lead to truth which means that reason and logic lead to God.
There is a general view among many of the elites in America that truly enlightened folks realize that all this faith and religion stuff is just quaint and antiquated thinking from an earlier era. Or that it is a nice restful place for those who are not as bright or as intellectually curious as they are.
Again, nothing could be further from the truth. True intellectual curiosity will inevitably lead to an understanding of the Creator.
I always noticed examples of this elitist view of faith when national political reporters, usually from places like Boston, New York, or Washington, would come down to Baton Rouge to interview me in my first years as Governor.
Inevitably during these interviews they say something like this you are a smart guy, we know you went to Brown and were a Rhodes Scholar, so tell me, how is it that you call yourself pro-life, and you say that you oppose gay marriage, and you say that you oppose gun control? You just say that stuff to get elected in the Deep South right?
So of course, l liked to have a little fun with it, so I would lean over the desk, and in hushed tones, pretending to confide in him or her, I would say well just between us, do me a favor, go tell your editors the bad news, tell them that I absolutely believe everything I say. As you can imagine, those interviews ended rather abruptly.
Let me shift gears for a moment now and talk straight with you about the world we live in, and the culture into which you are about to wade.
Todays world is increasingly hostile to matters of faith. American culture has in many ways become a secular culture. At a minimum, it is safe to say that you are going into a world that is far more secular than the one your parents entered.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to speak at the Reagan Library out in California where I talked about the silent war on religious liberty in America today.
The Declaration of Independence says that we are a nation constituted in accordance with the Laws of Nature and of Natures God, and that we are a people endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights.
Let me make this explicit: the source and justification for the very existence of the United States of America is and always has been contingent upon the understanding of man as a created being, with a Creator conferring his intrinsic rights among [them] Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
How we understand and approach that Creator is properly left to the hearts and consciences of every citizen. I am a Catholic Christian. My parents are Hindus. I am blessed to know Baptists, Jews, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and so many more in the rich tapestry of American faiths. And I know men and women who acknowledge no denomination or creed, confess to uncertainty about the Divine, yet look to the richness of nature and the majesty of this world and wonder, and inwardly seek, the Author of it all.
These days we think this diversity of belief is tolerated under our law and Constitution. But thats wrong. This diversity of belief is the foundation of our law and Constitution.
America does not sustain and create faith. Faith created and sustains America. America did not invent religious freedom, religious freedom invented America.
President John Adams, in 1798, wrote to Massachusetts militiamen to remind them that Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
In 1798, this was simple common sense. In 2014, we are forced to confront a question that would have been unthinkable to President Adams and President Washington, and President Reagan, and every other American throughout history who believed in Americas founding premise:
What happens when our government decides it no longer needs a moral and religious people?
Today the American people, whether they know it or not, are mired in a silent war.
It threatens the fabric of our communities, the health of our public square, and the endurance of our constitutional governance.
It is a war against the propositions in the Declaration of Independence.
It is a war against the spirit that motivated abolitionism.
It is a war against the faith that motivated the Civil Rights struggle.
It is a war against the soul of countless acts of charity.
It is a war against the conscience that drives social change
It is a war against the heart that binds our neighborhoods together.
It is a war against Americas best self, at Americas best moments.
It is a war a silent war against religious liberty.
This war is waged in our courts and in the halls of political power. It is pursued with grim and relentless determination by a group of like-minded elites, determined to transform the country from a land sustained by faith into a land where faith is silenced, privatized, and circumscribed.
Their vision of America is not the vision of the Founding. Its not even the vision of ten years ago. Its a vision in which an individuals devotion to Almighty God is accorded as much respect as a casual hobby and with about as many rights and protections.
These elites have to this point faced little opposition. But there is a remnant who have the temerity to believe in America and its promises and to do something about it. Will you be a part of that remnant?
Margaret Thatcher famously said, Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy. The secular elites understand this just as well as she did. And they know that to take over America, they must make war on this philosophy.
This silent war is the real undercurrent driving politically fractious debates in a number of areas of policy. But why is this war happening? What does it mean for the country and people of faith? Why does it represent such a fundamental challenge to our American identity and the exceptional history that makes our nation great?
Consider three storylines playing out in the states and at the highest courts over the past several years in three different areas, yet all with overlapping effects.
First: the freedom to exercise your religion in the way you run your business, large or small, is under assault.
You have likely heard of the Obama Administrations case against Hobby Lobby, a mega craft store and a family business whose battle against President Obamas contraception mandate will end up as a Supreme Court decision. The national chain filed suit after being told they would be fined $1.3 million per day if they didnt pay for abortifacients through their insurance.
Hobby Lobby is nothing less than an all-American success story. The family owned company was launched in Oklahoma in 1970 with nothing more than a $600 loan and a workshop in a garage.
Today they have 588 stores in 47 states. They have more than 13,000 full-time employees.
They expanded, branching out to create a Christian supply shop to sell Bibles and craft supplies, opening another 35 stores in 7 states, with almost 400 more employees.
This is entrepreneurship at its best, a family owned business that went from $600 and a garage to two companies that employ almost 14,000 people full-time across the country.
Through it all, Hobby Lobby has retained the guiding principles of its devout founders. Their statement of purpose begins with a Bible verse, and they are closed every Sunday. Theyve committed to honor the Lord by being generous employers, paying well above minimum wage and increasing salaries four years in a row even in the midst of the enduring recession. None of this matters to the Obama Administration. The argument they have advanced, successfully thus far, is that faithful business owners cannot operate under the assumption that they can use their moral principles to guide the way their places of business spend money. According to the Administrations legal arguments, the family that owns Hobby Lobby is not protected by the First Amendments free exercise of religion clause.
Thats the part of the First Amendment which states that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
The Obama Administration and Attorney General Eric Holder argue that, Hobby Lobby is a for-profit, secular employer, and a secular entity by definition does not exercise religion. A federal judge agreed: since Hobby Lobby is a secular corporation, they have no right to be guided by the religious beliefs of their ownership.
Keep in mind that Hobby Lobby wasnt arguing that so-called morning-after pills should be illegal, or banned, or doing anything to prevent their employees from paying the small cost of such pills. They just had a serious moral problem with paying for something they viewed as inherently against their deeply held beliefs.
The Obama Administrations argument ignores these beliefs and treats them as little more than an inconvenience to its ever-expanding regulatory state. The Administrations argument strikes at the core of our understanding of free exercise of religion. This case could have enormous ramifications for religious business owners across the country.
Under the Obama regime, you have the protection of the First Amendment as an individual, you see but the instant you start a business, you lose those protections.
And that brings us to the second front in the silent war: the assault on our freedom of association as people of faith, to form organizations where we work alongside others who share our views.
This brings us to the Hosanna-Tabor case, which revolved around the ability of a Lutheran academy in Michigan to fire a teacher. Here, the Obama Administration advanced another extreme argument, claiming that job regulations prevented the academy from being able to fire anyone over a difference in beliefs.
The lawyers for the Obama Administration went far beyond the issues of the case to instead advance the legally absurd position that there is no general ministerial exception, arguing that religious groups dont even have the Constitutionally protected right to select their own ministers or rabbis.
Thankfully, here, the Administrations extreme position was rebutted by the Supreme Court in decisive fashion, with a 9-0 decision opposing its perspective.
So for the time being at least, the government doesnt get to decide who can preach the Gospel. But the important thing to note is that the government wanted to make that decision. That is truly offensive and frightening.
The Administration advanced that extreme argument because it is consistent with the view of many on the Left, particularly elite liberal legal scholars, that the god we must worship first is government, and that our rights are doled out by Washington as they see fit.
But those cases are only the beginning there is a bigger threat, the assault on your freedom of expression in all areas of life.
Illinois shows us a preview of what this looks like. In legislation they proposed altering the definition of marriage, they would have required churches and other congregations to essentially close their doors to outsiders, stop providing services to the community, and close off their facilities to other non-profits or church groups in order to avoid being required to host same sex ceremonies.
They would not allow religious bodies to rent their facilities to non-members for use in weddings. They would drive churches to have to eliminate classes, day schools, counseling, fellowship hall meetings, soup kitchens and more.
In other words, this law and others like it would require believers to essentially choose to break with their deeply held theological beliefs, or give up their daily activity of evangelism, retreat from public life, and sacrifice their property rights.
This is the next stage of the assault, and it is only beginning. Today, an overwhelming majority of those who belong to a religious denomination in America thats more than half the country are members of organizations that affirm the traditional definition of marriage. All of those denominations will be targeted in large and small degrees in the coming years.
Will churches in America even be able to remain part of the public square in a time when their views on sin are in direct conflict with the culture, and when expressing those views will be seen as hiding hateful speech behind religious protections?
This war on religious liberty on your freedom to exercise your religion, on your freedom to associate, on your freedom of expression is only going to continue. It is going to continue because of an idea, a wrongheaded concept: that religious freedom means you have the freedom to worship, and thats all.
In this misbegotten and un-American conception of religious liberty, your rights begin and end in the pew. This is ridiculous. We have the right to practice our faith and protect our conscience no matter where we happen to be.
We must also keep some perspective on this silent war. It is a challenging time to be a believer in America, yes. But consider the plight of believers around the world today. In nation after nation, Christians are being slaughtered by radical Islamists for their beliefs.
It is a time of enormous upheaval in the Middle East, where your beliefs can lead to your church being burned, your children being kidnapped, or put you on the wrong side of a gun.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that The cross is laid on every Christian. It begins with the call to abandon the attachments of this world When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. And today, around the world, many Christians are living out that calling.
That is a shooting war over religion, not a silent one.
So here, in America, we should be grateful that the laws and principles put in place by the Founders, men like George Mason and James Madison and Patrick Henry who understood the importance of religious liberty, have endured for so long. They are the reason America has come so far, and it is those same principles that should guide us farther still principles that understand that power is derived from the people, not the government.
Calvin Coolidge understood this, in his own time: We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp.
The things of the spirit do come first. We must act, and act now, to protect them. The temptation in some corners is to ask for a truce in these fractious battles but in practical terms, a truce would only amount to those who value religious liberty laying down their arms. Our religious freedom was won over the course of centuries of persecution and blood, and we should not surrender them without a fight.
Make no mistake: the war over religious liberty is the war over free speech, and without the first there is no such thing as the second.
Though this is not a battle any of us would have chosen, its one were called to join, and we should do so gladly, with our hearts and minds set on things above.
Our religious liberty must in no way ever be linked to the ever-changing opinions of the public. To the contrary, we must understand that our freedom of conscience protects all Americans of every persuasion however those persuasions may evolve.
Second, it is unmistakable that most of the Obama Administrations attacks on religious liberty are aimed at conservative Christians. But the fact is that our religious liberties are designed to protect people of all faiths.
And I will note, that while I am best described as an evangelical Catholic, my extended family is quite diverse when it comes to matters of faith. And our liberties in America demand equal protections for all.
Third, for those of you who follow pop culture, you may have taken note of the recent flap between the Robertson family, of Duck Dynasty fame, and the A&E Network that produces and broadcasts the Duck Dynasty show. And you may have further observed that the one of the loudest and most aggressive defenders of the Robertson family was the Governor of Louisiana.
You may think that I was defending the Robertsons simply because I am the Governor of their home state, the great state of Louisiana. You would be wrong about that.
I defended them because they have every right to speak their minds, however indelicately they may choose to do so. Of course, A&E is a for-profit business, and they can choose what they want to put on the air.
But there was something much larger at stake here. There was a time when liberals in this country believed in debate. But that is increasingly not the case for the modern Left in America. No, the modern Left in America has grown tired of debate.
Their new strategy is simply to try to silence their critics. So these leftists immediately mobilized and did all they could not to debate the issues, but rather to attempt to silence the Robertsons.
And the same thing happened again just this week, with another demonstration of intolerance from the entertainment industry. HGTV was working on a new show featuring the Benham brothers, twin brothers who graduated from right here at Liberty University in 1998. But HGTV cancelled the show this week, allegedly because they learned that one of the brothers protested at the Democrat Party Convention, and the other had protested at an abortion clinic. Think about that for a minute. If these guys had protested at the Republican Party Convention, instead of cancelling their show, HGTV would probably have given them a raise.
There was a time when the Left preached tolerance. And they are indeed tolerant, unless they disagree with you. To paraphrase William F. Buckley, a liberal is someone who welcomes dissent, and is astonished to find there is any.
The modern Left in America is completely intolerant of the views of people of faith. They want a completely secular society where people of faith keep their views to themselves.
Remember this quote from President Reagan: Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation.
To be clear, churches in America are not being burned to the ground, and Christians are not being slaughtered for their faith. There is really no comparison to the persecution of people of faith inside our borders and outside.
So weve established that our culture has taken a secular turn, weve established that persecution of Christians is on the rise throughout the world, weve established that religious liberty here in America is under siege, weve established that the Left no longer wants to debate, they simply want to silence us.
Now what? What do we do about it? What should you do about it?
First of all, you should be optimistic and be of good cheer. This is an exciting time to be a believer.
It is true that Christians are the last group that it is ok to discriminate against in America. But so what? If God is with us, who can be against us?
Dont see yourself as a victim, America has enough people who see themselves as victims.
You should go out into the world and be salt and light.
And most of all, you should be bold in your faith and embrace opportunities to stand up for the truth. You never know when you might be planting a seed that will change someones life forever.
Thank you, congratulations, and may God Bless you.
Just wishing Jindal could balance Louisiana’s budget...
Excellent speech. I would love to know liberal reaction to it. Where is Jindal wrong? The left is trying to silence all dissent. Isn’t he right about that? If the left were intellectually honest, wouldn’t they have to admit it?
Consider a few examples of trying to silence people:
1. The guy from Mozilla, who contributed to Proposition 8 in California.
2. The girl from the beauty pageant, who had the audacity to say she believed marriage was a man and a woman.
3. The guy from Chick Fil A, who also has the idea that marriage is a man and a woman.
4. Paula Deen.
5. The Robertsons from Duck Dynasty.
I’m sure there are others, who are vilified, and whom the left has attempted to drive out of public life, because they are expressing other than liberal views.
Has anyone on the right mounted campaigns to boycott businesses, or drive people out of public life, because they express outspoken liberal views?????
A God-centered curriculum is an essential part of genuine learning and true wisdom. The atheistic schools of the Ivy League and Cal-Berkeley just fill the students' minds with marxist mush.