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  • America at the Crossroads: Rick Santorum Speaks at UVa

    9/23/2013 1:57:04 PM Posted by Patrick Coyle

    Collage UVA SantorumBy Ryan Bartels

    On Thursday, September 19th, at an event hosted by the UVa chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, Rick Santorum spoke in front hundreds of students and members of the Local Charlottesville community. Wearing a suit rather than his iconic sweater vest, Santorum was still able to engage, if not enthrall, the audience with his wit, easy-going manner, and conversational style.  Speaking on issues ranging from the American response (or lack thereof) to the Syrian crisis to the importance of the family, Santorum minced no words in presenting his beliefs and the logic behind them.

    Picking up where he left off the last time he came to UVa in 2007, Senator Santorum started his talk discussing radical Islam and the threat he believes it poses to American freedom.  He described the situation in Syria as disastrous, with President Obama kowtowing to the "former KGB thug" turned Russian autocrat, Vlad Putin, by allowing him to dictate the terms of engagement regarding the Syrian crisis.

    Obama's administration failed, he then stated, to even acknowledge radical Islam as part of the problem.  Furthermore, the administration refused to ally America with pro-western rebels before the movement turned jihadist.  According to Santorum, America has already lost its chance to influence the situation in Syria, as evidenced by the fact that Assad has dictated his own terms since he started using chemical weapons.  On a more general philosophical note, regarding foreign policy, the Senator said that he does not believe in intervening in other nations for humanitarian reasons, although he does support other measures such as sanctions and diplomacy to deal with these tough situations (e.g. Darfur).  Rather, Santorum believes only an immediate threat to the national security of the country warrants immediate military action.

    Senator Santorum then transitioned into talking about the family, an issue he thinks is extremely relevant and challenging, especially on college campuses today.  In his mind, the family is the fundamental building block of all societies. Whereas eighty-five percent of the top income bracket in America are married, only thirty-three percent of the bottom fifth of earners can claim the same, a statistical measure that lends credence to his belief that a strong economy needs strong families.

    In Italy and Spain, where only one in four women even has children, massive demographic crises are ensuing, marriage rates are decreasing, and out-of-wedlock births are increasing.  Single parent families are becoming the norm. While the Senator said he was in no way making a value judgement on any single mothers or fathers, he did explain that, objectively, children perform optimally on a whole, both emotionally and physically, in homes with both a mother and a father.  As a matter of policy, Santorum argues that it only makes sense to support the best situation for children.

    In the past, Santorum explained, the central goal of marriage was selfless love and creating the superlative child-care environment; however, the Senator recognizes that public opinion has shifted to a new model of marriage where love is the only thing that matters.  If this is all marriage is, he conceded, then it would make sense to allow whoever and whatever number of people to get married.  However, he sees more to marriage than this simplified version. Furthermore, government encouragement of non-traditional marriages would have significant negative social outcomes, as it has in many places, like secularized Europe, especially in terms of marriage rates and out-of-wedlock births.

    Despite his remonstrations, America is changing, and the Senator did not hesitate to acknowledge this.  Santorum believed Obama when the president promised he would fundamentally change the nation during the 2008 campaign, and he still believes him today.  For while Putin may have mocked Obama for believing in American exceptionalism, Santorum pointed out that Obama said he "believe[s] in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."  Santorum, on the other hand, claimed, as opposed to Obama's belief that America is deeply flawed, his skewed vision of what the common good is, and his views regarding who should be in control, that simply looking to our history reveals the exceptional character of our nation and spirit of our people.

    Of the hundreds of years of American history, Santorum believes none better exemplifies the virtues, integrity, and strength of the nation better than the American Revolution and subsequent founding of the country.  While the Constitution was extremely important in Santorum's eyes, it was the Declaration that really gave our nation a soul.  Without the Declaration, the Constitution is just like a boat floating aimlessly out in the waves.

    Additionally, he believes that the miracle of the American founding is best viewed in contrast to the very similar, yet at the same time radically different, French Revolution.  In France, the revolution was about three words: liberty, equality, and fraternity.  The first two are very similar to the aspects of the American cause but that third word, fraternity, made all the difference.

    Whereas the American cause was fought by patriotic men who gave due diligence to the Creator from whom all "self-evident" truths flowed, the French Revolution was a rebellion against paternalism, against tradition, and against God.  What resulted was a reign of terror, followed by an emperor who conquered and suppressed nearly the entire continent of Europe.  As a consequence of these radically different foundations, Europe is now but a shell of what it once was as the populations slowly dwindle away.

    Conversely, America has remained unique.  Only here do men continue to recognize that rights come from God and are innate by the very virtue of our humanity.  Therefore, in America, it is the people who are sovereign, not the government.  However, America is, Santorum claims, at the Crossroads, facing the ultimate challenge: will we regain our role as the freest country history has ever known, with a limited government, small tax burdens, and emphasis on individual responsibility, or will we continue down the path towards more obtrusive government bureaucracy and denial of our most basic freedoms?

    Ryan Bartels is a student at the University of Virginia and chief editor of UVA Young Americans for Freedom.

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