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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