09/22/06 – Values Voters Summit 2006

Thank you for that very warm welcome. It’s great to be here with you this morning.

You may wonder how it is that I got here. I actually got a call from Tony Perkins and he said Mitt, do you believe in free speech? And I said, look, I’m the governor of a very liberal state and I know it’s a very blue state, but of course I do believe in free speech. And he said, great, I’d like you to give one.

I want to thank you for the work that you do because it comes at a critical time. I notice that I’m not the only person in this country who thinks this is a critical time. The great author David McCullough, the author of John Adams and Truman and 1776 was recently speaking at the White House. He spoke on the life of John Adams. After he was finished someone in the audience said, Mr. McCullough what was the most critical period in the history of America, the most critical five-year period? And he said, from 2000 to right now. This is the most critical time in the history of America. You think about the reasons he may have said that.

We’re under attack from jihadists.

We’re also seeing the emergence of Asia, a new competitor. Good news because they’re coming into economic vitality; a challenge as well for our economy.

We’re also spending way too much money, number three.

Number four, we’re using way too much oil.

But number five, the culture of America is under attack. Now some people say wait, when you talk about culture, Governor, that’s not of the same order of magnitude as the things you just mentioned: jihadists and the emergence of Asia, spending too much money, using too much oil. And I disagree. There was a book written some years ago by a fellow named David Landis; he’s a Harvard professor. The book was given to me. It’s called The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. The jacket cover included an endorsement by John Kenneth Galbraith. I said, oh boy, this is going to be some liberal diatribe. I read through it and found it pretty scholarly. And after about 500 pages, he concludes with roughly these words: If anything can be learned from the history of economic development in the world, it is this–culture makes all the difference.

Now what is it about America’s culture that’s made us the most powerful nation on the Earth? You can think about some of those things. One is we believe in hard work as Americans. We believe in education. We love freedom. We seek opportunities. We’ll take risks in order to bring a better future for ourselves and our families. We sacrifice for the future and for our families. We are, in the words of the Bible, a God-fearing people. And even those among us who don’t believe in God, as part of what Rick Warren > might call a purpose-driven life, we live for something greater than ourselves. Americans respect the value and the sanctity of human life. And American society is built on the foundation of the family unit.

Now when I say foundation–we use those words frequently–when I say foundation I want to underscore the fact that a foundation is essential for something to stand. Our society stands on the basis of the family unit.

Now my state’s Supreme Judicial Court, about a year ago, struck a blow against that family unit, in my view. It said that our Constitution, written long ago by John Adams, requires people of the same gender to marry. I think John Adams would be surprised to hear that was in his Constitution that he wrote, but I think it underscores something which is important for us to remember, which is, we as people are willing to be tolerant and open even if we disagree with choices other people make; we espouse freedom and we respect people for their right to make their own choices in life. But the Court focused on adult rights. They said if heterosexual couples can marry, then to have equal rights homosexuals have to also be able to marry.

The mistake was they should have focused on the rights of children. Because marriage is primarily about the development and nurturing of children. The development of a child in the history of civilization has been enhanced by the opportunity to learn from the gender characteristics of a mother and a father. Every child has a right to have a mother and a father. Now we’ve seen the consequences of what happened in our state. Jesse Ventura said, it hasn’t hurt my marriage. Well that wasn’t the idea. Again he’s back to adult impact. Let’s look at the children. And the children–the impact on children will be felt not just in a day or two or a year or two but over generations as we think about the development and nurturing of children.

And the signs and the guideposts are already there for where we’re headed. Same sex couples have approached the state and said you have to change the birth certificate. It shouldn’t say mother and father. It should say Parent A and Parent B. audience reaction.

Second thing. Second grade classroom teaching from a book called The King and the King, about a prince who goes around from principality to principality. Doesn’t fall in love with the princesses, but instead falls in love with another prince, and they become the king and the king. This is about children. One of the parents in a school teaching from this book said, I’d like my second grade little girl not to have to be there when that book is being read. And the school system said, oh no, she has to be there. You can’t take her out of the class because in our state and under our Constitution we can’t differentiate between same sex marriage and traditional marriage. We don’t want to be heterocentrists, talking too much about mothers and fathers.

This decision has effects which also impinge potentially religious liberties. Catholic Charities, which has long placed many of our special needs kids, almost a third of the special needs kids from our Department of Social Services and Department of Youth Services have been placed by Catholic Charities–Catholic Charities has had to exit the adoption process in Massachusetts because they’re now told they can’t prefer adoption into traditional couples where there are mothers and fathers, but they must equally place children, contrary to the teachings and doctrines of their own church, they must place children in same sex homes. Religious liberty is also affected by this decision.

Now you haven’t seen an impact in most of your states. You haven’t seen the impact that we’re seeing in our state, and hearing these battles going on, and you may ask, why is that?

There’s a reason. After the Supreme Judicial Court passed its–or handed down its decision requiring same sex marriage, we of course went to work to try and get the legislature to put in place an acceptable amendment to the Constitution to reverse that decision. We weren’t successful in that regard. Then we went out and got 170,000 signatures in Massachusetts, a record, to put a ballot initiative on the ballot so that citizens can vote in favor of traditional marriage. For that to get on the ballot, however, 25 percent of the legislators have to agree. That’s what the Constitution provides. And you’d think we’d be able to get 25 percent of the legislators. I think we will be able to, but those that are in control of the legislature may employ various tactical procedural moves to keep a vote from every occurring. Now how is it that the liberals would be so active at assuring that democracy can’t have its way? I’m afraid that in some cases liberals love democracy only so long as the outcome is guaranteed in their favor.
But it is our deep hope and desire that the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will have their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote on a matter as fundamental to our society as its very foundation–whether or not we’re going to have traditional marriage in Massachusetts or marriages with same sex couples.

There’s another reason–or another factor of what we did once the decision came down to prevent the massive spread of same sex marriage across the country and that was to enforce a 1913 law that was on our books. The law says that Massachusetts can’t marry people who come into Massachusetts from other states if it would not be legal to marry them in those states. So we avoided becoming the Las Vegas of same sex marriage by enforcing that law. It was challenged in the Supreme Judicial Court. They upheld it. They said it’s on the books; it’s a real law, and as a result the only people being married in Massachusetts, same sex couples, are people who are residents there. It has not affected the entire nation.

That will change… That will change, I’m afraid, if the state were to elect a Democratic governor. He says he would support employing whatever tactics, procedural or otherwise, would keep that kind of vote from occurring. It could change as well even if the Republican governor takes my place because the legislature is 87 percent Democratic and the Democratic party in my state has pledged as part of its platform same sex marriage.

And therefore, this gets me to the final action point. We desperately need to have a federal marriage amendment. I came to Washington and testified in favor of a marriage amendment. I wrote a letter to all the Senators asking them to vote in favor of a marriage amendment, and I have to admit those people who vehemently disagree with me, I understand their position and respect their right to take a different position.

I think the people I’m most upset with are people who say I agree with you, Governor; I believe in traditional marriage, but we shouldn’t have a federal amendment. We should let this be up to the states.

And I keep making the point, and that is marriage is not like an activity like gambling that you can say if you don’t want it, it just goes on in one state or another state. Marriage is the status. If people come to a Las Vegas of same sex marriage and then they go home, they still believe they’re married, and in their communities they represent themselves as being married. Marriage in one state affects all of the states and therefore we have to have a federal standard that says marriage in this country is a relationship between one man and one woman.

Let me just underscore something I said that came from David Landis: culture makes all the difference. America is great not just because we have wonderful rivers and streams and great geography or that we have natural resources. America is not great because we have the best government. America is not great because we have the best corporations. Without a question America is great because we have great people. It is the people of America that make it the strongest and most powerful nation on the planet. And America’s people are great because we have great parents who made us great. We have moms and dads and we can learn from their attributes and develop into a great and powerful society, and those attributes are enhanced enormously by being able to have such wonderful folks that come from both genders and who are willing to sacrifice and five to us. Of course there are good families with single moms that work like crazy to help their children, but in all cases where there’s a mom and a dad, a child can learn from the attributes of both.

Sometimes I get a little discouraged and my friends get a little discouraged if you think about all the challenges: the jihadists, the emergence of a new economic power in Asia, the overspending by our government, the overuse of oil by our economy, and the extraordinary challenge to our culture, everything from work, education, sacrifice, faith in God, and family being the foundation of our society. All those things to a degree are [inaud.] being challenged, but I take some solace in the words of Abigail Adams, who was writing a letter to her son during the Revolutionary period and she said, John, great necessities call out great virtues. And I’ve seen time and again in this country that when the needs are great and people step forward [inaud.] that great virtues come out for the American people. We rise to the occasion time and time again. And we will become a stronger nation having confronted these challenges honestly, forthrightly and with all of our energy and strength.

My confidence comes also from the people I’ve seen. In my introduction you heard that I got the chance to run the Olympic Winter Games. What a thrill that was for a lot of reasons. Number one was I got to learn something about the heart of America’s people.

I saw an athlete named Derrick Parra. You probably don’t know Derrick. Derrick–Hispanic American living in Los Angeles. He’s a roller blader. His wife says to him one day, Derrick you’re very good on roller blades; why don’t you put on ice skates and see how good you are? So he put the ice skates on and he was good. In fact so good in fact that he made the Olympic team for speed skating, came to Salt Lake City to compete in the Games there, got a silver medal, got a gold medal in speed skating.

The Vice President came to our closing ceremonies and said, Mitt would you choose one American athlete to sit with me in the closing ceremonies? I said sure, I would choose Derrick Parra. Derrick came in; I got the chance to ask him, Derrick, what was the most powerful experience, the most memorable, fulfilling experience in your Olympic Games. Wasn’t the silver; wasn’t the gold. The most powerful moment, he said, the most powerful experience was being able to carry in the American flag that had flown above the World Trade Center on September 11th of 2001 in the opening ceremonies. He was one of eight athletes selected by his fellow athletes to carry in that flag.

He had expected, he said, that when they announced the flag and its significance entering into the stadium, that the 55,000 people would erupt in cheers, but instead total, complete silence. Total reverence. And they carried the flag and they stopped in front of the choir and symphony that began playing the national anthem. And he said we were hanging on to our emotions as we hung on to this horizontally held flag, badly burned and shredded. And he said then they did something we hadn’t expected. They were singing a 1930s version of our national anthem that I love by Robert Shaw, where there’s a reprise of the last line. One octave higher for sopranos, more orchestration. O say does that star spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. And as they sung it that second time with more power, he said, a little gust of wind blew into that flag and it was as if the spirits of all those who fought for American liberty had just blown into it. And he said the tears then began to flow from his eyes. And as he told me the story they began to fill mine as well.

There’s something special about America. Great people come forward when there’s great need because of the heart of the American people. That’s why I have such optimism about this great land. We face some real challenges, but these great necessities are calling out great virtues. Men like Tony Perkins and others who you have a chance to come and meet with here today. People like yourselves who are willing to put aside their time and [inaud.] to be with your friends and to fight for those things that you know are essential to preserve the strength of this great land. There is something great and special about America and it is her people.

Thank you so much for all you do.

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