By Lynn Mitchell
Virginia’s GOP U.S. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie addressed the Liberty University Convocation on Wednesday, October 1, 2014, defending religious freedom and advocating limited government. Below are the video and his remarks to the student body and faculty:
Great to be with you Chancellor Falwell, Pastor Falwell, Liberty University faculty and students, it’s wonderful to be with you this morning for your convocation.
I, too, attended a faith-based university —The Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C. I worked my way through school there in a lot of different jobs. One of them was as a Senate parking lot attendant. Parking the cars for the staff to work in the big office buildings on Capitol Hill. And I’m hoping in November to become the first person ever to go from the senate parking lot to the senate floor!
I’d like to share with you this morning why I’d like to serve in the senate, because it has a lot to do with today’s high school and college students, and with my love for my family and country. And why, informed by my Faith, I would like to be a servant leader for my fellow Virginians.
Let me start with today’s high school and college students, who face the prospect of entering a job labor market with too few opportunities. Nearly half of all recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed—working part-time or in jobs that don’t require their four-year degrees. For the first time in our lifetimes, most Americans no longer believe we are a country where the next generation can do better than the one that came before it.
That does not have to be our past—it must be our future, and with the right policies it can be. Policies that create jobs, raise-take home pay, lift people out of poverty, hold down health care costs and reduce energy prices. Here in Virginia, we need those policies. In our beautiful commonwealth, more businesses have been closing than opening—and that’s true all across America.
Since our current senator took office along with President Obama, for every net job created in Virginia, nearly two Virginians have gone on food stamps.
Our state unemployment rate has climbed 7/10ths of a percentage point over the past four months, up from 4.9 percent in April to 5.6 percent in August. And according to the Congressional Budget Office, as a result of the disincentives to work in the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, there will be 2 ½ million fewer workers in our economy over the next decade, which would mean 60,000 fewer workers in Virginia. And the White House reaction to that study by the CBO was to say that it’s a good thing, because—“more of us will be free to pursue our hobbies.” That’s what they said and that’s what they believe.
The worst thing about the policies coming out of Washington today is not just that they’re killing jobs, but they’re destroying the American work ethic. And long-term, that’s a bigger problem for us as a nation and a society. Because we understand that there is not just economic value in labor, there is human dignity in work.
Pope John Paul II—now Saint John Paul II—wrote in his 1981 Encyclical on Labor: “Created in God’s image, we were given the mandate to transform the earth. By their work, people share in God’s creating activity.”
Timothy Keller, pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, notes in his 2012 book “Every Good Endeavor; Connecting Your Work to God’s Work,” that the Bible talks about work almost immediately, with the author of the Book of Genesis describing God’s creation of the world as “work.”
Keller writes: “It is remarkable that in Chapter 1 of the book of Genesis, God not only works but finds delight in it.” He quotes Genesis 1:31 and 2:1: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. . .the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.”
Keller goes on to say: “God finds what he has done beautiful. He stands back, takes in “all that he has made,” and says, in effect, “That’s good!” Like all good and satisfying work, the worker sees himself in it.” He also notes: “…in Genesis we see God as a gardener, and in the New Testament we see him as a carpenter. No task is too small a vessel to hold the immense dignity of work given by God. Simple physical labor is God’s work no less than the formulation of theological truth.”
The immense dignity of work given by God. That’s a compelling phrase.
I’ve put forward a five-point plan for economic growth so more of our fellow Americans can have the immense dignity of work given by God.
I believe we should measure compassion not by how many of our fellow Americans are on food stamps or in public housing… and start measuring it but by how many have become able to provide for themselves and their families through good paying, full-time jobs.
And if a head of household or a single parent is unable to provide for his or her family through the wages of work, I propose a wage enhancement tax credit provided on a monthly basis to ensure they are able to make ends meet.
This is a more compassionate response to help the least among us than destroying between 500,000-to-a-million jobs with a Federally mandated increase in the minimum wage. We can better help the working poor than by making them the unemployed poor.
And a wage enhancement tax credit would help working single mothers who face very difficult challenges meeting the demands of being sole provider as well as single parent, which is important to all of us who are committed to fostering a culture that respects and protects innocent human life — as I am.
My policies are based on our Constitutional principles of limited, effective government that have made our country great, made America, as Abraham Lincoln called us, “the last best hope of man on Earth.”
The genius of our founders as seen in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution resulted in a beacon of liberty and opportunity that has drawn freedom loving people to our shores for more than two centuries.
My father was among them. He left Ireland at the age of eight because his father found work in America, as a janitor. This was long after the massive wave of Irish immigrants came to America in the mid 1840s and 50s during the Irish Potato Famine, what the Irish called in Gaelic an Gorta Mór — the Great Hunger. In the course of a little more than a decade, millions fled that beautiful, tragic Island for the United States, having little idea what to expect on the other side of the ocean but hoping to find survival there.
They were leaving a country where if you were born poor, you died poor– for something completely different. To help them get a better sense of what to expect understand in the galleys of the ships that sailed from ports like Dublin and Cork. They posted bulletins called, “Advice to Irish Emigrants,” on the ships.
The posters said: “In the United States, …Wealth is not idolized; but there is no degradation connected with labour;…In the remote parts of America, an industrious youth may follow any occupation without being looked down upon…and he may rationally expect to raise himself in the world by his labour.”
I sometimes wonder if the Irish government official who wrote those words over 150 years ago had a better grasp on the essence of America than do some U.S. government officials today. We don’t want this great country to become more like places people have been fleeing for centuries to get away from—countries with currencies ruined by too much government debt, freedoms stifled by too much government intrusion in our lives , including the freedom of religion.
My family has seen the blessings of liberty. My grandfather was a janitor, my parents did not go to college, and I got to be counselor to the President of the United States of America–what a country. I want future generations and other families to have that same kind of economic opportunity and upward mobility.
John Paul II said in that encyclical: “We inherit the work of the generations before us, and we share in the building of the future of all those who will come after us. All this should be kept in mind when considering the rights that come with work or the duty to work.”
That would be my goal as a U.S. Senator—to build on the work of generations before us, and share in the building of the future of all those who will come after us. And to make sure that your generation does better than mine, and your children’s generation can do better than yours.
Thank you for letting me be with you today. God Bless you. God Bless Liberty University. God bless the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the United States of America.