Family Research Council

Tony Perkins's remarks at CPAC

February 9, 2012

Thank you, it's an honor to be here with so many friends. Let me especially thank Al Cardenas, the American Conservative Union, the other sponsoring groups, and all of you who have come together for this great event.

We gather at a time of impassioned struggle over the future of our nation. But our freedom is worth fighting for!

It's also good to exercise our freedom to smile. For example, you just have to laugh when it comes to our energy policy today. It seems like every day some huge taxpayer-subsidized green energy scheme goes belly up. No one should be shocked that the sales of the Chevy Volt have short circuited. The failures are so big you have to change the way you measure things. Powering the battery on a Volt takes so many solar power plants they've started calling it a six-Solyndra engine. Just the other day I saw a bumper sticker on another Volt - it said, "I used to be a member of triple AAA - now I run on triple AAA's."

Well, friends, I come here this afternoon not to speak about batteries and cars but about conservative unity that can drive the future of America. I want to talk about how we can end Occupy DC that has been going on now for 1115 days and will end on January 20, 2013!

As a movement we care about national security and peace through strength. We want small government, low taxes, and a thriving economy. And we accept the overwhelming evidence that a nation is no stronger than its churches and its families, who do the bulk of the work of promoting character and raising the next generation.

Altogether, we value the individual but we recognize that no human being enters this world alone - and the more children who enter this world and are taken into the loving arms of their mother and father, the happier and more prosperous we and our communities will be.

Where do these ideas come from? I think they were written by the Creator upon the human heart, but never more fully expressed or pursued than when they were written on parchment enshrined just blocks from here at the National Archives. It was these ideals that the founders embraced, and to which they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, rights that come not from the state but from God himself.

This understanding of the origin of our rights is why we have a right to life. It is why we must have the freedom to teach our children, the freedom to learn; to acquire, barter, and dispose of property. It is why we have a military and why it must be a military second to none - because it provides for the common defense of the dignity and freedom of every American.

This is our heritage and common character. And character is not just why we keep a strong defense. It is why we are worth defending.

Undermining this character, there are those in our midst, led by our Divider-in-Chief, who encourage us to see America as Balkanized, polarized, and Osterized. Their message is class-warfare. Let me be plain, those who engage in class warfare need some classes of a different type. They need to study our history and see what this nation can do when it honors freedom, faith, free enterprise and the family.

If you doubt whether this conservative unity exists, ask yourself this: can it be mere coincidence that freedom, faith, free enterprise and the family are all under attack at one and the same time - and from one and the same source?

Still, we must recognize how much blame there is to go around. Leaders, people in both parties, did bail out billionaires, reward failures, and shovel cash to friends. They forced us to become shareholders in "America, Inc." but instead we became debt-holders in "America, Red Ink."

This was and is not just an economic problem. It is a virtue problem.

Our nation will not have economic recovery until it has moral recovery. It will not build the world's best car again until we build the world's best character.

America's exceptionalism rests on the bedrock of character. And today, February 9, 2012, our nation's character, in fact the character of all the Western nations, is once more in the balance.

Let me illustrate this by telling you a Tale of Two Survivors.

The first is Francesco Schettino, captain of the Costa Concordia. Today off the Italian coast divers have abandoned their search for the bodies of 15 of the 32 people killed in this disaster. As we have learned, Captain Schettino abandoned the stricken ship while there were still 300 people on board. He says that he and his second-in-command managed to fall into a lifeboat. What great aim!

We have a recording of Schettino defying the repeated orders of his onshore commander to find the pilot ladder and climb back aboard. The commander, demanded that the Captain go back to the ship and "tell me how many children, women or people are on board." Schettino apparently felt more comfortable as captain of the lifeboat.

But Schettino was not the only man behaving badly in this incident. One Frenchwoman who survived told reporters of a mad scramble for the lifeboats. "I heard children crying out, 'I don't want to die!' as men pushed past trying to get themselves off the boat," she said. "So much for women and children first," she add.

So Captain Schettino of the Costa Concordia is a survivor - while a culture that is dying the death of a thousand cuts - cuts in moral standards - is collapsing around him.

Let me turn now to another man, one of many we are in danger of forgetting. His name is Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, a U.S. Navy Seal. Luttrell was also a survivor - the only one, in fact, of a four-man unit from Seal Team 10. Luttrell and his fellows -- were searching for a terrorist leader in the frigid peaks of the Hindu Kush when they were ambushed by a Taliban force of more than a hundred.

As the Taliban swarmed for the kill, Mike Murphy, the unit leader, crawled out onto an exposed spot, already wounded, putting his life on the line to use his cell phone to call in more troops.

Luttrell writes:

Knowing the phone call could cost him his life, Lieutenant Michael Patrick Murphy, son of Maureen, fiance of the beautiful Heather, walked out into the firestorm.

His objective was clear: to make one last valiant attempt to save his teammates. He made the call, made the connection. He spotted our approximate position, the strength of our enemy, and how serious the situation was. When they shot him, I thought mortally, he kept talking.

"Roger that, sir. Thank you." [Murphy said.]

Will those words ever dim in my memory, even if I live to be a hundred? Luttrell writes. "Will I ever forget them? Would you?"

That call led to the rescue of Petty Officer Luttrell, the lone survivor of Operation Redwing.

Here we have two extremes of character. A man on what started out as a pleasure cruise abandoning those in his care. And another man who volunteered to fly into the maw of Hell to defend his nation against bloodthirsty radicals. Yet it is not those of extraordinary valor whose loss is striking today. These men, and not a few women, have appeared in great numbers over the past decade and proudly worn the uniforms of our nation.

No, what we see in rising numbers are men - men without chests, to borrow C.S. Lewis's great phrase - who will shove children aside to get to the lifeboats.

That shoving is not limited to the Costa Concordia. It is happening across our culture. It happens hundreds of thousands of times per year when men do not step up for the human beings they have helped create. It happens when more and more of us retreat from the sacrifices involved in marrying and raising a family.

It happens every time a politician votes for a highway or a no-bid contract, knowing that down the road a campaign contribution will come his way or, better still, a high-six-figure consulting job. It happens every time an international businessman turns his head at the absence of basic human rights under one of our trading partners.

It is happening on a grand scale, where, as Mark Steyn puts it, entire nations are witnessing something extraordinary, the shrinking of generations. In Greece 100 grandparents have just 43 grandchildren. Bloated welfare states and early retirees protest government austerity instead of mourning their empty cradles. The people of great nations that defeated tyrannies of the right and left just 60 year ago, now peer into the cul de sac of near childlessness.

Not even Shakespeare could depict this tragedy. While here at home, our President mocks the very people, "clinging to their guns and Bibles," who secured our freedoms and won the peace. I pray with every breath that we will never forget the soldiers who clung to their Old and New Testaments and their guns on the beaches of Normandy and Bataan. I pray we never forget why they carried them. It was not fear of people who are different that drove them, it was a desire to see all of those people free And I pray that we will once again, and soon, have a President who will never mock such Americans, publicly or privately.

Americans will never agree on every detail of public morality, bit it is vital we get the big questions right. The American way is to be tolerant of less-than-vital differences, but insistent on core principles. And respectful where we cannot agree. That is why the Obama Administration's recent effort to crush moral and religious liberty in health care may be the single most breathtaking violation of the American spirit in modern history. It cannot stand.

My friends, every captain of every ship is a hero in front of his own mirror. But when the testing comes, our self-image is not enough. In this our day of testing may we have the courage of character, and the strength of faith in our Creator, as did our founders, as did the men of Seal Team 10, and the soldiers of a thousand other missions we will never know about.

Let us stand together as Americans, thankful for our freedom, confident in our values, proud of our history, and determined to succeed. May we live by the example of the Americans who have gone before us, who stood fast when danger beckoned on a barren mountaintop or terror lurked in the waves of a cold, dark sea.

For if we do - we will find that America's best days are yet to come.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Meet The Author
Tony Perkins President

Tony Perkins is President of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is (Full Bio)

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