The Summit at Its Peak
September 17, 2012 - Monday
Four weeks ago, a man came to our front doors with hopes of killing a movement. This weekend, we proved that our values--those timeless truths--have never been more alive. For FRC, the Values Voter Summit was a triumphant moment after 30 very difficult days. It was a time to remind our adversaries that we won't back down--not in the face of bullies, not even in the face of bullets. "We are not a shy and timid folk," Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) reminded us this weekend. "We're Americans...we are a people of action. And that is what is required at this moment."
Despite threatening letters to many VVS speakers, groups like the Human Rights Campaign and Southern Poverty Law Center failed to persuade even a single one to drop out of an event that many are calling the most influential gathering of social conservatives in America. What they meant as leverage--baseless labels--only exposed their collective powerlessness. Leading thinkers, candidates, pundits, and academics all clamored to share the stage in defense of the mainstream ideals of faith and family. Like Rep. Jordan, they understand, "[T]he first institute the good Lord put together wasn't the church, and it wasn't the state. It was the family. And the strength of that institution ultimately determines the strength of our entire society, our entire culture."
Ours is not a radical mission. It's the strong and vibrant message of patriots that is flourishing in the excitement of this crowd, in the minds of young students, and in the growing number of faithful cosponsors. And while the Left made plenty of noise about the meaning of the Summit--in the end, that's all it was. Noise. Instead of running for the exits, leaders were knocking on our doors to play a role in last weekend's events. Warriors like Governor Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.) only stood taller in the media storm--proving that the only thing extreme about our values are their detractors. To any criticism for appearing at VVS, her office said simply, "This is arguably the nation's premier event for social conservatives, and Gov. Brewer will be among other prominent and well-respected speakers."
Prominent and well-respected speakers like Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who proudly declared, "I'm a values voter too!" Others, like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) refused to cower in the face of intimidation. Like so many congressional members, he made it a priority to join the Summit's 2,100 conservatives, driving all the way across town, despite a busy afternoon of votes. "Many pundits will say that this is an election about jobs and the economy, and it is," Cantor told the standing-room only crowd. "But for all of us who know that this country values liberty and freedom, we know this election is about something more. This election is going to determine whether or not the very moral fabric of our country will be upheld or whether it will be torn apart... We all know, as do most Americans in their hearts know, that the way for us to allow the pursuit of happiness is through individual effort. It is not through government programs. And that is why we believe in traditional marriage, because marriage, more than any government program ever has or ever will, has lifted up people out of poverty, even those who felt there was no hope."
A smattering of protestors, in what appeared to be a coordinated effort, tried to intimidate attendees and shout down speakers, but their attempts at disruption were frustrated at every turn. Not even they could distract Paul Ryan from his pro-life, pro-family message. "President Obama likes to say we're all in this together... it has a nice ring. For everyone who loves this country, it's not only true but obvious. Yet how hollow it sounds coming from a politician who has never once lifted a hand to defend the most helpless and innocent of all human beings, the child waiting to be born." Together with Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominees testified to the strength and energy of a movement that popular culture wants so desperately to eulogize.
As my staff knows, this would have been a very different weekend were it not for Leo Johnson. His heroism during the shooting at FRC made our presence at this event possible--and it will be heroism like his that turns our country around. We took time on Friday night to honor Leo, our lion, who--along with Randy Burt and Charles Foster--turned away malice at our very door. But courage takes many forms, and on Saturday night, FRC paid tribute to a living example of that truth: Leadership Institute Founder Morton Blackwell. The sixth recipient of our Vision and Leadership Award, Morton is the model of principled leadership that embodies the wise overseer that Paul described in I Timothy. His celebration capped off what was already a remarkable weekend of enthusiasm and commitment to our shared values.
If you weren't there, you can relive every moment of the seventh annual Values Voter Summit on our video archive--including my Sunday sermon. If you'd rather read your way through last weekend, check out the transcripts available on The Cloakroom Blog. Above all, make plans to join us for the next one, right here in D.C. on October 11-13, 2013.