CPAC 2014 Speech Highlights (with photo)

Once again, Republican heavy-hitters, potential presidential candidates, movers-and-shakers, and the political and cultural elites of conservatism took the CPAC stage to inspire and exhort the gathered audience and national television viewers via C-Span.

(I’ll save my favorite speech for last.)

Gov. Chris Christie emphasized the importance of winning elections, saying, “We don’t get to govern if we don’t win.” Winning was on Sen. Rick Santorum’s mind as well, as he said, “I’m not here to see a candidate win. I’m here to see America win.” Sen. Ted Cruz said that to achieve victory in the voting box, conservatives need to stand up for their principles: “You want to lose elections, stand for nothing. … Defend the Constitution – all of it.” Cruz exhorted the crowd: “We need to repeal every single word of Obamacare.”

Gov. Sarah Palin echoed Cruz’s sentiments, noting, “We are a nation with a government and not the other way around.” The backwardness of the liberal vision was also highlighted by Gov. Bobby Jindal, who warned, “This president believes our First Amendment religious rights begin and end in the pew of church on Sunday. This country did not create religious liberty and freedom, religious liberty freedom created this country.” Jindal emphasized, “The genius of the Founding Fathers was to trust the American people.”

Also looking to America’s Founders, Sen. Tom Coburn said, “We need to reconnect with the Constitution when we legislate and ask ourselves where in the enumerated powers of the Constitution we get the authority to pass a specific law.” So did Sen. Tim Scott: “[I find] the greatness of America not in Obama administration executive orders but in the wisdom of our Founding Fathers and the pages of the Constitution. … It is our responsibility to make sure the blessing of God upon our country continues.”

The continuing struggle for power which afflicts all human institutions has existed throughout the life of this Republic, as noted by author George Will: “Our country was founded in reaction to executive overreach with King George and the British. This has been an enduring problem in American history.”

The diametrically-opposed worldviews of the Obama administration and the rest of America were adeptly expressed by Ambassador John Bolton: “Our biggest national security crisis is Barack Obama. This is a president that does not believe in American exceptionalism, a president uninterested in national security and America’s place in the world, who considers our strength part of the problem, that we are the cause of international tension. This is like looking at the world through the wrong end of a telescope. But that is Barack Obama’s world.”

Business magnate Donald Trump exhorted conservatives to “Make America strong again. We have such tremendous potential. We have to use it. Make America great again.” Similarly, Sen. Marco Rubio championed American leadership on the global stage, contrasting the conservative vision with the Obama reality:

“I am convinced that despite the bad leadership we are getting today, we are on the verge of a new American century if only we make a few key decisions for the good. … We have a president who believed he could shape global events by the sheer force of his personality. We do not have the luxury of seeing the world as we hoped it may be, we have to see the world as it is. … There is only one nation on earth capable of rallying and bringing together the free people on this planet to stand up to the spread of totalitarianism. … America must be involved in leading the world.”

Gov. Rick Perry also called for a reinvigorated leadership at home and in global affairs, saying, “It’s not too late for America to lead in the world, but it starts by leading at home.” This is achieved by changing the presidency through “a little rebellion on the battlefield of ideas.” Rep. Newt Gingrich also promoted the Jeffersonian notion of rebellion, saying, “There is a revolution coming and we have the opportunity to lead it.”

What kind of “revolution” is needed? Santorum wants “to see America win.” Sen. Rand Paul urged “lovers of Liberty” to seize the day:

“Imagine with me for a moment, imagine a time when Liberty is again spread from coast to coast. Imagine a time when our great country is again governed by the Constitution. Imagine a time when the White House is once again occupied by a friend of Liberty. You may think I’m talking about electing Republicans. I’m not. I’m talking about electing lovers of Liberty. It isn’t good enough to pick the lesser of two evils. We must elect men and women of principle, and conviction and action, who will lead us back to greatness. There is a great and tumultuous battle underway for the future, not of the Republican Party but the future of the entire country.”

Though the conservative movement is divided over direction, strategy, and tactics, Rep. Paul Ryan dismissed that fissure, joking, “The Democrats say we are divided, Tea Party versus Establishment, social conservatives versus fiscal conservatives. I’m Irish. That’s what I call a family reunion.” Sen. Mike Lee: cautioned conservatives: “It’s time for the Republican Party to stop talking about Ronald Reagan and start acting like him.”

My favorite speech was by author Eric Metaxas (see photo), who emphasized knowing who we are and what we believe – as Christians, as conservatives, as Americans. We need to understand the true narrative of America. Here are a few highlights from his speech:

  • “Getting serious means knowing what we believe, understanding what we believe.”
  • “Motivated by faith in God, the early abolitionists stood against the zeitgeist – something I would recommend always standing against – and by God’s grace, slavery was abolished. … Motivated by faith in God, the civil rights leaders did what they did to fulfill the larger promise of America.”
  • “God has a hand in helping us fulfill who we are and making us great.”
  • “We gave hope [to the world]. We were a beacon of hope and truth in a dark world of hopelessness and lies.”
  • [In the 1960s,] another narrative was being put forth … a narrative that said that America’s strength was a bad thing; that instead of using our strength to help others, we used it to bully others; and so the best thing is for us to be less strong. Our strength must be decreased, our voice must be muted.”
  • “I want you all to understand how easy it is for people to fall into that way of thinking. It has become the default narrative in this culture. It is the narrative of Hollywood and academia. And unless we get the truth out – the real story of America – the great narrative, we don’t stand a chance. That’s our job: to get that story out.”
  • “The story is that America, for all its faults – and there are many – is still the greatest country in the history of the world. America is great, not because our people are better than other people (because we’re not). America is great because we know that everything we have is a gift from God that we don’t deserve, and that God has given it to us for the sake of others.”
  • “It was God who gave us this country and these opportunities. What we have here is not a gift from our government but a gift from God. Are we humble enough to acknowledge that? … It’s the ideas of America that are better. That’s what American exceptionalism is.”
  • “If we can’t admit when we’re mistaken, if we can’t repent, we don’t really believe in truth: we believe in nothing but ourselves. And if we believe in nothing but ourselves, God help us!”

 Image

Photo: Daniel Borchers

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