Remarks to the Student Congress on Evangelism
To begin our time together, I just wonder whether you would all remain standing and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance.
you very much. Well, now, before I say anything else, I want you to know just
to all of you participating in this 1988 Student Congress on Evangelism, it's
an honor to be with you. I know you come from all over
since I'm talking to a churchgoing audience, this heat reminds me of a story
that took place back in my hometown of
Well, I'm not going to preach a sermon. I thought instead I'd simply share a few thoughts with you on a subject I've had the opportunity to think about quite a bit during the years I've held this office: the subject of moral and religious values in our public life. And first I'd like to spend a moment or two looking at the history of religion in our public life, and then I'd like to speak about the challenge before us today.
I consider the history of this nation, I'm struck by how deeply imbued with
faith the American people were, even from the very first. Many of the first
settlers came for the express purpose of worshiping in freedom. Historian
Samuel Morison wrote of one such group: ``Doubting nothing and fearing no man,
they undertook all to set all crooked ways straight and create a new Heaven and
a new Earth. If they were not permitted to do that in
debates over independence and the records of the Constitutional Convention make
it clear that the Founding Fathers were sustained by their faith in God. In the
Declaration of Independence itself, Thomas Jefferson wrote all men are
``endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.'' And it was George
Washington who said, ``Of all the dispositions and
habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are
indispensable supports.'' Well, later, the statesmen gathered in
World War II, I remember a rally to promote war bonds that was held at
Well, during the civil rights struggles of the fifties and early sixties, millions worked for equality in the name of their Creator. Civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King based all their efforts on the truth that, black or white, each of us is a child of God. And they stirred our nation to the very depths of its soul.
so it has been through most of our history. All our material wealth and all our
influence have been built on our faith in God and the bedrock values that
follow from that faith. The great French philosopher visited our country --
Alexis de Tocqueville -- 150 years ago. He wanted to see if he could find the
secret of our greatness already, as a young country. And then he observed that
brings me to the challenges of the present day. For we must
admit that in recent years
But perhaps most important, the American family used to be the unquestioned basic building block of our society. And then families too often found themselves under pressure from government taxation, welfare policies that were spinning out of control, and social mores that were being undermined. Liberal attitudes viewed promiscuity as acceptable, even stylish. Between 1970 and 1980, the number of two-parent families dropped while the number of single-parent families almost doubled. Teenage pregnancies increased significantly. And although total births declined during the decade between 1970 and 1980, the number of illegitimate births rose about a quarter of a million.
These problems are still with us. But I believe there's been a change -- a change that you young people here today are part of. The Bible says: ``If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.'' Many, many years ago, my mother had underlined that particular passage in the Bible. And I had her Bible that I could place my hand on when I took the oath of office in 1980. And I had it opened to that passage that she had underlined. Today more and more Americans are seeking His face. And, yes, He has begun to heal our land.
An overwhelming 9 out of 10 Americans pray. Audiences for religious books are growing. The modern communications media are being used for evangelism. Just consider, for example, the videotapes made by Youth for Christ or the wonderful programming on a new cable channel called Eternal Word Television, a channel started by a woman of immense determination and joy, a nun called Mother Angelica. I was struck when, in my reading a while back, I came across this quotation from the Harvard theologian Harvey Cox: ``Rather than the cynical careerist types who supposedly have filled the campuses, I see young people who are intensely interested in moral issues, in religious history and beliefs.''
Well, if I might interject a personal thought here, there's something I've always wanted to say to a group of young people like all of you. Yes, you get a lot of advice from those of us who are older. But I feel so deeply about what I'm about to say that, well, I'm going to go right ahead and give you one more piece of advice.
I'm sure that each of you believes that someday you'll find someone to fall in love with, and you will. And sometimes you may get frustrated, and, yes, finding the right one may take longer than you thought. But don't worry, it will happen. For each of you, out there someplace is that -- to be a man or woman. And it's important for you not to pay any attention at all to all those who say that promiscuity is somehow stylish or rewarding. You know that when you meet that person, and meet them in marriage, that you will be true to each other. Well, did you ever stop to think you can start being true to that one special person beginning now?
as I was saying, our administration has worked hard to reflect the return to
basic values that you and so many others across the country have helped to bring
about. Our administration has worked hard to reflect this return to basic
values. In the courts, our administration has fought to defend
We won a major victory in the Supreme Court this year that you might not have heard about: the Kendrick decision. In this case, Congress had included religious groups in its program of counseling young people in order to prevent teen pregnancies. This only makes sense, since in so many other ways, churches are better at reaching young people than government could ever be. Some challenged this program. But I'm happy to say the Supreme Court rejected that challenge.
On another front, our administration has enacted laws making it tougher, much tougher, for criminals to do business in what is perhaps the lowest form of human exploitation: child pornography. And we're working to do still more. Indeed, last year we submitted to Congress a major piece of antipornography legislation: the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1987. We submitted that legislation to Congress for its immediate consideration and enactment, but today this legislation is still being held up. If the House and Senate leadership really care about family values, isn't it time they brought this antipornography legislation to a vote?
We enacted the Equal Access Act of 1984, giving voluntary religious groups the right to meet after school on the same basis as other groups. More legislation may prove necessary, but the basic principle is clear. I just have to believe, and I'm sure you agree, that if a math group or a chess club can meet after school, then so can a prayer group.
there's another measure that we've worked for: school prayer. So far, we
haven't succeeded in persuading the Congress to enact legislation that would
once again permit voluntary prayer in
Now, although we Americans have done much to put our national life back on the firm foundation of traditional values, there is still a great deal to be done. And so, today I want to challenge you young people to see that our nation does still more to return to the life-giving values of faith and family. I want to challenge you in particular to work and pray with regard to four crucial issues.
First -- a matter much on my heart -- we must do our duty as a nation to generations yet unborn. We cannot proclaim the noble ideal that human life is sacred and then turn our backs on the taking of some 4,000 unborn children's lives every day. This must stop. Our Constitution guarantees ``life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,'' but an abortion is the taking of a human life. Many who seek abortions do so in harrowing circumstances. And just as tolerance means accepting that many in good faith hold views different from our own, it also means that no man or woman should sit in judgment on another. I believe, and Vice President Bush believes with me, that we must rise above bitterness and reproach to find positive answers to the tragedy of abortion.
By the way, I was impressed and moved to learn that one young woman here today has done just that. Carolyn Deming, who became involved with Campus Life as a young person, has begun a home for unwed mothers. Who knows how many unborn children's lives Carolyn and others like her have saved? Using love and imagination to save lives, my friends -- [applause]. It's clear that you agree that that is the answer.
there's the battle against drug abuse. I don't have to say much here because
Then there's an issue you're not too young to begin thinking about, even now: a restoration of the American family. When we obey the commandment, ``Honor thy father and mother,'' we're recognizing all the sacrifices our parents made to raise us. But we're also honoring the institution our parents entered into and carried on: the institution of marriage and the family itself. The family provides children with a haven of love and concern. For parents, it provides a sense of purpose and meaning in life. When the family is strong, the Nation is strong. When the family is weak, the Nation itself is at risk.
There's one specific issue that's important to mention here, an issue being discussed in the current Presidential campaign: child care. Vice President Bush has proposed an innovative plan, one that would strengthen the family for poor and working families. The Vice President's plan would provide a refundable tax credit of $1,000 per child. Now, the basic idea here is that the Government would simply let families keep up to $1,000 more of their own money. That's money the family itself can decide on how to spend. Working mothers could put the money toward child care. But by giving each family this tax credit, the Vice President's plan would also permit thousands of mothers to choose to stay home with their children.
Many of you also are already of voting age. And so, in the name of the family itself, I urge you to join me in doing your part in local, State, and national politics. And with regard to voting, I like to paraphrase Will Rogers. He pointed out that people holding public office are no better or worse than the people who voted for them to send them there. But he said they're all better than those who don't vote at all. So, if this democracy of ours is to be preserved, we must all exercise our precious right to vote.
in this age when electronics beam messages around the globe in a few seconds,
we must work to separate half-truths from the whole truth, including the truth
about the difference between free and totalitarian societies. Today there are
profound changes underway in the Communist world. My trip to
If I could interject here something. You know, I know in our
land of freedom everyone -- if they want to choose atheism instead of a belief
in God, that's their right to do so. But I have always felt that I would like
someday to entertain an atheist at dinner and serve the most gourmet,
perfect dinner that has ever been served and then, at the end of the meal, ask
that atheist if he believes there's a cook. We must cherish our nation, work to
make her better still, and never stop saying this simple prayer: God bless
me to close now on a personal note with a few thoughts from my heart. You know,
hardly a day goes by that I'm not told -- sometimes in letters, sometimes by
people I meet -- that they're praying for me. It's a
warm but humbling feeling. I know that many of you pray probably for me and for
all our government leaders. Well, I appreciate your prayers more deeply than I
can say. I grew up in a home where I was taught to believe in intercessory
prayer. I know it's those prayers and millions like them that are building high
and strong the cathedral of freedom that we call
like to tell you a story that is related by Dr. Paul Brand, the noted leprosy
specialist, in his book, ``Fearfully and Wonderfully
Made.'' Dr. Brand tells of how, after World War II, a group of German students
volunteered to help rebuild a cathedral in
Thank you all, and God bless you all.
Note: The President
spoke at in Hall A at the