Liberty students hear from Speaker Mike Johnson, other high-ranking leaders at Capitol symposium

by 24USATVMarch 25, 2024, 11 p.m. 19
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Hundreds of Liberty University students traveled to the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., on Thursday for the school’s Future Leader Symposium, where they had the chance to hear various federal politicians speak on the current state of the nation and the importance of living out one’s faith and principles in government.

A total of 13 U.S. representatives and five U.S. senators attended the event, including Speaker of the House Mike Johnson. The event was coordinated through the office of Senior Vice President for Business Engagement Dr. Dave Brat, who served as a U.S. congressman from 2014-18 representing Virginia’s 7th District.

Other featured speakers included Rep. Michael Cloud (Texas), Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), Sen. Mike Lee (Utah), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Rep. Warren Davidson (Ohio), Rep. Thomas Massie (Ohio), Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Rep. Bill Posey (Fla.), Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Rep. Bob Goode (Va.), Rep. Tom Emmer (Minn.), Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rep. Gary Palmer (Ala.), Rep. Burgess Owens (Utah), and Rep. Ben Cline (Va.), along with other former senior government officials.

Speaker Johnson, who has served as an adjunct government professor at Liberty through the online program, noted that he believes America is currently in a time of great division and turmoil.

“It’s like (America) is in uncharted waters and choppy seas as a nation and the skies are dark in the horizon,” he said. “When you’re in a scenario like that, you really need to know where the fixed points in the horizon are or you’re going to lose your way and be rudderless and adrift way out into the deep ocean.”

Speaker Johnson added that the country can be saved if it embraces what he called the seven core values of American conservatism: individual freedom, limited government, rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets, and human dignity.

“The seven core principles of conservativism are all grounded in the Word of God and are eternal principles that do not change,” he said. “The reason America is the most exceptional, powerful, benevolent, and successful country in the history of the world is not by happenstance. It’s because we tied ourselves to those truths.”

Paul spoke to the students about the importance of religion in establishing order and emphasized that laws alone cannot keep America in check. He also addressed questions about how to return governing power to state legislatures and how to limit the far-reaching power of the federal government.

“Our founding fathers looked at this nation and said that a republic requires a virtuous nation,” he said. “That means there’s not enough police to police everyone. You see this chaos in our cities in different places with thugs breaking into stores and stealing stuff. That is a breakdown in order. There have to be laws, but there also has to be religion, faith, and knowledge of right and wrong. As you begin your careers, become the leaders in your community and show by example. If we do, we will have a better place for all of us.”

Cruz concluded the time of discussion by championing the role of Christians in politics, arguing that only through dutiful political engagement will Christians see the nation return to its biblical roots. He also addressed the current situation at America’s southern border and argued for students to embrace kindness as they pursue their own careers in government or elsewhere.

“If you leave the electing of the leaders of our country to nonbelievers, it shouldn’t shock us that people get elected who don’t share our values,” he said. “The Bible isn’t silent on the great issues of today, and the Bible also commands us to be salt and light. You can’t be salt unless you come into contact with that for which you are a preservative. You can’t be light if you’re hidden under a table. We have to be out in the world. I appreciate your commitment to standing for what you believe in, and I encourage you to do it as happy warriors.”

After the symposium, Brat led the students through a tour of the Capitol Building.

“Liberty University had a great day on Capitol Hill meeting with senior leaders of our country,” Brat said after the event. “The highlight of the day was the visit from Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, who captivated the students with his integration of faith, his humor and personality, and his commitment to conservative public policy that will serve our country well into the future. All of the representatives spoke highly of our students and all shared how Liberty University is so special and acknowledged the huge weight we carry as Christians as we go out into the world to spread the good news and be salt and light for everyone.”

Isaiah Varella, a sophomore studying politics and policy, said he appreciated how the university encourages students to get involved in the political sphere.

“I think it’s so vital for the next generation to be equipped,” he said, “and Liberty University is doing a great job of bringing in different trains of thoughts and different leaders who are so monumental, like the ability to hear from the speaker of the House who is fighting on behalf of everyday Americans. I love how I have been to D.C. eight or nine times since I’ve been a student at Liberty, and they are just constantly trying to sow into their next leaders who will possibly be running for office.”“Especially as Christian conservatives, it’s vital because you’re going out into these different debates and you’re going to run into people who don’t agree with you and will attack you, belittle you, and tear you down,” Varella added. “You have to know your identity is in Christ, so Liberty is constantly showing and equipping you with who you are as a child of God, first of all, and then also how to have a biblical worldview constantly incorporated.”

Sophomore Emma Dayton echoed his thoughts and the value of hearing from high-ranking U.S. politicians in person: “I honestly believe every university should be holding something like this. If we truly want to raise up the next generation of American leaders, we need to be training students who care about our country and about what’s going on in our government. Whether or not we disagree with them, we should at least hear their views.”

Dayton, who hopes to one day have a career in political commentary or political journalism, said the trip also allowed her to see firsthand what it would be like to serve in office.

Brat called the event a success and thanked the Standing for Freedom Center and LU staff Christy Murphy and Gian Castillo, as well as the Liberty Champion student newspaper, for the teamwork in capturing how special the event was for Liberty University.

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