The importance of the family in renewing the culture and strengthening the economy was a central theme at a recent gathering of Americans from across the country to discuss the nation's future.
“The strength of the nation depends ultimately upon the strength of families and communities,” said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.).
A healthy nation is a “healthy group of families bound together by a common purpose and vision,” he added, noting that when the family declines, the nation falls as well.
Fortenberry spoke on Sept. 14 at the Values Voter Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.
“There’s an extraordinary amount of woundedness and brokenness in society today,” the congressman said, stressing that much of the healing of society’s wounds must be done at the individual and the family level rather than by government.
The three-day summit featured addresses by notable political and national figures who discussed the important role of traditional American values in building a prosperous society.
Speakers discussed the need to defend life and religious liberty, particularly against a federal mandate that requires religious employers to violate their consciences by offering health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
They also focused on the importance of religion and family as formative pillars for a strong and healthy nation.
Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), warned that while working for change within government is important, church communities also play an essential role in shaping individuals who can lead “with integrity and honesty.”
“Rarely does culture change because government does,” he explained.
“At the end of the day, we still have as a national motto ‘In God We Trust,’” he said, adding that when we forget this critical point and instead elevate government leaders, “we will be sorely disappointed.”
Lankford, who spent years working in ministry before entering the political world, also cautioned against a contemporary attempt to “marginalize religion in the public square.”
He emphasized the important role of religion, as well as the family, in shaping society and called for strong families and church communities to ease the problems within the culture.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressed the gathering via video. He explained that standing up for traditional American values is “critically important.”
“We will uphold the sanctity of life, not abandon or ignore it,” Romney said. “And we will defend marriage, not try to redefine it.”
“Above all, we must preserve the American spirit of one nation under God,” he added. “As president, I'll support the expression of religious faith in the public square. Our government should respect our values, not seek to silence them.”
Romney highlighted the importance of realizing “that we will not have a strong economy unless we have strong communities and strong families.”
He pointed to a Brookings Institution study that former Pennsylvania senator and GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum brought to his attention.
The study found that those who graduate from high school, get a job and wait until they are married before they have children have very low rates of poverty compared to those who do not.
“In short, culture matters,” Romney said. “And as president, I'll protect our culture and preserve the values of hard work, personal responsibility, family and faith.”