For the second time in as many days, our area has heard from a big-name commencement speaker.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivered the graduation address at Liberty University on Saturday
He was introduced by the school's chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr., who said: "I'm thrilled to welcome the next president of the United States, Governor Mitt Romney."
Just prior to that, Falwell said the school does not endorse candidates, and that Romney's speech should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Romney offered words of encouragement for the graduates "Well done, and congratulations," he said. He also touched on gay marriage issues.
"Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman," said Romney, who received a standing ovation from roughly half the crowd. Just days ago President Obama endorsed gay marriage.
Romney also cited a Brookings study about families that he said was brought to him by former presidential candidate Rick Santorum. According to the study, Romney said, "For those who graduate from high school, get a job, and marry before they have their first child, the probability they will be poor is two percent. If those things are absent, 76 percent will be poor."
Romney, a Mormon, also acknowledged his difference in religious faith from the evangelical school. But he said no matter the faith, common ground can be found through service.
"The more you live by your beliefs, the more you will endure the center of the world," Romney said. "Moral certainty, clear standards, and a commitment to spiritual ideals will set you apart in a world searching for meaning."
Romney concluded by telling the Class of 2012 "I hope your path will be long, and life will be kind."
The ceremony started with Liberty University's chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr. recognizing members of the Class of 2012, and made two big announcements .
Falwell says that in this calendar year the school will top $1 billion in net assets. He also said Liberty University will move its football program to the Football Bowl Subdivision, college football's top division. He said the move will be finalized after they are invited by an existing conference.
Liberty hired former Nebraska star and Kansas coach Turner Gill as its coach following the 2011 season.
Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy was also recognized during the commencement ceremony. Romney told him: "Your chicken sandwiches are a comfort food through the primary season."
First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the commencement speech Friday at Virginia Tech. To see more on the First Lady's speech, click here.
GRADUATES REACT TO ROMNEY'S SPEECH
While not everyone agreed on Romney as a commencement speaker, most graduates told WDBJ7 Saturday that they were happy with the former governor's message.
"It was very emotional and it was very heartfelt," said Treva Riggs, a Liberty student from Texas. "It was everything I expected it to be."
"It was very diplomatically spoken," said John East, an LU graduate from Forest. "He didn't step on anybody's toes."
East liked how Romney addressed his faith.
"I was happy that he made a distinction between us, as Baptists, and Mormonism, because in the past people have tried to make them the same," said East.
Romney's commencement address wasn't a campaign speech, but he did win over new voters.
"I actually was supporting (Rick) Santorum, but we have to look at the political part of it and I know Romney's a good man," said graduate Terry Buchanan, adding that he will support Romney over President Obama.
Political observers say the "Liberty vote" matters. Evangelical Christians make up a large part of the conservative base, and Romney had a chance to address more than 30,000 of them at Saturday's service.
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