In a speech that seamlessly transitioned from quips about NASA and the laws of physics to history lessons about Abraham Lincoln and the Wright brothers, ex-Speaker of the House and contender for the GOP presidential nomination Newt Gingrich confidently laid out his vision of American exceptionalism based on the country’s religious founding and its people’s capacity for innovation. Gingrich declared:
We’re exceptional because we’ve inherited from the founding fathers an explanation of our rights unlike in any other country in the world—we’re the only society that says power comes from God to each one of you personally, you are personally sovereign. You loan power to the state, the state does not loan power to you. This is very fundamental to the nature of being Americans.
From the Wright brothers to UPS, Gingrich cited examples of innovation in the private sector to criticize intellectually decrepit federal and state governments. In an interview with campus media prior to the speech, he said, “I think we have a much greater lack of ideas than a lack of money or lack of political willpower.”
In addition to his standard criticisms of the judicial system (“courts have become engines of secularism,” he declared), secular academia and the secular news media, Gingrich peppered his speech with references specific to his young audience. For example, when he discussed Abraham Lincoln’s religiosity, Gingrich asked if any student had learned about the 14 references to God in Lincoln’s second inaugural address.
During the speech, Gingrich proposed the establishment of personal Social Security accounts, subject to compound interest, into which wage-earners pay their Social Security levies. Based on the Chilean model, these accounts would be treated as estates, which could be transmitted to heirs after death, unlike current Social Security payments. He connected his proposal to privatize Social Security to the larger battle of “the American model” versus “the European model”, laying the choice at the feet of the next generation.
During the brief Q&A session, Gingrich was criticized by a former student janitor for suggesting secondary school students should be janitors. He responded by citing his daughters’ work experiences as janitors in a local Baptist church. In response to a later question about America’s high amount of defense spending from a European student, Gingrich said, “You want to how me the NATO forces that want to come and take over for us in the Middle East, we’ll be available this evening.”
Pick up a copy of the Voice‘s print edition tomorrow for further coverage of Gingrich’s speech.
Photo: Julian De La Paz