Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobb delivered the following address to 1,200 attendees last Saturday, October 5, at TFF's 2013 Annual Gala at the Greater Richmond Convention Center:
In the past, I’ve had some tough speaking placements at events. Right before dinner is served when people are starving and could care less about my remarks. Right after some previous speaker droned on and on leaving me with a negative number of minutes to share my thoughts. Some acts are just hard to follow. Being the speaker after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and before U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz probably rivals the time I had to get up on stage and give a keynote address after the previous person had proposed to his girlfriend on the stage. Folks, I can’t make this stuff up. At least I don’t have to follow EW Jackson.
On a serious note, it’s great to see you all again this year. I truly appreciate that all of you have given of your time and treasure to be with us tonight. Our team at The Family Foundation is so very grateful for your continued support and encouragement.
Each year we find ourselves here in this room celebrating a year of tremendous victories, but always with an edge of anticipation knowing that we are exactly 30 days from Election Day. Yet another election where everything we’ve worked hard to pass or want to pass in the future hangs in the balance. I thought in this short time I had to share with you, we might walk down memory lane very briefly, to put some context on where we are today.
If you are new to Virginia or recently come of voting age, you might not know about some of this. But for many years, Virginians like you and I dreamed of a day when pro-family, pro-life conservatives would have significant control in the legislature and the Governor’s mansion. We lived in the world of unprincipled republicans like Senators Chichester and Stolle, and who can forget my dear friend Senator Russ Potts. We had liberal Governors that masqueraded as moderates, yet vetoed or watered down common sense bills.
But all that changed in recent years. In 2009, the Family Foundation ran a campaign called Winning Matters, to educate values voters on the candidates for office and ensure the pro-family electorate voted. It was successful as the election results showed a high water mark of evangelical turnout, citizens who voted consistently with their beliefs. At the statewide level,
Virginians elected what the media was quick to label “the most conservative ticket in Virginia history.” Now, I know there have been some disappointments along the way and I’m not suggesting we ignore those, but we shouldn’t forget the hard fought victories that we have enjoyed because of 2009.
Of course, we recognized that it’s not just about who is governor or which party controls the House, but the composition of the state Senate matters too. A lot.
So, in 2011 we ran another voter education and mobilization plan to ensure that we elected a majority of conservatives within the majority party in the state senate. Our goal was to stop just proposing policy and instead force those in power to address our policy proposals. And again, we were successful. Virginians replaced the pro-choice head of the infamous Senate Education and Health Committee with a pro-life leader. Our bills started moving to the floor and getting votes.
And some of them passed: new laws like conscience protection for adoption agencies, free association protection for college student groups, scholarship tax credits —the start of meaningful school choice, property rights protected in the state constitution and abortion center safety standards.
And before I go on, I want to take a moment to mention that our 2013 legislator of the year award winner is with us tonight. We presented him with his award for his leadership earlier this year at a banquet in Harrisonburg, but I want to make sure that he is recognized tonight. Please thank Delegate Todd Gilbert with a round of applause.
All of this brings us to where we are today.
When you put all of our recent success together, one would think conservatives would wear the biggest smile in town. And yet, a spirit of discouragement and frustration among so many of our supporters these days is palpable. I understand that the daily attacks from the secular left and their apologists in the media get irritating. Like just yesterday when the Washington Post called The Family Foundation a “gay-bashing, abortion-hating, home-school loving group.” If it weren’t my job, maybe I’d stop reading the newspaper, too. I also hear the silence from so many in our pulpits and wonder how so many pastors think they are going to be allowed to continue to preach the gospel unhindered in the anti-Christian society they’ve enabled through their silence. I witness, possibly more first-hand than you might, the lack of backbone among too many of our elected officials, even after years of proof that our principles are not only the best source of lifting people out of destitution to freedom, but when well-articulated, can win elections.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s not forget where we are.
We have a House of Delegates that is majority pro-life, majority pro-school choice, majority pro traditional marriage, and majority pro-religious freedom. We have a senate that is functionally the same. And now we have candidates on the ballot that will advance these ideas as the best hope for our Commonwealth from their respective positions. Are we too cynical to believe that there could actually be people with enough courage in their convictions that they stand by these ideals?
Our opponents believe pro-family candidates mean what they say. Our opponents are terrified that someone might take office who doesn’t believe that a child should be locked into a school based on his or her zip code, whether or not that child is learning. Our opponents are terrified that someone will take office that doesn’t believe that abortion should be legal anytime, anywhere, for any reason, even when that child is accidentally born alive during a botched abortion—yes, that someone might take office who believes children born alive should be protected. Our opponents are terrified someone might take office that doesn’t believe that followers of Jesus Christ should be banned from the public square.
My friends, there are real choices on the ballot this year. Choices many pro-life, pro-family supporters have been waiting decades to make. Are these candidates perfect? No.
Are everyone’s television advertisements getting annoying and often deflating? Yes. Is there so much talk of poor ethics right now that you forget there might still be good people in public office? Yes. Are you still exhausted from last election cycle? Yes.
I get it.
I am with you.
But I take the long view.
Now is NOT the time to give up.
What helps me take the long view? Building a mental memorial by remembering what God has already done here in Virginia. For the same reasons the Israelites took twelve stones from the river Jordon, according to Joshua 4:24 “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of Yahweh is strong, so that you may fear Yahweh your God forever.”
Allow me to share with you the content of my mental memorial. It’s really uncomplicated.
When I become cynical, discouraged, and weary, I remember 16%.
That’s the drop in the abortion rate in Virginia in the past 4 years alone!! That drop translates into nearly 8000 lives saved! Double that and you add the number of women who are now not suffering regret from their decision. Triple it and you include the number dads who now have the opportunity to one day throw a baseball with their son or take their daughters to a daddy/daughter dance. Twenty-four thousand people spared from the devastating effects of abortion in just 4 years. Last year Virginia had the lowest number of abortions in nearly two decades and that number does not factor in the closings of two major abortion facilities earlier this year, nor had the law requiring abortionists to offer women a chance to see their unborn child had time to take effect.
Yet, I watch in disbelief as fellow pro-life Virginians act as if there’s nothing worth fighting for any longer and seem willing to sit on the sidelines as their voting neighbors stand on the brink of electing people to candidates to statewide office who are bought and paid for by Planned Parenthood. Candidates who not only oppose our values and will have the power to halt the progress we’ve made but can actually reverse our gains.
Virginia’s next Governor will have an important decision to make. He can continue the abortion center inspections that have found over 300 health and safety violations including—and please listen to this because those people in the back of the room tonight refuse to report it—violations that include bloody patient tables, bloody and unsterilized medical equipment, untrained staffs and violations of our parental consent law –or our next Governor can model his term after Governor Tom Ridge, who discontinued inspections in Pennsylvania and wound up with a Kermit Gosnell House of Horrors.
Virginia’s next Lieutenant Governor will likely determine the party control over the state senate.
This is the difference of whether bills ever arrive at the Governor’s desk.
And finally, Virginia’s next Attorney General will choose whether or not to uphold and defend
the people’s passed Constitutional Amendment securing marriage as only between one man and one woman. We now know this is not a hypothetical situation. Just this week, you saw articles in the paper highlighting the lawsuit here as a target nationally. More than just the official effort to overturn the amendment, those of you local know that the Richmond City Council is considering distributing the benefits of marriage despite the violation of the Constitution.
Who is going to stop them?
The choices are real, and so are the consequences.
But please hear me when I tell you, that regardless of what happens thirty days from now, regardless whether our culture rejects truth or not – truth doesn’t change, and neither will The Family Foundation. We will continue to fight for truth and life and marriage and religious liberty regardless of the hate we face because we know that God’s truth is the only hope for our culture.
At one of our recent pastor forum’s, John Stonestreet from the Chuck Colson Center and BreakPoint ministries quoted one of my heroes, Dietrich Bonheoffer, who once said,
“Make up your mind and come out into the tempest of the living.” John went on to explain what Bonheoffer meant, that Christians must be engaged in the culture. We cannot choose, as some do, escapism, avoiding the reality of the tempest, avoiding “getting our hands dirty,” seeking security instead. We cannot simply say, “It’s over, the culture is lost and we just need to accept it.” We cannot abandon the political field in hopelessness because our expectations haven’t been fulfilled. As John said, “Escape is not an option.”
He added that we also cannot choose to simply accommodate the culture, accepting its version of morality and all its implications. To capitulate to an anti-Christian culture when we have God’s clear instruction on morality again, is simply not an option.
I cannot imagine what Bonheoffer went through as he faced the onslaught of hate and oppression in his day, but I do know that even in the face of persecution and ultimately death he did not choose to escape or to accommodate. It is that kind of character, determination and faith in God we must demonstrate in the face of a culture that clearly hates all that we believe and stand for.
Bonheoffer took action in the face of hate. And so must each of us. Recognize that our duty is not to one political party, or one particular candidate, or even to electoral or policy victory. Our duty is not to results.
Our duty is to truth and action, delivered with grace.
Our goal is not to pass policies that save the culture, they won’t. Our goal is to pass policies that give citizens the freedom to save the culture, one person at a time.
Tonight, I challenge you to stay with us. Stay in the battle. There’s little doubt that from an evangelical Christian perspective, things look bleak. But that’s actually the good news, because it’s exactly where Christ wants us. Remember, it is when we are weak, that He is strong.
Thank you, and God bless you.