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On Tuesday, former U.S. Representative and Senator Rick Santorum discussed the degradation of “traditional American values." Santorum noted that one particular value – freedom – is equally important for both members of the Left and Right, especially among modern youth.

According to Santorum, the manner by which the United States both conceptualizes and celebrates freedom is what sets the United States apart from other nations. He noted that Americans' unique view of freedom has been a key driver of the United States' rise to the status of world power. In particular, Santorum stressed the origin of rights. Santorum noted that, unlike in other nations, the rights of Americans come from “Judeo-Christian values,” upon which, he argued, Western civilization was founded.

“Rights don’t come from government,” Santorum said, referencing the U.S. Declaration of Independence. “They come from God.”

In this way, he argued that since these rights don't stem from government, it is simply the job of government to protect these rights to ensure safety and stability in society.

However, he continued, there are forces that threaten to upend American society. Among those, he explained, include the breakdown of the American family, popular culture, and the current secondary and higher education systems. To demonstrate this, Santorum contrasted the experience of a citizen living in the rural countryside to another living in New York City. While the citizen living in a rural area might not think to lock their doors, since there is very little risk of theft, the New Yorker would likely consider such a choice unwise.

“Because you’re living in communities where people aren’t leading virtuous lives," Santorum said. "you’re not as free – not as safe – and you need more government.”

This difference in safety levels was not always the case, he noted. To this point, Santorum cited air travel having been much easier in past years.

“You just got on an airplane!” he said, in contrast to the process of being processed by TSA officers, being subjected to random checks, and the like.

This follows, he argued, from the loss of values rooted in Western civilization’s Judeo-Christian background. He noted that government can only grant as much freedom “as [one] can constrain [his or her] own passions.”

It is in the absence of self-restraint, which Santorum linked to a degradation in faith, that government must increase its presence, restricting the rights and freedoms of citizens to ensure safety and stability.

As proof of his viewpoints, Santorum noted that one need not look further than the past presidential election. He explained that “the President is a reflection of America,” and the fact that President Trump was able to secure the presidency in the past election shows that Americans were afraid, and desired some form of security. Trump offered this security, “[tapping] into something that allowed him to win this election, and a lot of it was fear," he said.

"The world is changing. It’s unsettling. It’s scary. Because [citizens] don’t know what’s next.”

The lecture was held at 4:30 p.m. in Whig Hall. The event was hosted by the Princeton College Republicans, the Princeton Tory, and the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, in association with the Young America’s Foundation (YAF).

According to the group’s website, the YAF is “committed to ensuring that increasing numbers of young Americans understand and are inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values.”

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