I hit Rick Perry pretty hard for his Afghanistan comments during Monday’s debate, so it deserves noting that Perry provided a little more insight into his foreign policy outlook in a speech at Liberty University yesterday—and what he said was extremely encouraging. Perry rejected isolationism and embraced the Arab Spring and the freedom agenda.
He told the students about his experiences traveling the world as an Air Force pilot:
I learned about a world that was incredibly more diverse and complex than Paint Creek or College Station in 1972. For the first time in my life, I met oppressed people who didn’t take freedom for granted—because it didn’t exist where they lived. I saw rulers treat people like subjects and think very little about the basic conditions or quality of life of those people they ruled over. I learned what a grand privilege it is to be an American. As students of this unique university, whose very name speaks to the desire of every human soul—liberty—I hope you will reflect on the blessing it is to live in America.
Our Founding Fathers were the first among the nations to declare that our rights are endowed by our Creator, that among them are life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And while liberty may be the gift of God, its preservation requires the sacrifice of man.
After reflecting on the service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror, Perry told the convocation of 13,000 students:
You are the generation that grew up in the shadow of 9/11. Many of you were children that day when the Towers and the Pentagon were struck. But you’ve grown up fast. You know the presence of evil is real in this fallen world. Our response cannot be to isolate ourselves within our borders, but to engage our allies in the quest to build these enduring alliances around the globe for freedom. And we must do what Ronald Reagan did at the apex of the Cold War, which is to speak past the oppressors and the illegitimate rulers directly to their people, the ones who live behind the walls of oppression while yearning to be free.
The Arab Spring began when a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire over the oppression of the authorities. And regardless of tribe or tongue, people desire to be free. America must continue to be the world’s leading advocate for freedom, speaking the truth to adversaries and dictators in keeping with our democratic values. You are blessed to live in freedom. But as the Scripture says, “To whom much is given, much is expected in return.”
Perry still has to explain the details of his foreign policy and national security agenda, but this is a strong statement of first principles when it comes to America’s engagement in the world.
Watch the video here. (His foreign policy discussion begins at 19:05.)