You enter a world with civilizations and economies that are far from equal. Harvard University historian David Landes devoted his lifelong study to understanding why some civilizations rise, and why others falter. His conclusion was this: Culture makes all the difference. Not natural resources, not geography, but what people believe and what they value. Central to America’s rise to global leadership is our Judeo-Christian tradition, with its vision of the goodness and possibilities of every human life. The American culture promotes personal responsibility, the dignity of work, the value of education, the merit of service, devotion to a purpose greater than self, and, at the foundation, the pre-eminence of family.
The power of these values, this culture, is evidenced by a recent Brookings Institution study that Senator Rick Santorum brought to my attention. For those who graduate from high school, get a job, and marry before they have their first child, the probability that they will be poor is 2%. But, if those things are absent, 76% will be poor. Culture — what you believe, what you value, how you live — matters. Now, as fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate from time to time. So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.