Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., addressed issues of faith in politics Wednesday night during a College Republicans dinner event at the State Plaza Hotel.
Serving his last term in the Senate, the conservative 2008 presidential candidate is preparing for the next Kansas gubernatorial race, and religion is the foundation of his platform.
“We need to bring our hearts into politics,” he said. “Don’t think you need to check your religion at the door. I thought I needed to do that when I started and I sure felt terrible in the morning.”
He added, “We need to have faith shine onto politics . the danger is when politics corrupts faith.”
Recognizing religious differences in his own background, Brownback, a Methodist turned Evangelical and now Catholic, said politics needs to incorporate “natural laws of humanity.” This view has played a major role in his strong stance against abortion.
“We inherently know that human life is sacred and should be protected. No innocent human life at any point should be destroyed. We all know this in our hearts,” he said to the mostly Republican crowd.
Brownback’s emphasis on faith reached out to the student audience who said living on a mostly liberal campus can sometimes feel isolating.
“Faith is really important in politics and it’s refreshing to hear someone who leads with their morality,” said Brandon Hines, public relations director for the College Republicans. “I think hearing his message helps people who have strong faiths feel stronger on campus.”
Though Brownback’s strong religious emphasis was the theme of the evening, the nation’s economic state was another key aspect of his speech. The senator said the economy is in a very dangerous state, adding a personal anecdote about a robbery at his own home two weeks ago.
Having worked with President Barack Obama, Brownback said he admires Obama as a person, but is not pleased with his financial decisions.
“There is too much spending going on now. I do like Obama, but I think people should do what they say they are going to do,” Brownback said. “He said he would be bipartisan and one of the very first things he does is create this huge stimulus plan and shut Republicans out of it.”
Brownback also expressed doubt in the future of the Obama presidency.
“People don’t like the talk of higher taxes while they are losing their jobs or that the government is going to run everything.”
One unifying subject among the sparse numbers of non-Republicans in the crowd was the senator’s commitment to ending the genocide in Darfur. Brownback has visited the Sudan region and joined Obama on the issue.
“Steps need to be taken more aggressively,” he said. “I would like to see us working with Africa to help them become stronger to fight off militias.”
Xochitil Sanchez, a sophomore and member of STAND, Students Taking Action Now in Darfur, said she took an interest in Brownback in high school after hearing about his work.
“I’m not a College Republican, but I still really like him for his policies so far in Africa and I’m impressed with what he had to say today about what needs to be done.”
The seriousness of the issues discussed was balanced with lighthearted discussion. After College Republicans Chairman Brand Kroeger quipped that “we would all rather have him for president than who we have now,” Brownback joked that his failure in running for the presidency was a humbling experience and told the students “you should all try it at least once.”
Brownback rounded out his speech with a piece of advice to the student body.
“I love talking with college students because your hearts still govern your heads. You can change the world. You can.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: (April 2, 2009)
The Hatchet misquoted Sen. Sam Brownback in “CRs host Sen. Sam Brownback” as saying “I don’t think we’ll see him on a second term,” referring to President Barack Obama. Brownback did not say the quotation, but instead spoke more broadly about how Americans would be frustrated with Obama when he runs for reelection.