Santorum’s Campaign Classroom: A University of Dallas student with an inside view.

Since he began rising in the polls before his Iowa victory, media who have paid attention to Rick Santorum’s campaign for the Republican nomination for president of the United States have likened his seminar-like answers to questions (like this one on abortion) to a college professor’s or a high-school social-studies teacher. For one university student, though, this couldn’t be truer and the campaign couldn’t be more of an immersion course.

Elizabeth Santorum is the 20-year-old daughter of Rick and Karen Santorum. Miss Santorum is a junior at the Catholic University of Dallas but has been taking time away from campus this year to spend time with her father in a different classroom, the campaign trail. She talks about the campaign, her faith, her parents’ example, and the future.

Why did you take off school to work on the campaign?

The decision to take the semester off was not an easy one. I miss my friends, my classes, and college life a lot. But I’ve never once regretted my decision. As I’ve traveled around this past semester, from Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina — I’ve learned so much about every aspect of campaigning and have simply learned a lot more about people and life. Although the learning experiences, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve seen, and the growth I’ve undergone have all been blessings from this time off — the underlying reason I’m here is because I believe. I believe God has called me to be here. I believe that America is exceptional, as are her people, and we need someone who believes in that again. So, I’m here because I believe my Dad is the right man for the right moment to restore America.

What was going through your head as you listened to your father on stage in Iowa, after he surprised many a skeptic with his virtual tie with Mitt Romney?

I was so proud of him and felt so blessed to be there. I thought his speech was one of the best he’s ever given, reminding Americans of why we are great and the vision he has to restore its greatness. As I looked around that room, I saw so many friends — people who believed from the start and made that night possible. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all of them. There was also an immeasurable enthusiasm that night because everyone knew this was only the beginning. Iowa was the spark that would ignite a fire across this country. As my Dad said at the beginning of his speech that night: “Game on!”

Was there any point you were annoyed your dad was dragging your family back into politics? It has got to hurt, even at your advanced age, to have hear all the awful things people do say about him in particular?

It’s certainly not easy to hear all the awful things said about my Dad. But those attacks have never once deterred me from being involved in the fray. Though the attacks might sting, my Dad always reminds me that it’s our choice whether we let those words or actions affect us. Although, safe to say, I have to pray for a lot of patience. I also feel blessed because my parents have always taught us, by word and by example, that it is our duty and our privilege to serve our country.

What of the ugly stuff bothers you the most?

Personal attacks and family attacks are the most hurtful. I believe that campaigns should be about issues, records, and vision. No matter what party you’re in or what office you’re running for, hearing mean things said about those you love is painful.

Does anything still shock you? Like people talking about the short life of your little brother Gabriel so coldly?

To be honest, it’s still completely shocking and horrifying to me that people would talk about my little brother with such callousness. Those attacks have no place in politics. My parents say that they pray for those people who have said such awful things, that they will never have to know the crippling pain that comes with losing a child.

Is that all what’s most challenging for you?

Yes. Absolutely. There are lots of small challenges, like being gone a lot, missing my friends, the stress and strenuous pace. But the hardest part for me is hearing and seeing the vicious personal attacks against my Dad and my family. I always wish that everyone could see my Dad as I see him every day: hard working, faithful, patient, kind, funny, truthful, courageous, brilliant, patriotic, and a true leader. These are the qualities I think of when I think of my Dad, not the horrible things people say. If they could only see him playing with my baby sister, pruning his fruit tress with my little brothers, singing in the kitchen, and making waffles with my Mom — they would see another side of the same man who speaks with Reagan-like charisma.

What has your father taught you about being a Catholic in public life?

I remember my Dad telling me once that everyone’s conscience is formed by something and that some people are just more honest about what forms their conscience than others. My Dad has always made it very clear that faith has played a huge role in making him who he is. He’s taught me that if your faith is true and your reason is right you end up in the same place.

About family?

He and my Mom have always put family first. Even in this campaign season, we always try and have family with my Dad because we make these journeys together. From a broad standpoint, he’s taught me that family is the core of our society from an economic and social standpoint. We need strong families to have a strong country.

How important is your mom to the whole campaign picture?

My Mom is the rock for our family through all of this. She’s managed to homeschool my two brothers, coordinate all the activities and demands of having six kids presently at home, care for my little sister with special needs, and a million other things — all with my Dad on the campaign trail. She makes phone calls and does interviews from home and joins my Dad on the road as much as she can. More than that though, she is a source of strength and encouragement for my Dad and our entire family.

You’re into politics — it is, in fact, your major. What’s your response to the Rick Santorum wages “war on women” kind of attacks, given you’re, obviously, a young woman?

My Dad has been a champion for women. He helped to get thousands of single moms back on their feet by reforming welfare in the 90s. In fighting for life in the abortion debates, he emphasized the value and dignity of every human life. In 2006, he authored and passed the Iran Freedom and Support Act, which was not only visionary as it foresaw the danger of a nuclear Iran, but it also provided support to the revolutionary movement in Iran which hoped to overthrow the government, one that is extremely oppressive towards women. On a more personal level, he has always encouraged me to reach my potential and has always supported my decisions in what I want to do with my life.

Is your generation going to defend traditional marriage? Or will the attacks on your father — and on you since you have gotten more involved — simply scare people off and make them feel like bigots?

In an overwhelming majority of the states where marriage laws have been contested, traditional marriage has won — including in California. I believe this is because when people hear the arguments about why traditional marriage is a foundational institution in our society, they see that it is one that is too economically and socially important to change. The people in these states understand that this is a policy disagreement, not a personal one. In addition, I believe, like my Dad, that people have a right to live the lives they choose and that we should have respect for the dignity of all life.

What are you missing the most about college life? How did you wind up at UD?

The part about school I miss the most is just being with my friends. I know that my classes and professors will be there when I go back, but some of my friends will have graduated. That was definitely one of the harder parts about my decision to work on the campaign. I miss some of the silly things about college life: the late nights spent talking, having time to volunteer, fun nights out, the coffee at our campus cappuccino bar, the shopping and museum trips with friends, sitting outside and reading, and just being there. I sometimes miss how normal it was. Although classes and activities kept me busy, there’s a dependable and consistent quality to school life that you don’t find on the busy campaign trail.

I ended up at UD for many reasons. I love the core curriculum the school provides, the excellent teacher to student ratio, the unique Rome program offered sophomore year, the rigor of the academic environment, the atmosphere of the school, and the people I met there. It fit me like a glove.

What do you hope to be doing after, perhaps, your father’s inauguration?

I would love to write in some capacity. Whether that means working for a magazine or publication, writing speeches, or editing material — that’s really a passion of mine. I would also love to become more active in the causes I believe in such as the pro-life fight, the ONE campaign, and working to end human trafficking.

What’s the problem with the current president, from your vantage point? And given your age bracket, would you be campaigning for the pro-life Paul if your last name was not Santorum?

I believe the fundamental difference between President Obama’s view of America and my Dad’s is a question of who you believe in. Do you believe in free people or do you believe in government? People wanted to believe in this president, but he has let America down by hiding the ball and dividing our country.

Even if my Dad weren’t running for president, I would not be supporting Congressman Paul. His beliefs on foreign policy are simply dangerous and he has no record of being able to get anything done in congress. After proposing 620 bills in his many years as a congressman, he’s only gotten one passed. This is not the type of leadership we need at a very critical point in our nation’s history.

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8 thoughts on “Santorum’s Campaign Classroom: A University of Dallas student with an inside view.

  1. James says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that Elizabeth Santorum is pretty cute. I wish I went to UD!!

  2. robin says:

    Why is it okay for YOU to attend an institution of Higher Learning but not okay for me?

  3. Konrad says:

    She’s his daughter, and I understand that she’s going to be supportive and protective of him, but some of her comments here are pretty unfair. She says that her father believes that America is “exceptional,” and says that Obama does not share that belief. (So I guess President Obama thinks the US is “unexceptional”?) She also claims that her father stands for “freedom,” while Obama stands for “government.” For one, those items are not mutually exclusive, nor are they necessarily contrary to one another. She mostly just repeats a lot of conservative talking points, which is one of the big problems with her father. For instance, she talks about these mythical “arguments” that prove traditional marriage over gay marriage – but what are they? Her father has never articulated a cogent, clear argument – apart from the religious one – for rejecting gay marriage as a form of marriage. I am actually rather disappointed by this interview, having gone to UD and knowing many highly intelligent, fair-minded UD people. The kinds of things Rick Santorum says on a daily basis in the media seem quite antithetical to the ethos of UD: “A Catholic university for independent thinkers.” I was actually quite surprised to find that he is a Catholic – he seems much more like a Southern Baptist to me.

    1. Joshua says:

      Konrad, your statement is ridiculous as Sen. Santorum’s principals are directly in line with the teachings of Catholicism. They may not always be convenient, but I am sure that Christ dying on the cross for us was not too terribly convenient either. There are many things that you are welcome to have an individual thinking opinion of, but the stances taken by the Church are not one of them. If the University of Dallas would disagree with this statement, they are not Catholic. Senator Santorum has truly been an inspiration to me, providing hope and offering true change. He has inspired me to be a better Catholic. Not a “Cafeteria Catholic” as you appear to be.

      1. Konrad says:

        Joshua:

        Sadly, you seemed to have missed my point. First, in response to your comments, I would simply say that many Catholics recognize that Santorum does not represent them on many issues. For a nice synopsis of where Santorum fails to fall in line with Church teaching, see this, for instance:

        http://www.fplaction.org/the-catholic-case-against-rick-santorum/

        I would add to this list his rejection of the separation of church and state that he spoke of today. The Catholic Church in the US strongly affirms the separation of church and state. And I could give many other examples where Santorum either fails to clearly articulate his views, or says things that many Catholics – and perhaps the church itself – would find reprehensible.

        Going by your argument, Santorum is the “cafeteria Catholic,” then, isn’t he?

        But like I said, you missed my point. What we Americans are waiting for is a cogent argument in defense of the discrimination against same sex couples who are demanding equality in civil rights pertaining to marriage, which has always been in this country primarily a legal status that is ratified by paperwork filed through the state. You don’t have to ever set foot in a church or see a priest one time to get married in the US, for instance. But Santorum has no clear, articulated argument for denying these rights. All he has is the religious argument, and of course where there is separation of church and state, the religious argument is moot (perhaps this is why he doesn’t like the separation of church and state?).

        Finally, you assume because I went to University of Dallas that I am a Catholic. One of the things I love most about that place is my non-Catholic status was never an issue there. And this is why I am surprised by the embracing of Santorum by Catholics – because the ones I was around at UD were never as narrow-minded, extreme, dogmatic, or irrational as he often shows himself to be.

  4. [...] Santorum’s Campaign Classroom: A University of Dallas student with an inside view. [...]

  5. DawnElizabeth says:

    “Was there any point you were annoyed your dad was dragging your family back into politics? It has got to hurt, even at your advanced age, to have hear all the awful things people do say about him in particular?” Elizabeth Santorum is not of “advanced age.” The interviewer could have chosen words more knowledgeably. Otherwise, this is a great interview.

  6. [...] A University of Dallas Student with an Inside View on Santorum Campaign – K. Lopez, CV [...]

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