When TV preacher Jerry Falwell announced that White House political strategist Karl Rove would deliver the commencement address at Liberty University May 8, Americans United quickly swung into action.
AU, noting that Liberty is a tax-exempt education institution, had some advice for Falwell and Rove in a press statement: Don't even think about turning the graduation ceremony into a Bush-for-president rally. (The IRS Code flatly bars churches and other tax-exempt entities from patisan electioneering.)
The pair apparently took that advice to heart. The Lynchburg News & Advance reported May 9 that Rove's 15-minute speech was non-partisan. Noted the newspaper, "Rove and Falwell did not make blanket endorsements for Bush's re-election." Rove did say he is proud to work for Bush and reminded graduates to vote in November – but he did not advise them who to vote for.
So what did Rove talk about? According to the News & Advance, he offered mostly platitudes about pursuing goals and working hard. He also offered some advice for the soon-to-be job seekers: dump the facial piercings and pay off your debts.
"The most powerful force in the world created by man may be nuclear power, but it is followed closely by compound interest," Rove said. "So pay off your credit cards every month in full and save as much as you can as early as you can."
Rove's advice might have struck some in the audience as a bit odd. His admonition to live within one's means seems a bit hollow in a country with a national debt of $7.1 trillion. And his thoughts on body piercing might have been more relevant on another campus. The Liberty Way, Liberty University's student guidebook, states flatly, "Earrings and/or plugs are not permitted on or off campus, nor is body piercing."