Apr 20, 2010

Tim Goeglein speaks at Helms School

by Betsy Abraham

Tim Goeglein is a man of many accomplishments. Not many can say that they have traveled all over the world, been to popes’ funerals, flown on Air Force One and walked the halls of the White House. While speaking at the Helms School of Government’s Distinguished Speaker Series April 12-13, Goeglein did not focus on any of his many accomplishments. Instead, during a lecture on faith and public life, the Vice President of External Affairs for Focus on the Family, shared with an intimate crowd of students gathered in the Helms School Suite a personal story of how prideful mistakes led him to see grace and mercy personified.

“I want to leave you with a story where pride, grace and mercy intersect all in the person that you’re looking at,” Goeglein said. “The person you’re looking at should have been grabbed by the lapels and thrown onto Pennsylvania Avenue but instead was forgiven by God’s grace.”

Goeglein told students how in 2008, while serving as a Special Assistant to former President George W. Bush, he was found guilty of plagiarizing articles he was writing for his hometown newspaper, the Fort Wayne News Sentinel in Indiana.

“Over time, I began plagiarizing several of my columns. I chose the prideful way forward and so what began as a small sin grew and grew,” Goeglein said.

A fellow reporter at the News Sentinel eventually discovered Goeglein’s dishonesty. Goeglein described the period that followed as a self-imposed crisis where he had no one to blame but himself.

“When sin is exposed, it can be remarkably liberating. I knew that even though I was entering a period of professional and personal crisis, Jesus Christ would sustain me,” Goeglein said.

Goeglein was suddenly thrust into a whirlwind of media and political attention. He wrote a letter of resignation and made himself a promise never to enter the White House again. According to Goeglein, that is when providence stepped in.
White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten called Goeglein into his office and instead of the rebuke Goeglein had been expecting, Bolten extended an offer of grace.

“The first thing he said to me was, ‘You are forgiven,’” Goeglein said. “It was literally as if two bar bells had come off of my shoulders. I didn’t deserve that, I deserved just the opposite.”

Goeglein then had to face the president, whose name he felt he had defamed. He met with the president intending to apologize, but was once again surprised.

“I turned to the president and he said, ‘You are forgiven,’ and I was so stunned that I literally could not speak,” Goeglein said. “(The president) said, ‘I have known grace and mercy in my life, and I am extending grace and mercy to you.’ If I live to be a thousand years old, I will never understand grace and mercy in the way that I did that day.”

In addition to sharing his personal testimony, Goeglein told students about his work at Focus on the Family and the organization’s international influence. He also shared how despite going to school for journalism, a desire to be actively involved in the pro-life movement led him to politics.

Sophomore Sean Maguire is president of Liberty Students for Life (ROSE), the campus pro-life club. He said that hearing about Goeglein’s involvement in Focus on the Family and in the pro-life movement was motivating.

“He let me know that what we were doing was really important,” Maguire said. “It was really encouraging to know that he got involved in politics for the pro-life cause. It’s really encouraging to see how people are working for it a
nd that we’re not alone.”

During a question and answer session, Goeglein discussed current politics and the epidemic of fatherlessness, which he believes is the most serious threat to the future of America. He also stressed to students the importance of virtue, saying that freedom in America would be impossible without it.

“I promise you that character is more important than intellect. Humility is more important than pride and achievement. Our remarkable country by and large, is run by B students,” Goeglein said.

As a Christian in the public eye, Goeglein said that one of the biggest challenges he faced was putting faith and politics in the right place in his life.

“The most important challenge is to keep politics in perspective. It’s very easy to conclude that the most important thing is politics, but it’s not. Faith is far more important than politics in that your faith helps keep you balanced and prioritize what’s important in life,” Goeglein said.

Vice Chairman for the College Republicans Zach Martin said that hearing Goeglein’s story and lessons on character and virtue inspired him in his goal to one day become a congressman.

“Even when he was in a position where he had messed up he was able to own up to his mistakes and be very transparent and honest,” Martin said. “It’s a truly remarkable thing to see someone who has lived his political career in the Christian faith and in our culture standing for those values.”

According to Goeglein, doing the right thing should come from more than just a desire to help the country. It should come out of a life changed by Jesus.

“If there’s one thing I wish for your generation as you step up and take the baton of leadership, it’s that you exercise the virtues of humility, high character and personal integrity at every turn,” Goeglein said. “Not because it’s good for freedom, but because at the end of the day, grace and mercy are extending to us first and foremost by Jesus Christ.”

Contact Betsy Abraham at

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