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Romney's commencement speech focuses on American values

Mitt Romney's Mormon faith has shaped his life, but he barely mentioned it as he spoke to graduates at an evangelical university Saturday.

And he hardly touched on hot-button social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, instead offering a broad-based defense of values such as family and hard work.

"Culture -- what you believe, what you value, how you live -- matters," Romney told graduates gathered in the football stadium on Liberty University's campus.

"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 the family."

Instead of a conservative policy speech, Romney discussed his family and offered a defense of Christianity, saying that "there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action."

Still, he was inclusive: "Men and women of every faith, and good people with none at all, sincerely strive to do right and lead a purpose-driven life."

He had one sustained applause line in a 20-minute speech delivered days after President Obama announced his support of gay marriage.

"Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman," Romney said to a cheering crowd of students who have to follow a strict code of conduct that considers sex out of wedlock and homosexuality to be sins.

Meanwhile, Obama on Saturday was not seeking to revisit the issue of gay marriage. In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president didn't mention his history-making endorsement.

Instead, he repeated his call for congressional lawmakers to take up a "to-do list" of tax breaks, mortgage relief and other initiatives that he insists will create jobs and help middle-class families struggling in the sluggish economy.

Having spent part of the week on the West Coast raising money for his re-election effort, Obama appeared in the Rose Garden of the White House to honor award-winning law enforcement officers.

It was Obama's first joint appearance with Vice President Biden after Biden, according to aides, apologized to the president for pushing gay marriage to the forefront of the presidential campaign last weekend and inadvertently pressuring Obama to declare his support for same-sex unions.

Obama and Biden were all smiles as they walked to the ceremony together. Introducing Obama, Biden credited the president's commitment to law enforcement, and the two quickly embraced before Obama spoke.

The late Rev. Jerry Falwell founded Liberty University in 1971 to be, for evangelical Christians, "what Notre Dame is to young Catholics and Brigham Young is to young Mormons," as his son, University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr., said on commencement day.

Romney's selection as commencement speaker was an issue for some students who graduated from Liberty this weekend. When the school announced Romney as commencement speaker, hundreds of angry comments were posted on Liberty's Facebook page by people who said they were students or alumni, objecting to giving a Mormon a platform. The school responded by affirming its welcome to Romney.

Ahead of Romney's remarks, University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said the school's invitation to him should not be considered an endorsement.