The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines virtue as "conformity to a standard of right" -- and, in truth, there is only one such standard. Individuals are born and die, nations rise and fall -- yet it remains.
Nor can it be escaped -- no matter how devoutly men such as Obama seek to annul it, or how abjectly his opponents in the political establishment shrink from defending it.
What is it? The Roman senator Cicero explained it with force and clarity five decades before Christ.
"There is a true law, a right reason, conformable to nature, universal, unchangeable, eternal, whose commands urge us to duty, and whose prohibitions restrain us from evil," wrote Cicero.
"Neither the senate nor the people can give us any dispensation for not obeying this universal law of justice," he said. "It is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens; one thing today and another tomorrow; but in all times and nations this universal law must forever reign, eternal and imperishable."
"God himself is its author, its promulgator, its enforcer," said this Roman senator. "He who obeys it not, flies from himself, and does violence to the very nature of man."
"When a man is inspired by virtue such as this, what bribes can you offer him, what treasures, what thrones, what empires?" wrote Cicero. "He considers these but mortal goods and esteems his own divine."
"And," concluded this pre-Christian statesman, "if the ingratitude of the people, and the envy of his competitors, or the violence of powerful enemies despoil his virtue of its earthly recompense, he still enjoys a thousand consolations in the approbation of conscience, and sustains himself by contemplating the beauty of moral rectitude."
Our Founding Fathers believed precisely this when they founded the United States.
Before Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, an 18-year-old Alexander Hamilton wrote: "Good and wise men, in all ages, have ... supposed that the Deity, from the relations we stand in to Himself and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is indispensably obligatory upon all mankind prior to any human institution whatsoever."
"Upon this law depend the natural rights of mankind," said Hamilton.