LYNCHBURG, Va. (Christian Examiner) – Sen. Ted Cruz at midnight Sunday tweeted he would be a GOP contender for the 2016 U.S. presidential race and then formally announced his bid at Liberty University before a crowd of thousands of cheering students Monday.
The first-term senator from Texas focused his hour-long address during convocation Monday morning on family and faith -- with a list of projections about the America he envisions.
"Today I want to talk to you about the promise of America," Cruz said in his memorized speech -- with no teleprompters -- before launching into a description of how his parents came to faith in Christ despite tough upbringings.
In a stadium jammed with collegians, Cruz asked them to "imagine" his Cuban-Irish-Italian immigrant roots, along with America's historic struggle for freedom – and then "imagine" what America could look like with its promises realized around rights that "don't come from man" but from "God Almighty."
Painting his roots as a Canadian-born Texan whose Cuban immigrant father made his way to Austin via Key West after fleeing torture and imprisonment as a teen, Cruz said Texas was where his father met his mother, Eleanor. She grew up in a working class Irish and Italian Catholic family in Wilmington, Delaware during World War II.
"She had a difficult father, a man who drank far too much, and frankly didn't think that women should be educated," Cruz said. "And yet this young girl, pretty and shy, was driven, was bright, was inquisitive, and was the first ever to go to college."
His mother went on to earn a math degree from Rice University in Houston in 1956 and became a "pioneering computer programmer" in the fifties and sixties, Cruz said.
"Imagine a teenage boy, not much younger than many of you here today, growing up in Cuba," Cruz said of father, Rafael, at 17 years old. "Jet black hair, skinny as a rail."
Noting his dad's involvement in the revolution against the dictator Batista, Cruz said he fled Cuba at age 18 in 1958 without any idea of what lie ahead.
"Imagine a young married couple, living together in the 1970's, neither of them has a personal relationship with Jesus. They have a little boy and they are both drinking far too much," Cruz said. "They are living a fast life."
In Calgary by that time, Cruz said his father decided he didn't want to be married and so get got on a plane and headed back to Texas where he was invited to a Bible study at Clay Road Baptist Church.
"There my father gave his life to Jesus Christ," Cruz said. "And God transformed his heart. And he drove to the airport, he bought a plane ticket and he flew back to be with my mother and me."
Now a member of Houston's First Baptist Church, a historic Southern Baptist mega-church affiliated with the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, Cruz said he knows those early days made a difference in his life.
NO DOUBTS ABOUT FAITH
"There are people who wonder if faith is real," he said. "I can tell you in my family there is not a second of doubt, were it not for the transformative love of Christ, I would have been raised without a father in the house."
"Imagine another little girl living in Africa, in Kenya, and Nigeria," Cruz said, speaking of his wife, Heidi, who spoke English, but played with children who spoke Swahili. Her parents were missionaries, he said, and she was a young entrepreneur who ran "Heidi's Bakery" and baked bread for apple pickers in the orchards.
Heidi became a businesswoman and then his wife and "very best friend in the world." Their daughters, he said, Caroline and Catherine, are the "joys and loves of our life."
Cruz asked students to "imagine" another teenage boy who was raised in Houston hearing stories "from his dad about how prison and torture is in Cuba" and "how fragile liberty is."
These experiences are what shaped Cruz and led him to study the protections Americans have under the United States Constitution and the "God-given liberty of every American."
Candidly, he told of how in the 1980's he went alone to school a thousand miles away when he was age 17 while his parents went through bankruptcy when oil prices tanked. It took two jobs and $100,000 in student loans to finish school – which he just paid off a few years ago, he said.
"These are all of our stories," he said. "These are who we are as Americans. And yet, for so many Americans, the promise of America seems more and more distant.
"What is the promise of America?" Cruz asked rhetorically. "The idea that -- the revolutionary idea that this country was founded upon, which is that our rights don't come from man. They come from God Almighty."
Reflecting back on the Constitution, Cruz said the purpose of it, as Thomas Jefferson had said, is to "serve as chains to bind the mischief of government."
And yet, the "incredible opportunity of the American dream -- what has enabled millions of people from all over the world to come to America with nothing and to achieve anything" -- may be "slipping away from our hands" as the "promise of America" exemplified in "American exceptionalism" fades, Cruz said.
'IMAGINE' –'INSTEAD OF'
In a speech full of statements about the possibilities of the future, Cruz set compared current social scenarios as ones he believes could be better, layout out a scenario for what he would do as president:
- Think just how different the world would be. Imagine instead of economic stagnation, booming economic growth.
- Instead of small businesses going out of business in record numbers, imagine small businesses growing and prospering.
- Imagine young people coming out of school with four, five, six job offers.
- Imagine innovation thriving on the Internet as government regulators and tax collectors are kept at bay and more and more opportunity is created.
- Imagine America finally becoming energy self-sufficient as millions and millions of high-paying jobs are created.
- Imagine in 2017 a new president signing legislation repealing every word of Obamacare.
- Imagine health care reform that keeps government out of the way between you and your doctor and that makes health insurance personal and portable and affordable.
- Imagine a simple flat tax that lets every American fill out his or her taxes on a postcard.
- Imagine abolishing the IRS.
- Instead of the lawlessness and the president's unconstitutional executive amnesty, imagine a president that finally, finally, finally secures the borders.
- And imagine a legal immigration system that welcomes and celebrates those who come to achieve the American dream.
- Instead of a federal government that wages an assault on our religious liberty, that goes after Hobby Lobby, that goes after the Little Sisters of the Poor, that goes after Liberty University -- imagine a federal government that stands for the First Amendment rights of every American.
- Instead of a federal government that works to undermine our values, imagine a federal government that works to defend the sanctity of human life and to uphold the sacrament of marriage.
- Instead of a government that works to undermine our Second Amendment rights, that seeks to ban our ammunition, imagine a federal government that protects the right to keep and bear arms of all law-abiding Americans.
- Instead of a government that seizes your emails and your cell phones, imagine a federal government that protected the privacy rights of every American.
- Instead of a federal government that seeks to dictate school curriculum through Common Core, imagine repealing every word of Common Core.
- Imagine embracing school choice as the civil rights issue of the next generation. That every single child, regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of wealth or ZIP code, every child in America has a right to a quality education. And that's true from all of the above, whether it is at public schools or charter schools or private schools or Christian schools or parochial schools or home schools — every child.
- Instead of a president who boycotts Prime Minister Netanyahu, imagine a president who stands unapologetically with the nation of Israel.
- Instead of a president who seeks to go to the United Nations to end-run Congress and the American people, imagine a president who says I will honor the Constitution and under no circumstances will Iran be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.
- Imagine a president who says we will stand up and defeat radical Islamic terrorism, and we will call it by its name. We will defend the United States of America.
'IMAGINE' – 'RE-IGNITING THE PROMISE OF AMERICA'
Talking of "reigniting the promise of America," Cruz invoked inspiring historical figures including Patrick Henry who 240 years ago said, "Give me liberty or give me death," the 54 signers of the Declaration Independence in 1776, General George Washington in 1777 and President Frankline Delano Roosevelt in 1933.
"Imagine its 1979 and you and I were listening to Ronald Reagan and he was telling us" taxes would be cut and million would be lifted out "of prosperity into abundance," Cruz said.
"I want to ask each of you to imagine, imagine millions of courageous conservatives," Cruz gestured, "all across America, rising up together to say in unison 'we demand our liberty.'"
On the same day President Ronald Reagan was sworn in, Cruz said, the Iran hostages were released and within a decade America won the Cold War and tore the Berlin Wall down. By comparison, he said, "repealing Obamacare and abolishing the IRS ain't all that tough!"
"From the dawn of this country, at every stage America has enjoyed God's providential blessing," Cruz said, even "when we faced impossible odds, the American people rose to the challenge."
Responding to several enthusiastic standing ovations, Cruz asked students to "break a rule" and text the word, "Constitution" or "Imagine" to show their support.
NATION-WIDE GRASSROOTS ARMY
"If you're ready to join a grassroots army across this nation coming together and standing for liberty ... I believe it is a time for truth; it is a time for liberty," Cruz said. "God isn't done with America yet. I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise of America."
Calling on people to stand together for "the hope and opportunity for our children and our children's children," Cruz said, "This is our fight, the answer will not come from Washington. It will come from people of faith, from lovers of liberty, to protect the constitution."
"We will get back and restore that shining city on a hill that is the United States of America," Cruz said.
The Liberty convocation responded enthusiastically, waving Cruz's wife, Heidi, and his daughters, Caroline and Catherine onto the platform where the little girls, dressed in pink dresses that matched their mom's suit, clutched their parent's hands.