LYNCHBURG, Virginia — More than 10,000 people here at Liberty University’s convocation on Monday morning went wild as conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced his presidential campaign, asking Americans to “imagine a president” who stands up for the values they believe in.
He started off the speech by calling talking about his personal and familial roots, where he came from and how he became what he is—explaining he believes that is the “promise of America.”
He started with his mom:
Imagine your parents when they were children, imagine a little girl, growing up in Wilmington, Delaware, during World War Two, the daughter of Irish and Italian Catholic family, working class, her uncle ran numbers in Wilmington, she grew up with dozen of cousins because her mom was the second youngest of 17 kids, she had a difficult father, a man who drank far too much, and frankly didn’t think that women should be educated, and yet this young girl, pretty and shy, was driven, was bright, was inquisitive, and she became the first person in her family ever to go to college. In 1956, my mom, Eleanor, graduated from Rice University with a degree in math, and became a pioneering computer programmer in the 1950s and 1960s.”
After that, he shifted to his dad:
Imagine a teenage boy. Not much younger than many of you here today. Growing up in Cuba. Jet black hair, skinny as a rail. Involved in student council and yet Cuba was not at a peaceful time. The dictator, Batista, was corrupt.
He was oppressive. And this teenage boy joins a revolution. He joins a revolution against Batista. He begins fighting, with other teenagers, to free Cuba from the dictator. This boy at age 17 finds himself thrown in prison, finds himself tortured, beaten, and then at age 18, he flees Cuba.
He comes to America. Imagine for a second the hope that was in his heart as he rode that ferry boat across to Key West and got on a greyhound bus to head to Austin, Texas to begin working washing dishes, making 50 cents an hour. Coming to the one land on earth that has welcomed so many millions. When my dad came to America, in 1957, he could not have imagined what lay in store for him.”
Using the “imagine” theme he rolled out in this speech, Cruz then talked about how his parents found their religious beliefs when he was young.
“Imagine a young married couple, living together in the 1970s, neither one of them has a personal relationship with Jesus,” Cruz said.
They have a little boy, and they’re both drinking far too much. They’re living a fast life. When I was three my father decided to leave my mother and me. We were living in Calgary at the time he got on a plane and he flew back to Texas. And he decided he didn’t want to be married anymore and he didn’t want to be a father to his three-year-old son.
And yet when he was in Houston, a friend, a colleague, from the oil and gas business invited him to a Bible study. Invited him to Clay Road Baptist Church. And there my father gave his life to Jesus Christ. 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.
Sticking to the “imagine” theme, Cruz then turned to introducing his wife Heidi—the prospective First Lady should he win the GOP nomination then the White House.
“Imagine another little girl, living in Africa, in Kenya and Nigeria,” Cruz said.
Playing with kids, they spoke Swahili, she spoke English. Coming back to California, where her parents, who had been missionaries in Africa raised her on the central coast. She starts a small business when she is in grade school, baking bread. She calls it, Heidi’s bakery.
She and her brother compete baking bread. They bake thousands of loaves of bread and go to the local apple orchard where they sell the bread to people coming to pick apples. She goes on to a career in business, excelling and rising to the highest pinnacles. And then Heidi becomes my wife and my very best friend in the world. Heidi becomes an incredible mom to our two precious little girls, Caroline and Catherine, the joys and loves of our lives.
He then shifted to introducing his own story using the “imagine” theme:
“Imagine another teenage boy, being raised in Houston, hearing stories from his dad about prison and torture in Cuba. Hearing stories about how fragile liberty is, beginning to study the United States Constitution, learning about the incredible protections we have in this country that protect the God-given liberty of every American.
Experiencing challenges at home. The mid 1980s oil prices crater. And his parents’ business go bankrupt. Heading off to school over a thousand miles away from home at a place where he knew nobody. Where he was alone and scared. And his parents going through bankruptcy meant there was no financial support at home. So at the age of 17 he went to get two jobs to help pay his way through school. He took over $100,000 in school loans. Loans, I suspect a lot of y’all can relate to. Loans that I will point out I just paid off a few years ago.
Cruz’s “imagine” theme seems like it could become his version of President Barack Obama’s “hope” and “change,” as the word evokes for those hearing it whatever they want it to mean. It allows people to envision a different set of circumstances for themselves than they’re currently experiencing due to the effects of big government. Cruz is definitely going for big and bold themes with his presidential campaign, as he skipped right past any exploratory committee straight into taking the plunge to run as Cruz adviser Rick Tyler told Breitbart News on the floor of Liberty University’s Vines Center because “exploring is for the timid.”
“Two hundred and forty years ago on this very day a 38-year-old lawyer named Patrick Henry stood up just 100 miles from here in Richmond, Virginia, and said, ‘give me liberty or give me death,’” Cruz said.
I want to ask each of you to imagine, imagine millions of courageous conservatives all across America rising up together to say in unison, we demand our liberty. Today, roughly half of born-again Christians aren’t voting. They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values. Today, millions of young people are scared, worried about the future, worried what the future will hold. Imagine millions of young people coming together and standing together saying, “we will stand for liberty.”
Cruz then shifted into offering people the opportunity to “imagine” a different America than the one the big government of President Obama has created.
“Imagine, instead of economic stagnation, booming economic growth,” Cruz said.
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.
But, instead of Obama helping America, he has pushed things like Obamacare that stagnate job growth and hurt business. When Cruz noted that Liberty University filed a lawsuit against Obamacare on the day it was signed into law—five years ago exactly, on this day—the crowd went wild with applause.
“Instead of the joblessness, instead of the millions forced into part-time work, instead of the millions who have lost their health insurance, lost their doctors, have faced skyrocketing health insurance premiums, imagine in 2017 a new President, signing legislation repealing every word of Obamacare,” Cruz said, now bringing the “imagine” theme out to ask people to envision someone like him in the White House. “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.”
The crowd went wild every time Cruz asked America to “imagine” a president like him who would put together a flat tax proposal, abolish the IRS, and instead of Obama’s executive amnesty a president who “finally, finally, secures the borders.”
He tied the theme into religious liberty cases, asking America to “imagine” a federal government that doesn’t target entities like Hobby Lobby, Liberty University or the Little Sisters of the Poor for their religious beliefs, and asked America to “imagine” a president who upheld Americans’ Second Amendment rights rather than seeking to ban ammunition and guns. He asked Americans to “imagine” a president and federal government that doesn’t seize email and cell phone records, but instead protects their rights to privacy and asked them to “imagine” a president who supports “repealing every word of Common Core.”
“Instead of a President who boycotts Prime Minister Netanyahu, imagine a President who stands unapologetically with the nation of Israel,” Cruz said, earning his first of three standing ovations. “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.”
Cruz called for a “grassroots army” to rise up and help push him into the White House, since it’s the American people who need a leader like Cruz asked them to “imagine” having.
“I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise of America,” Cruz said. “And that is why today, I am announcing that I am running for President of the United States.”
The crowd jumped to its feet again for a second standing ovation.
Cruz, channeling President Ronald Reagan, ended his speech a moment later by calling on the grassroots to restore America as the “shining city on a hill” that Reagan once spoke of.
“The answer will not come from Washington it will come from only the men and women across this country from men and women, from people of faith, from lovers of liberty, from people who respect the Constitution, it will only come as it has come at every other time of challenge in this country,” Cruz said. “When the American people stand together and say we will get back to the principles that made this country great. We will get back and restore that shining city on a hill, that is the United States of America.”
The crowd rose up a third time for a lengthy standing ovation, during which Cruz’s wife Heidi and daughters Caroline and Catherine took the stage with him before he headed backstage.