Ted Cruz just threw down the 2016 presidential candidate gauntlet to the rest of the prospective Republican field. The now-officially declared candidate gave his campaign kickoff speech at Liberty University, and spoke for over 30 minutes without a teleprompter.
The full speech can be seen here, but the highlights of the speech are in the video below.
Cruz’s personal narrative kicked off the speech, which is now being called the “Imagine” speech, describing his own background and childhood, as well as his wife Heidi’s, speaking about his faith to the largely Christian university audience.
When my dad came to America in 1957, he could not have imagined what lay in store for him. Imagine a young married couple, living together in the 1970s, neither one of them has a personal relationship with Jesus. They have a little boy and they are both drinking far too much. They are 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 3-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.
There are people who wonder if faith is real. I can tell you, in my family there’s not a second of doubt, because were it not for the transformative love of Jesus Christ, I would have been saved and I would have been raised by a single mom without my father in the household.
Cruz then launched into the heart of his speech, asking everyone to imagine a different America.
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 about what the future will hold. Imagine millions of young people coming together and standing together, saying “we will stand for liberty.”
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.
His speech is definitely worth listening to, and there is a distinct Reaganesque flow to the end of the speech.
This is our fight. The answer will not come from Washington. It will come only from 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, when the American people stand together and say we will get back to the principles that have made this country great. We will get back and restore that shining city on a hill that is the United States of America.
By announcing his candidacy this early, and giving his very faith-focused speech at Liberty University, Cruz is probably looking to get an edge on other well-known candidates.
By getting in early — and at Liberty — Cruz was hoping to claim ownership of the influential and highly vocal corner of the Republican Party for whom cultural issues are supreme. It was a move at crowding out figures such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor, and former Sen. Rick Santorum, who has made his Catholic faith a cornerstone of his political identity.
For better or worse, the 2016 presidential campaign has started, and any other candidate who announces is going to be hard-put to recreate the same energy and vibe – and ability to give a coherent speech without notes and a teleprompter – that Ted Cruz just displayed for the nation to see.