I had the opportunity to speak with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in a one-on-one conversation about faith and family. He had just flown in from Washington, D.C., and later that evening, he was scheduled to speak at the Fort Bend Lincoln Reagan Dinner. Despite his packed schedule, he took the time to answer my questions and share a little about his private life.
RD: In your speech at Liberty University, where you officially announced your 2016 presidential bid, you called conservative Christians to come to the polls and “vote their values.” What Christian values are most important to you within the political arena?
TC: Three values are fundamental: life, marriage, and religious liberty. Life is foundational to everything else; without it, there is no marriage, no religious liberty, nothing. Every human life is a precious gift from God and should be protected from conception to natural death. Likewise, marriage is the building block of the family, ordained by God to make us stronger and to reflect the relationship with husband and wife that God has with the church. Religious liberty is the first liberty protected in the first clause of the First Amendment. It ensures we can all worship God with all our hearts, minds, and souls without government getting in the way. Our nation was founded upon the core principles of religious liberty. In my time in public life, I have been blessed repeatedly to have the opportunity to defend all three.
RD: You have talked about your father and how finding Jesus changed his life, and ultimately, yours. As a young boy, how were you affected by this change in your father and how has it affected you long-term?
TC: It literally transformed our lives. I was born in Calvary, Canada, and both of my parents were in oil and gas. Neither was a Christian and both were heavy drinkers. When I was 3, my father left us and returned to Houston. One day, he was invited to Clay Road Baptist Church, where he met Pastor Wiley. He became a Christian, bought a plane ticket back to Calvary, and reunited with mother and me. Shortly after, my mom became a Christian. Both stopped drinking, and as a result, I was raised in a strong Christian home built on love, trust, and encouragement. I became a Christian at 8 years old in the same church. Had my father not turned his life around, I would have been raised by a single mom. Who knows where the path of life would have taken me? As a Christian, I met and married Heidi, which I wouldn’t have otherwise. So you see, my father’s decision has transformed generations like ripples in a pond.
RD: What an incredible impact one man – Pastor Wiley – had on generations within your family!
TC: Oh yes! One of the more amazing moments of the presidential campaign was at a rally in Tennessee. Pastor Wiley, came to the campaign. I hadn’t seen him in over 30 years and didn’t know he was coming. I broke down in tears, thanked him for having shared the gospel with my father, and told him about the impact he had and continues to have on all of us.
RD: Much has been written about your marriage and the fact that yours and your wife Heidi’s careers have been demanding, oftentimes requiring you to live in separate locations for long stretches of time. Then, you faced the presidential campaign together. What do you think has kept you together over these years and through a sometimes brutal campaign? What lessons have you learned?
TC: More than anything, Heidi is my best friend. For much of our marriage we’ve been on the road, separate, but we talk many times each day. Serving in the Senate, I work during the week in D.C., while she’s at our home in Houston with our girls, and it takes effort to ensure that we spend good quality time together. When we’re apart, I try to Facetime every evening, and when we’re together as a family, we try hard to have quality time – the park, movies, Mexican food.
RD: Even with your limited time, though, you still have to make time for just the two of you.
TC: Agreed. All the focus can’t be on your kids. For one thing, your kids watch how you and your spouse interact, and they need to see you building each other up. We’re constantly helping each other, supporting each other. Heidi and I try to have a date night once a week. We’ll put the girls to bed and go out for a late-night dinner, just the two of us. When you’re married, you need to spend time strengthening and building the friendship. The payoff is that our marriage has become a key source of strength for both of us through life’s challenges. We face all sorts of obstacles and stumbles, but facing it with your partner is a lot better than facing it alone.
RD: How has your career, the moves, and the presidential campaign affected your life with your two daughters, Catherine, 7, and Caroline, 9? What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned
TC: The single hardest aspect of serving in the senate is spending so much time away from the girls. I imagine how this looks to them: Daddy leaves every Monday morning to fly to Washington. We can only talk to Daddy on the telephone. Our girls have grown up in the public life and it’s challenging. I know there are times when they wished politics were behind us so they could be ordinary girls outside of the bright spotlight. Caroline is playing basketball, and I’m helping coach the team, but the real difficult aspect is that I miss a lot of her games. I had planned to be back for her game one Friday night, then the government shutdown hit, and it’s hard to explain to your daughter that you missed the game because Chuck Schumer shut down the government. Hands down, it’s the most difficult part of public life. During the presidential campaign, we kept the girls in Houston for school and stability. They were okay when Daddy was on the road, but when Mommy joined, it became really difficult. Midway through, we began bringing them along and homeschooled them for months through 47 states. They lived on the campaign bus and became close to volunteers and staffers. That turned out to be a much better arrangement, even though they lacked stability. And you know, there were moments that were truly crazy. In the middle of the primaries, right after the Iowa Caucus, we had to fly Catherine back to Houston to interview for Kindergarten admissions. But that’s life. What I learned through all of it is that there’s nothing the girls want more than time with Mom and Dad.
RD: One final question: What do you want to be remembered for? What do you hope will be written and said about you down the road?
TC: That I made a difference in the lives of others. That’s a lesson I’ve tried to teach our girls. No one cares how much money you have or what kind of car you drive. The only thing anyone remembers is how many lives you touched and how many people you helped. For me, going back to my teen years, my twin passions have always been freedom and the Constitution. My father was a revolutionary in Cuba who had been imprisoned and tortured, so at an early age I understood the preciousness and fragility of our freedoms. If you had asked me what I wanted to do, even as a small boy, I would have said defend freedom. It’s what I hope and intend to do going forward. If that can be my legacy for Texans and for people across the country, I’ll be very proud.