Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz has made individual liberty the key theme of his presidential campaign announcement.
Speaking at Liberty University in Virginia, Ted Cruz is one of several Republican hopefuls to emerge from the Tea Party movement.
He described his mission as “reigniting the promise of America” because “for so many Americans the promise of America seems more and more distant”.
Ted Cruz, 44, is the first high-profile Republican to officially enter the 2016 race.
He urged millions of “courageous conservatives” to rise up and he called on Americans to come together to say: “We demand our liberty.”
The speech followed a middle-of-the-night campaign announcement on Twitter.
Making an appeal to cultural conservatives and religious Republicans, he said: “Our rights don’t come from man but from God Almighty.”
Ted Cruz talked the crowd through his childhood and religious faith before moving on to lay out his political agenda.
He detailed his parents’ journey from Cuba in 1957 and discussed his early childhood in Canada – where he was born – after his father abandoned him and his mother.
Ted Cruz’s father, now an evangelical preacher, moved to the United States and developed a deep Christian faith before returning to his family and moving them to the US.
He spoke on the Senate floor for over 21 hours in a marathon speech that contributed to the 2013 government shutdown and was aimed at encouraging his fellow lawmakers to repeal the president’s healthcare reform, nicknamed ObamaCare.
The speech included a reading of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham to his daughters, who were said to be watching their father on television.
He later joked that the event featured hours of his “favorite sound” – his own voice.
Before entering politics, Ted Cruz worked as a high-profile lawyer representing the State of Texas before the Supreme Court. He also taught law in Texas.
In the George W. Bush administration, Ted Cruz worked for the Federal Trade Commission and as an associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department.
Students and College for a Weekend (CFAW) guests enjoyed a performance by the band Crowder and a message of encouragement from Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson during Liberty University’s Convocation.
Willie Robertson, 41, is the CEO of Duck Commander, a leading duck call manufacturer, and the executive producer of Duck Dynasty. As the only member of the family with a business degree, Willie Robertson took the company from a living room operation to a premier destination for all things outdoors.
Before Willie Robertson took the stage, Crowder gave the crowd a preview of its upcoming concert with Colton Dixon. The band performed, This I Know, a song about Christ’s love for people.
Vice President for Communications Johnnie Moore also took a few minutes to greet CFAW guests and let them know how much Liberty appreciates them.
“We want you to know that as members in the body of Christ you are our honored guests and we are really glad you are here today,” he told the crowd.
President Jerry Falwell, Jr. introduced Robertson as “the star and driving force of the biggest reality television show in the history of cable television.”
Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson during Liberty University’s Convocation
“In addition to his business savvy, Willie and his entire family are known for their faith in Jesus Christ,” Jerry Falwell said.
“They are not just some of the top celebrities of our time, but are some our nation’s most famous Christians.”
Willie Robertson shared how his father Phil came to know Christ when he was 28 years old and decided to make duck calls, a tool hunters use to lure fowl.
“Without my father making the decision to come to Christ, there would not be a show called <<Duck Dynasty>>,” he said.
“When you are moving toward God, you are moving in the right direction.”
Willie Robertson then told the story of John the Baptist pointing people to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew and how the book of Isaiah calls John the “highway for God.”
“My challenge to you is to not let the world’s measuring stick show you what is successful,” he said.
“Our family views success (as being) able to go around the country and share the message of the Lord and to talk about our faith.”
As he finished, Willie Robertson reminded students that even though they may believe in God, Satan will always try to prevent them from spreading the Gospel.
“A base like this [Liberty University] of young people can move mountains. Thank you for watching our show – you are making a difference,” Willie Robertson said.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican candidate in this year’s US presidential election, has rejected the legitimacy of same-sex marriage telling graduates at Liberty University, a Christian college in Lynchburg, Virginia, that marriage is “a relationship between one man and one woman”.
Mitt Romney told the Liberty University commencement that marriage is an “enduring” institution that’s reserved for one man and one woman.
The crowd cheered his comments, made days after Democratic President Barack Obama embraced same-sex marriage.
Mitt Romney also said that culture – “what you believe, how you live, what you value – it matters”.
“Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman,” he said.
Mitt Romney told the Liberty University commencement that marriage is an “enduring” institution that's reserved for one man and one woman
Mitt Romney, a Mormon by religion, was given a standing ovation.
Barack Obama, fighting for re-election as president in November, announced his support for gay marriage this week.
It was seen as a politically risky move, especially in the South, where one in three swing voters strongly opposes allowing gays and lesbians to wed.
Virginia is regarded as a key battleground in November.
Addressing the graduation ceremony at Liberty University, Mitt Romney avoided talking about his own faith but stressed the importance of Christian values in American society.
He has so far struggled to gain support from evangelical Christians in his campaign for the Republican ticket.
“There is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action,” he told the audience.
While Mitt Romney opposes gay marriage, he has said that same-sex couples should have some rights, including the ability to adopt children.