Monday morning I sat among 10,000 of my peers as Sen. Ted Cruz announced his bid for the Republican nomination for president at my school, Liberty University. As a senior in Liberty’s Helms School of Government I was thrilled to witness a presidential hopeful announce his candidacy.
I went into Cruz’s speech with a basic understanding of who he is and what his political views are, but without much of an opinion as to whether or not he is someone I would vote for. As you can imagine, I was eager to hear his platform and see how he would frame his message for a college audience.
There are 80 million of us “millennials,” a significant portion of the voting population. This is a fact I’m sure Cruz considered when he asked to make his announcement at Liberty.
After his speech I managed to work my way through the crowd to ask Cruz how he plans to appeal to millennials. He told me that he wants to convey a message of hope, of getting back to the promise of America, and reigniting the promise of America.
“What I’m trying to do right now, more than anything, is energize and mobilize an army of courageous conservatives to understand that ‘We the People’ is where the power lies,” he told me.
Out of the 80 million people in my demographic, 50 percent identify as Independents. As he tries to recruit his base, it is important for Cruz to understand how to best reach my generation. Here are some things he needs to consider as he pursues that goal:
Millennials cling to stories. We are very relational. Most of my peers do not know a lot about policy, but they care deeply about people. Give us a narrative, tell us a story, and inspire us to take up your cause.
Cruz did an excellent job weaving a story. He told us a story of hope, the story of our liberty. He dared us to imagine America as the Founders intended, an America based on our Constitution with the freedom that comes from a limited government. He spoke of this date in history more than 200 years ago when Patrick Henry gave his famous, “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech. The senator reminded us that we, too, must demand our liberty. He took the cause of liberty and made it tangible through telling the story of America.
In addition, Cruz inspired us; millennials long for hope and a belief that we can still do great things. The senator inspired us by defining the promise of America as being able “to come to America with nothing and achieve anything.”
He acknowledged that many of us feel the promise of America has faded, but he reminded us our war for independence, WWI and WWII, and the Cold War all taught us how we could rise time and again in the name of liberty.
Cruz wants to reignite the promise of America. He listed several of the challenges our country faces, including the economy, Islamic terrorism, health care, and immigration. Instead of framing these issues as nebulous problems, he set them up as challenges we can overcome if we get back to our roots. Millennials respond to hope, we respond to a call to action. We are dreamers who want not only to believe in a better world but also help create it. Cruz painted a picture of liberty as intended by our forefathers and called on us to imagine reclaiming that heritage through a return to our founding principles.
The hope of true liberty is a cause my generation can get behind. However, many of my peers bought into the promise of hope in 2008 and 2012 and have been let down. Cruz will need to gain the trust of my peers that the America he asks us to imagine is in fact achievable.
Restoring fidelity to the Constitution of the United States can provide such confidence. We live in an age of relativism and my generation is searching for security in truth. The Constitution, written to define and protect our God-given rights both limits government and ensures our liberty if we follow it as it is written.
Even more foundationally, the essential premise of our charter text, the Declaration of Independence, reminds us that there is a personal Creator who is the author of self-evident truth and our unalienable rights. He has communicated to us clearly, and His truth is fixed.
Millennials respond to personal stories more than statistics and abstract numbers. As long as he continues to depict his platform in a narrative and paint a picture of liberty, I believe he can inspire millennials to stand for freedom. If Cruz can convince my generation that he is the candidate best suited to accomplish a return to our founding principles, then he will have millennials joining his army as “We the People.”