If you’ve ever wondered whether leadership can be passed on to children from the genetic makeup of their parents, you should meet Rafael Cruz, the father of Ted Cruz, who has recently won the GOP nomination for U.S. Senator from Texas. My wife, Annette, and I had the pleasure of sitting with the senior Cruz on Tuesday evening at a dinner meeting of the Flower Mound, Texas Republican Club.
Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love a stirring political debate. I’ve been involved in politics from within and without for most of my adult life, and I pride myself in being well-versed on significant issues, both national and local.
Annette, a better politician than I’ll ever be, quickly seized the moment, introducing herself to Mr. Cruz and launching into Spanish as a way of making an ethnic connection. Of Puerto-Rican descent, she speaks Spanish fluently and when she meets people of similar ancestry she does what she calls “dropping some palabras (words) on them.”
Mr. Cruz, also bilingual, is one of those people whom you instantly feel comfortable with and know you’re going to like. After the introduction, Annette switched our seats so we could spend the evening chatting with this fascinating man who was one of the guest speakers at the event.
From the moment our rear ends landed on the chairs, Mr. Cruz and I were off to the races with a plethora of political issues, ranging from the “Bay of Pigs” invasion and the “Cuban Missile Crisis” of the Kennedy Administration, to the “Cap and Trade Bill, ObamaCare” and the socialist policies of President Barack Obama. Mr. Cruz knows better than most about the horrible conditions under which people are forced to live in a socialist (read: communist) dictatorship.
He grew up in Cuba under the tyrannical rule of Fulgencio Battista. When he was 17, he was arrested and charged with speaking out against the government. During his incarceration he was severely beaten by prison guards every 4 hours. He described the pain as almost unbearable to the point of being unable to feel his hands and legs. In 1957, at the age of 18, he managed to flee the communist island and make his way to Austin, Texas with $100 sewn into his underwear. Although he didn’t speak English, he had an insatiable desire for education and a strong work ethic. He found a job washing dishes and worked 7 days a week to pay for a college education at the University of Texas, where he met his future wife.
They immersed themselves in mathematics, and after graduation they started their own business, doing seismic data processing for oil companies. And from this very difficult start in life, they raised a son who became the State Solicitor General, representing Texas in cases before the Supreme Court of the United States.
Among the General’s victories was the defense of the Ten Commandments monument that stands on the state capitol grounds. Cruz won a 5-4 decision of the high court. He also defended the Pledge of Allegiance and won a unanimous decision after a federal court of appeals ruled against the words, “one nation under God.”
Now, after his primary victory over Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, the son of a Cuban immigrant, who came to this country to experience freedom and opportunity, is about to be elected to the Senate, the most powerful legislative body in the world.
Ted Cruz says of his dad: “When I was a kid, my father used to say to me all the time, ‘When we faced oppression in Cuba, I had a place to flee to. If we lose our freedom here, where do we go?’” Where indeed! He told us about the Castro government’s rationing of food, clothing and all the other things we take for granted. “The people are allowed to buy a pound of meat per month,” he said. “If you violate the rules, you get thrown in a prison cell for years,” he added.
He told us of a friend from Cuba who visited Texas and went to dinner at a restaurant. “When he saw the size of the steak on his plate he broke down crying,” Rafael said. “This would feed my family for a month,” the man said humbly.
When Mr. Cruz got up to speak to the GOP assemblage, he was even more passionate as he talked about the greatness of our country. “Except for the Bible, the two greatest documents ever written are the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence,” he said, with fingers jabbing at the air.
Sadly, many Americans take their freedom for granted. They need to spend an hour with Rafael Cruz to get an idea of how lucky they are.