- (Photo: REUTERS/Richard Carson)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry made an appearance Wednesday at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., where the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination offered testimony about his “faith journey,” while urging students to get involved in the political process.
Perry told his audience of 10,000 at the nation’s largest evangelical university how he came to know the Lord after leaving the United States Air Force.
“I had nowhere else to turn,” he said. “I was lost spiritually and emotionally, and I didn’t know how to fix it.”
In overtly religious language rarely uttered publicly by a candidate for the nation’s highest office, the GOP frontrunner said, “As spiritual beings, we are meant to live in relationship with our Creator and with one another.”
“The happiest moments I’ve ever experienced are when I am in communion with God and in community with others,” he added.
Perry told the more than 10,000 students gathered at Liberty’s thrice-weekly convocation, “Do not fret if you don’t know your place in the world or what you want to be someday. Trust that God wouldn’t have put you here unless He had a unique plan for your life.”
The Texas governor added that he has himself stumbled along the way to his current position as the nation’s longest continuously serving governor. He said his life and career are proof that God “doesn’t require perfect people to execute His perfect plan.”
In fact, Perry’s imperfections have been skewered both by the mainstream media and his rivals for the GOP presidential nod.
Most notably, he was grilled in recent GOP debates for his past characterizations of Social Security as “unconstitutional” and “a Ponzi scheme,” and for his past decision as Texas governor to order all adolescent girls be vaccinated against cervical cancer without prior parental consent.
According to a CNN poll released Monday, Perry is currently the favorite among Republicans and independents, with 30 percent favoring him to win the Republican presidential nomination, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 18 percent.
A Gallup poll in August also revealed that Perry has the most support among religious Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Thirty-four percent of those who attend church weekly said they prefer Perry, while 16 percent prefer Romney.
In advance of his visit to the university founded by the late evangelical leader Jerry Falwell, Perry said his post-debate strategy is to return his focus to pocketbook issues, namely the economy and jobs.
The thrice-elected Texas governor encouraged Liberty students to make their presence felt in next year’s national election. “Don’t muzzle your voice because you’re young,” he advised. “You have the right, like every American, to speak your mind.”
Moreover, said Perry, younger Americans, like Liberty’s socially conservative, Christian evangelical student body, have a lot at stake in what happens in the nation’s capital, both in Congress and at the White House.
“Don’t leave it to a bunch of Washington politicians to tell you how to live your life. This is your future we are debating today. Don’t be silent,” he told students.