LYNCHBURG, Va. – Texas Gov. Rick Perry used his speech at America’s largest evangelical University on Wednesday to connect with young evangelical Christians, abandoning the harsh political rhetoric of the 2012 campaign thus far in favor of a more faith-based message.
Perry still threw a few punches at Washington, D.C. establishment figures, though.
“Don’t muzzle your voice because you’re young,” he told the group of young evangelicals. “You have the right, like every American, to speak your mind. You have the right to insist on change, to tell the people in power that you will not have your inheritance spent or your future mortgaged.
“This country is your country as well. Don’t leave it to a bunch of Washington politicians to tell you how to live your life. This is your future that we are debating today. Don’t be silent.”
Perry said Americans need more Christian values in general. “It is important that [Christian leaders] stand in the pulpit every day and defend those values, those Christian values,” Perry said. “America is going to be guided by some set of values. The question is going go to be: Whose values?”
The Texas governor said he believes America will be guided by “the Christian values that this country was based upon.”
Several students in the audience told The Daily Caller that they found his apolitical approach refreshing.
Veronica Romero, a student who is undecided about which candidate she will support in 2012 when she casts her first vote for president, told TheDC she thinks Perry “really connected” with students through stories about his college years and young life. “He talked about what he went through in life and what he had to do just to succeed in school,” Romero said. “I think that helped him connect really well with the student body here.”
“It wasn’t what I expected,” added Sara Rodriguez, another Liberty University student. “I expected him to talk in a more political way, and it was more geared toward life itself. Not that I don’t like political stuff, but you could definitely see that he’s like a real person.”
Liberty student Meredith Shuler said Perry’s speech sealed the deal for her: She’ll be voting for the Texas Governor in the primary. “I was really impressed about he didn’t try to sell votes,” Shuler told TheDC. “He just really poured his heart out to the students.”
Shuler said Perry’s line about pushing back on Washington politicians really stuck with her. “He wants us to stand up and fight for what we believe in,” she said.
Brendan Madigan, a student from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, drove all the way to Lynchburg, Va., to hear Perry and said it was well worth it. Madigan is the chairman of a Pro-Perry group of North Carolina students.
“I go to UNC Chapel Hill, not the most conservative campus in the world,” Madigan told TheDC. “But people are coming on board with our group because they’re saying, ‘look, the Obama administration has failed to create jobs; they’ve failed to turn this economy around.’ And Governor Perry — you look at what he’s doing in Texas — great job creation, they’ve created more jobs in Texas than in the other 49 states combined. That’s what students are looking for.”