First Adventist in the White House Might be a Woman
By AT News Team, March 26, 2015: Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced this week his campaign to become president of the United States. His 42-year-old wife, Heidi Cruz, is an Adventist from a family with a multi-generational record of missionary service. She could become the first Adventist to live in the White House.
Mrs. Cruz has been a vice president at Goldman Sachs, a leading firm in the finance industry, as well as the mother of the couple’s two young daughters, Caroline (age 7) and Kathy (age 5). She has taken a leave of absence from the company for the duration of the campaign.
The couple met when they were both young staffers in the 2000 presidential campaign of George W. Bush. She worked as an economist on Bush’s presidential staff and then for Condoleezza Rice in the National Security Council staff, according to a profile in USA Today.
Presidential politics first captured Mrs. Cruz’s attention when she was 12 years old and read an article in Time about Ronald Reagan, reports a profile of the family by Andrew Harnik from Associated Press (AP). She would later become a Capitol Hill intern and then a government employee.
Reflecting on her family’s commitment to world missions, Mrs. Cruz told a reporter for the San Luis Obispo Tribune-News that her mission is public service. Senator Cruz has praised his wife for being willing to put all of the couple’s savings ($1.2 million) into his 2012 campaign to get elected a Senator, as reported by the New York Times in 2013.
“Two threads have been common to Heidi Cruz’s family for generations,” Harnik writes in the AP profile of the candidate’s wife. “Medical careers and strong religious faith.” Specifically, Adventist faith. Heidi is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Peter Nelson. He is a graduate of the School of Dentistry at Loma Linda University and has done short term missionary service more than 25 times over the years.
Both of Mrs. Cruz’s grandfathers were doctors, as were several uncles. Her maternal grandfather, Dr. Olavi Rouhe, served for decades as a missionary physician in the Congo. Her great-grandfather was the president of Loma Linda University at one time, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune-News.
Mrs. Cruz attended Adventist schools as a child. Her primary education was at Valley View Adventist Academy in Arroyo Grande (California), near her home town of San Luis Obispo, where her father has a dental practice to this day. Both of her parents continue to be active in the local Adventist church, recently raising significant funds to upgrade facilities at Valley View. She completed her secondary education in 1990 at Monterey Bay Academy, and Adventist boarding school about 150 miles north.
Her Adventist education prepared her for one of California’s best colleges, Claremont McKenna, where studied math and economics. She went on to complete an MBA at the Harvard University School of Business and a graduate degree at the Free University of Brussels in Belgium.
Mrs. Cruz’s brother is Dr. Scott Nelson, chief of pediatric orthopedic surgery at Loma Linda University. He spent five years as a missionary doctor in the Dominican Republic with CURE International, a nondenominational agency that focuses on childhood bone deformities. In January 2010 when an earthquake devastated Haiti, he immediately organized a team, chartered a plane and “sweet talked” the airport tower into letting them land. In the first week he did about 90 surgeries, his father told the San Luis Obispo Tribune-News.
He was honored with the Humanitarian Award of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons for his service in Haiti, but he told his hometown newspaper, “The best payment I ever got was two mangoes and a hug.” He graduated from Pacific Union College in 1992 and from the medical school at LLU in 1996.
Mrs. Cruz traveled has seen her parents volunteer at missionary clinics in Africa, Vietnam, Mexico, South America, the Philippines and other Pacific islands. She went with them on some of these trips as well as traveling with them to many places in the U.S. “I think those early travels made me expansive in terms of the things I wanted to do,” Mrs. Cruz told AP writer Harnik.
Another early influence in Heidi Cruz’s life was operating a business. “She and her brother had a running bread business out at Gopher Glen Apple Farm for six to eight years when they were growing up,” her mother told Harnik. “We probably made 200 loaves a week,” Mrs. Cruz told the AP writer. “I think it definitely taught us the value of hard work. We were used to being highly productive at all times.”
Harnik reported that “beginning at age 6,” Mrs. Cruz was earning about $150 a week from the bread sales. She later used the money she saved to purchase a car and to pay for some of her first year in college. “The kids woke daily at 5 a.m., read their Bibles, practiced piano, went to school and baked bread. Lots of bread.”
About her husband, the candidate for US President, Mrs. Cruz told the AP’s Harnik, “He has an incredible heart, but he’s not the kind of person that’s trying to do what everybody wants him to do. He’s trying to do what he thinks is right, and he has an innate ability to really not worry about things beyond his control.”
Of course, Mrs. Cruz sees her husband differently than do the journalists and political commentators. “He’s always the first one to go, ‘Hey, let’s take a break. Let’s go to a movie.’ He never misses date night. Loves to play games,” she told Harnik for her AP profile. “He loves ‘The Princess Bride.’ I think that’s his favorite movie.”
The Senator’s wife knows that he has said many controversial things and there are people who hate him. She says she has quit looking at social media on the Internet. And she does not worry because “we are Christians and we have a lot of prayer.” But, “I feel there are sacrifices you make.”
The couple have an inter-religious marriage, which has become common in America today. Senator Ted Cruz is a Southern Baptist, the son of a Cuban refugee. “I come from a family that has been Roman Catholic for generations,” he told Nicholas Hahn, who writes for Real Clear Religion, “but my parents converted while living in Texas and raised me Southern Baptist.”
Mrs. Cruz has given the Senator connections with the Adventist faith. She introduced him to vegetarian cooking and he has participated with her family in things such as Thanksgiving Dinner last year. In May 2013 he was the commencement speaker at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas. He “was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by Southwestern president Dr. Eric Anderson,” the Keene Star reported at the time.
“Those who know Mrs. Cruz say that she is less ideological than her husband,” wrote Ashley Parker in the New York Times (Oct, 23, 2013). “During the Bush administration, where she worked first in the United States trade representative’s office and later in the Treasury Department and on the National Security Council, she was known as more an analytical thinker than a partisan zealot.”
Senator Cruz is the first candidate in the run up to American elections next year to officially announce his campaign. The polls among voters in the Republican Party, which he belongs to, currently place other, not yet officially announced, candidates ahead of him, including Dr. Ben Carson, who is also an Adventist. News reports pointed out that Senator Cruz’s announcement was made during chapel services at Liberty University in southern Virginia, a “landmark” institution of conservative Protestants.
“Cruz’s speech had the feel of a sermon at a megachurch,” reported The Washington Post, “with the candidate wearing a wireless microphone and walking around a stage while delivering his remarks. He discussed the humble background of his parents, how his wife is the daughter of missionaries and how he took out $100,000 in student loans that he only paid off a few years ago. He talked about the power of the American dream.”
Senator Cruz has taken public positions in favor of repealing the law voted five years ago establishing a system designed to see that all Americans have access to health care, abolishing the tax collection agency of the U.S. government, taking a hard line against illegal immigration and bridging the traditional gap between church and state. His opinions on church and state appear to oppose at least some positions that have been advocated by the Adventist Church.
“It is the time for truth. It is the time for liberty. It is the time to reclaim the Constitution of the United States,” Senator Cruz stated in the assembly which was required attendance for the 10,000 students at the Christian university. These phrases have generated considerable debate this week as many speculate about what they mean.
Senator Cruz will undoubtedly be a provocative figure as the presidential election unfolds over the next 19 months. His story has a number of parallels to another first-term Senator who was elected president in 2008; US President Barack Obama. And if Senator Cruz makes it to the White House, the First Lady will be the first Adventist to preside in that high place.