Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s grades and faith bedeviled him at Texas A&M University, where he struggled to balance responsibilities as a student and member of the Corps of Cadets, he told a crowd of about 10,000 college students today at Liberty University in Virginia.
“They wore us out so much [in the Corps] that not a single member of my freshman class managed to stay awake in class for the first few weeks which … was kind of the start of why my grades were what they were,” Perry told students at the private Christian university in Lynchburg.
The Huffington Post, which obtained a copy of Perry’s college transcript, reported last month that the governor squeaked by with Cs and Ds and was at one point put on academic probation.
“Very proud to stand before you today and tell you I graduated in the top 10 in my graduating class (applause) … of 13,” the GOP presidential candidate joked today during a rare glimpse into his personal struggles.
“It wasn’t always easy. Quite frankly, I struggled with it. I fully admit that.”
Perry, 61, said he started off college wanting to be a veterinarian, but switched to an animal science major because of his poor grades. He ended up becoming a pilot in the Air Force after graduation.
“Four semesters of organic chemistry made a pilot out of me,” the 1972 graduate joked.
Taking a more serious tone, Perry said he was “lost spiritually and emotionally” after completing his service in the Air Force
“I spent many a night pondering my purpose, talking to God, wondering what to do with this one life among the billions that were on the planet,” Perry said. “What I learned as I wrestled with God was that I didn’t have to have all the answers, that they would be revealed to me in due time and that I needed to trust him.
“My faith journey is not one of someone who turned to God because I wanted to, it was because I had nowhere else to turn,” the governor added.
Perry said he did not grow up knowing he wanted to be a governor or a president and that he listened to God to find his purpose. “Do not fret if you do not know your place in the world yet, or what you want to be one day,” Perry told the crowd of students. “Simply trust. Trust that God wouldn’t have put you here unless he had a unique plan for your life.”
The speech, which was planned before he announced his bid for the White House, provided the front-runner an opportunity to connect with Christian conservative voters at a time when some conservatives are decrying the governor for signing an executive order in 2007 mandating the HPV vaccine for Texas school girls.
Fellow GOP candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota slammed Perry for his mandate during the GOP debate Monday night, saying he was “flat out wrong.”
“To have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong,” she said. “That should never be done. That’s a violation of a liberty interest.”
While Perry, who now says the mandate was a mistake, did not bring up the vaccine during his Liberty University speech, he reiterated his anti-Washington perspective, urging students 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,” Perry said. “Don’t leave it to a bunch of Washington politicians to tell you how to live your life.”