Demonstrating that she won’t cede an inch of the Christian-conservative vote to rival Republican presidential contender Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann delivered an impassioned speech laced with biblical references to the Florida Family Policy Council’s Policy Awards Dinner in Orlando Saturday, urging its members to “pour yourself out” on behalf of social-conservative causes.
“That’s our challenge as believers in Jesus Christ, that in whatever sphere of influence God has given to us — maybe it’s a homemaker, maybe it’s as a businessman or woman, maybe it’s as a politician, maybe it’s as someone who’s running for president of the United States, maybe it’s someone who doesn’t even know your purpose yet — is saying to the Almighty God of the universe: ‘Yes, Lord, I will pour myself out,’” the Minnesota congresswoman told the crowd of about 500 social conservatives.
Bachmann began her speech to the organization, which supports traditional marriage and right-to-life legislation, on a lighter note, however. She poked humor at her remarkable achievement in raising five children and 23 foster children.
“Just last week, we took our little baby off to college, the last one,” she said. “Our oldest one is a physician now, and our youngest one is off to college. And all we want to say is: After 29 years of parenting, an empty nest looks pretty darn good right now!”
As the laughter subsided, Bachmann added: “So we thought, ‘What the heck — run for president of the United States!”
That line drew a hearty round of applause.
Bachmann’s rousing speech on behalf of biblically based family values came as Texas Gov. Perry is consuming an increasing amount of the oxygen in the GOP political tent. Both Rasmussen and Gallup show Perry has opened up a double-digit lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in national polls of likely GOP voters. Bachmann continues to show strength in Iowa, however, after winning the recent straw poll there.
During the keynote address, Bachmann also revealed several of the most personal and difficult moments of her life. She spoke of how her parents’ divorce when she was young propelled her family into poverty.
“As you can imagine, our life completely changed,” Bachmann recalled. “We had a four-bedroom home in the suburbs that had to be sold. We couldn’t afford it. I saw my mom take everything out of the hutch in the dining room. It went onto card tables out in the garage. We had a garage sale. All her wedding gifts, all the pretty things in the dining room hutch — everything had to be sold. We couldn’t afford it anymore. I saw my mother lose absolutely everything.”
Bachmann said it was a point of pride with her mother to move forward without seeking public assistance.
“We decided that we were going to be a team that wasn’t going to be beat,” she said. “We were going to stick together, and we did. We all pitched in. We all helped out. And our poverty lasted for more than just a few months. It lasted for years.
“It wasn’t until we really got out of high school that we saw our lives change. But because of the example of my mother, because of the prayer that we had together as a family . . . we stuck together and we learned a few things,” Bachmann said.
She also talked about her personal conversion to Christianity. “At that moment the Lord put inside my heart a hunger and a thirst for his word, a hunger and a thirst to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, and to know him,” she said.
Bachmann said God motivated her and husband, Marcus, to open their home to foster children, many of them unwed teen girls who were pregnant, after the Bachmanns lost a child of their own through miscarriage.
“It was a profound experience,” Bachmann said. “People often say that a miscarriage is a minor thing. I am here to tell you, a miscarriage is not a minor thing.
“That is a real human being that God created. And although that baby never took a breath outside the womb, it is every bit a human being. Because that child was made in the image, and the likeness, of a holy God. And when that baby was lost to us, it changed Marcus and I forever,” she said.
After Bachmann’s speech, John Stemberger, president of Florida Family Policy Council, presented her with the organization’s William Wilberforce Award in recognition of her efforts on behalf of pro-life, pro-family causes.
Bachmann called it “one of the highest honors I have ever received in my life.”
Several members of the Florida Legislature, who played a role in passing pro-family, pro-life legislation in the Sunshine State, also received awards. Among them was Mike Haridopolos, the Florida Senate president.
Bachmann’s outreach to Florida evangelicals will continue Sunday with a visit to Idlewild Baptist church, a megachurch near Tampa
Pollsters estimate that evangelicals and Catholics make up 30 to 40 percent of the GOP primary electorate in Florida.
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