In the four years since he made national headlines for his infamous marathon speech against Obamacare, Senator Ted Cruz has become a household name—first as an ambitious young senator, then as a presidential candidate.
But 25 years ago, Cruz was an undergraduate student at Princeton. When he wasn’t winning debate championships or provoking the ire of his freshman-year roommate, he was getting to know one of the nation’s leading conservative academics, the professor Robert George.
George was Cruz’s constitutional-law professor and his thesis adviser. Cruz credits George with pushing him to not only think about the Constitution more deeply, but to constantly revisit his own beliefs. In the years since they were student and teacher, the two have stayed close. On the presidential campaign trail, Cruz regularly turned to George for advice.
For The Atlantic’s series “On the Shoulders of Giants,” I spoke with Cruz and George about their mentor-mentee relationship. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Caroline Kitchener: How is the Ted Cruz that you know today different from the Ted Cruz that you knew when he was a student?
Robert George: A 20-year-old man is not going to have the maturity of a 45-year-old man. I’m a wine guy. If you know anything about wine, you know a great red Bordeaux in the cask, before it’s ever been put in the bottle. That wine isn’t ready to drink yet. It’s not going to have the nuance, the depth, the sophistication. But boy, 20 years down the line, that’s when the payoff comes. It’s similar here.