Ron DeSantis Talks Faith, Family in CBN EXCLUSIVE: We're a 'Christ-Centered Household'
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TALLAHASSEE, Florida – When it comes to Ron DeSantis, conservatives generally see him as a no-nonsense crusader, fighting the liberal agenda as governor of Florida.
"I don't think there's any elected official in the country who's not only stood up for the values that we all share, but has actually beat the left back on these things," DeSantis told CBN News.
In our exclusive interview, however, we explored new territory: a more personal look at the man who wants to be the next president.
At his core, who is Ron DeSantis?
"I'm a working-class kid," DeSantis says. "My mom's from Youngstown, Ohio, my dad's from Western Pennsylvania...I think that they were very, very clear about what I needed to be doing for my obligations; do well in school, make sure you're in church every Sunday, make sure you're working around the house. You're not going to get anything handed to you.”
That philosophy was reinforced at a strict Catholic grade school he attended in Florida.
"I think by and large I liked it," DeSantis tells CBN News. "But again, I think the things that I didn't like about it were because they were doing the right thing by making sure that we were disciplined. You would pray every day but some of the nuns were very strict about what your obligations were. And again, as a young kid, maybe not the most fun at the time, but I think was the right approach.”
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That discipline and hard work led to success as a baseball player in Little League, high school, and at Yale. Other shining accomplishments followed: Harvard Law School, a U.S. Navy lawyer, serving in Iraq, becoming a United States congressman, and now governor of Florida.
“I always believed that it doesn't matter where you start," DeSantis said. "If you put that nose to the grindstone and work hard, God has a plan for you and you can do well in this country.”
Ron DeSantis credits his Catholic faith for keeping him grounded in truth. While he doesn’t publicly tout his faith, he and his wife Casey attend church regularly and make it a family priority.
"Our household is a Christ-centered household," DeSantis told CBN News. "We're raising our kids with those values. We think that that's very important...It’s great for us when our kids are coming back from preschool or kindergarten, talking about David and Goliath and we're like, thank you. So we're very, very appreciative of being able to do that...My son, he was four for Christmas this year, he wanted a sling to be like David slaying Goliath and so that really warms our hearts when we see that.”
Just like King David, DeSantis had to lean on his faith and prayer during his wife’s 2021 breast cancer diagnosis.
After undergoing treatment, Casey DeSantis is now cancer free.
The governor recalled, “There was a definite increase in her spirits once we went public and people started praying for us. Yes. Absolutely."
DeSantis faced tragedy back in 2015 when his sister Christina died suddenly, at just 30 years old. “She had a pulmonary embolism," DeSantis explains. "So it's difficult just because you're just thinking, why would that have to happen? Not that you want any illness, but it's like sometimes people are going through it. This was something, five days before it happened, was not even on our radar.”
Times like that can challenge anyone. For DeSantis, there’s a scripture verse he keeps central to his life. "I would point out, [Jesus said] 'I'm the way, the truth, and the life.' I mean, that's ultimately what the faith centers around. Yes, there's a lot of traditions and I think a lot of those are nice, but at the end of the day, where is your heart with respect to God and what is that relationship?”
DeSantis hopes to build a strong relationship with voters, especially evangelicals, in the early primary states of Iowa and South Carolina. Wins there could help put him on the path to the GOP nomination.
He has plenty of policy wins on his resume, including a pro-life Florida heartbeat law. He’s quick to point out how that distinguishes him from former President Trump.
"While I appreciate what the former president has done in a variety of realms, he opposes that bill," DeSantis told CBN News. "He said it was, 'harsh' to protect an unborn child when there's a detectable heartbeat. I think that's humane to do."
When asked if he thinks the former president is going soft on abortion in this specific regard, DeSantis replied, "I think so. I mean I was really surprised because he's a Florida resident and I thought he would compliment the fact that we were able to do the heartbeat bill, which pro-lifers have wanted for a long time. He never complimented, never said anything about it. Then he was asked about it and he said it was 'harsh.'”
Ultimately though, the DeSantis message to evangelicals on how to turn this country around is much bigger than one issue. “It’s got to be spiritual," DeSantis insisted. "And I think it's got to be a strong faith, that is really going to get us through very turbulent times.”
When asked if we need more God in society today, he responded quickly. "Absolutely. Look, at the end of the day, there's certain problems, economic problems, there's problems at the border, they are all very important, but why are we here?" he asked. "Why are we free people? We're free because God has endowed us with inalienable rights. That's why America was founded. Our Constitution was created, not to give us rights, but to protect the rights that God has already bestowed upon us.”
While DeSantis wants to spread that message today, looking back on history, he told us of another message that would have been great to witness.
"Could I have been there with Jesus's disciples?" he asked. "I mean, Peter's just fishing one day, and all of a sudden, this guy comes up to him, catches all the fish and says, 'I want you to be a fisher of men, come with me'; and so these guys all went out and they dedicated their life to spreading the Gospel...I look back at that and would love to have been able to be there with them."
Instead, he’ll be spreading a 2024 campaign message of conservatism guided by faith.
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