MANCHESTER, New Hampshire – Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy spoke with Breitbart News in an exclusive interview Wednesday about his roots in America’s rustbelt, detailing the impact that family, hard work, and religion had in helping forge the man he is today as he looks to spark a revival of “American exceptionalism.”
Ramswamy, 37, announced his candidacy for the presidency on Tuesday with a populist-focused launch video, asserting that the United States is enduring a “national identity crisis” resulting from a void in purpose and meaning as American society has veered from the values of “faith, patriotism, hard work, and family.” Ramaswamy shared with Breitbart News that these themes played a crucial role during his “middle-class” upbringing in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The highly successful entrepreneur, who founded multiple biotech companies and reportedly accumulated an estimated net worth of $600 million by the age of 31 in 2016, recounted to Breitbart News how the perseverance and hard work of his parents, immigrants from India who came to America with little, still leaves him baffled.
His father worked at a General Electric (GE) plant in Evendale, just north of Cincinnati, and the candidate recalled turbulent times for his family as a child in the 1990s when “[former GE CEO] Jack Welch instituted a whole round of layoffs at” the plant.
It “created some real job insecurity risks for our family, and so that was, probably, one of the more stressful parts of growing up,” Ramaswamy said. “But my dad ended up finding an opportunity to keep a stable career there if he went to law school and got a law degree. And so he went to night classes and went to law school at Northern Kentucky University after a full day at work for four years, while my mom also held a full-time job and their two kids. And honestly, as the dad of two kids now, I have no idea, I have zero idea how they did that.”
Ramaswamy laughed that when he was in sixth grade, he often sat in the back of a lecture hall at Northern Kentucky University while his father studied law to become a patent lawyer. Other times, he and his brother would be playing piano at a nursing home while their mother worked as a geriatric nurse with Alzheimer’s patients.
“That’s kind of how piano became a staple in our upbringing,” he said.
He told Breitbart News that “growing up in… an immigrant household” there “was an immense focus on education.” He attended public schools during his elementary school and middle school years, noting that education was not necessarily the focus of some of his peers, as some “came from more difficult backgrounds.”
“I think that there was a difficult decision my parents had to make when I was finishing eighth grade. They weren’t quite, you know, in a position of wealth to be able to comfortably pay for private school,” he explained. “At the same time, they wanted to put us in a position that we were able to pursue academic excellence, and so they nonetheless made the decision to then send me to St. Xavier High School.”
Ramaswamy, who eventually graduated as valedictorian from the Catholic high school, said the experience “was life-altering in a good way,” as he took an interest in theology as a study, finding “commonality” between catholicism and Hinduism, his religion.
“You know, I think the idea of me being a non-Catholic in a Catholic school, alone, or one of the lone Hindus in that school, really forced me to understand and inhabit a religious perspective that was different than my own, and actually, then to rediscover a commonality on the other side of it,” he explained. “And so that was, I think, like, we had such a rigorous family with respect to like academics, like ‘Study science, study math,’ but then at St. X, we like studied religion the same way.”
“I think that almost caused me to view it a little bit differently than classmates who, you know, maybe had grown up in it, and vice versa,” he said. “And maybe if I had gone to Hindu school, it would have been the same way for me ‘like, okay, whatever.’ Whereas, you know, it wasn’t that way for me at St. X, and so that’s part of why I had such an affinity for the school and actually remain on the board of the school today.”
From there, he attained a biology degree from Harvard and a Law degree from Yale and founded “multibillion-dollar companies while getting married, raising a family, and following my faith in God,” as he noted in his launch video. However, he then stated that “The sad part is if I had been born 20 years later, I think my story would have been impossible.”
Ramaswamy expanded on that sentiment Wednesday evening.
“The fact that I was able to succeed in the system of free market capitalism, while also getting married, while also creating a family, while also following my faith in God – and while not apologizing for those things – I think that was unique to the moment that I lived in relative to the 20 years since then,” he said. “And, you know, frankly, the fact that that’s true, it makes me sad, but also, it’s part of what motivates me to do this.”
“I think the American moment demands an answer to the question of individual identity,” he told a handful of reporters at the Red Arrow Diner earlier in the day. “What does it mean to be a citizen of a nation, and what does it mean to be a citizen of this nation? That’s the whole ball game right now. That’s the whole ball game in this campaign, but I think that’s the whole ball game of where this country’s at too… Rediscover what America is; that’s the real question.”