These are remarks, as delivered, by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, at an Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event April 25, 2015 in Waukee, Iowa.
Thank you. You know after a long day I usually write some notes down, so I can be clearer on my speeches. So, the good news is that I found my notes in my jacket. The bad news is that you’re not the National Trucking Association. So, I’ll do the best I can. I appreciate you having me.
It’s an honor to be here today at this event, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you at this important time in our nation’s history. So, you know for most of human history the vast majority of people who have ever lived have lived in a society that tells them that they can only be what their parents were before them. That you can only go as far as your family before you went. My parents knew that condition. They were both born into poor families in Cuba in the early part of the twentieth century. My father lost his mother when he was nine. He went to work to support his family, and he would work for the next seventy years of his life. My mother was one of seven girls raised in rural Cuba by a father disabled by polio as a young child, who struggled to provide for his girls his entire life. Yet, in 1956, they took it upon themselves to come to the one place on earth where people like them could have a chance. They came here to the United States of America. In America, my parents were never rich and they were never famous, but they were successful. Because just a generation removed from that despair, working as a bartender and a maid, my parents achieved what came to be known as the American dream. A dream that has never been about how much money you make, how famous you become, or how many things you own. It’s about achieving happiness, and about leaving your children better off than yourself.
Why were my parents able to achieve this? They were able to achieve it because in 1956 they came to America during the American century. The twentieth century was the American century. And the reason why the twentieth century was the American century begins at our founding. You see, unlike all these other nations in human history, ours was not founded on a political idea. Our nation was founded on a spiritual principle. And here’s the spiritual principle it was founded on: That every single human being was born with rights given to them by God, to life, and to liberty and to pursue happiness. This is a principle that sometimes we, I include myself, who have only known this country, may take for granted. But in most places on earth they believe that your rights come from your government, and from your laws. But ours was founded on the belief that your rights come from your creator and from God. Guided by that fundamental truth, at the turn of the nineteenth century, faced with a rapidly changing world, that generation of Americans made a choice. They had to choose whether they resisted industrialization or embraced it, whether they feared the future or wanted to be a part of it. And, they chose to embrace the future. They chose to embrace industrialization and because they did, less than a hundred years later America was the most powerful nation on the earth. Two times in the last century America saved the world from evil. It confronted and defeated Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, and then, again, during the Cold War it defeated Communism. And, economically in the twentieth century, gave birth to the American dream that my parents lived, that I’ve lived, and that so many of you lived. This was the America that I grew up in. This was this extraordinary nation that changed the world.
But now there are millions of people who are beginning to doubt whether that’s still true about us. Why do they feel that way? Because every day they turn on the news and they read about somewhere else in the world evil is winning and we seem helpless to do anything about it. Radical Jihad spreads from North Africa through the Middle East into Afghanistan, Pakistan, even Indonesia. Iran continues to carry out its nuclear ambitions. North Korea has nuclear weapons trying to claim to own the South China Sea. And we seem incapable of responding to these issues. And making it even worse, they are confused. How can it be that our President shows more respect for the Ayatollah in Iran than for our allies in Israel? And here at home, people have doubts, too. Why? Because they are working as hard as they ever have but they are living paycheck to paycheck, one unexpected expense away from disaster. Or, maybe they are a young student who went to school and they got a degree and now they owe a bunch of money in loans but they have a degree that doesn’t lead to a job. Or, maybe they are trying to start a small business but they can’t because they are buried under mountains of regulation and taxes. The result is extraordinary uncertainty that’s now overcome our country.
The question is, how can this be happening? How can this be happening to this most extraordinary place? This nation without parallel or equal in all of human history. And, the answer is, we have the wrong people running it. We have too many leaders in charge who have forgotten the fundamental truths. The fundamental truths that government is no replacement for the family, or for our churches, or for our homes. That laws are no replacement for our values. They’ve forgotten fundamental truths that the world is a safer and a better place when America is the strongest country on earth, when our military is the most powerful military on the planet. But we also have leaders who have economic policies trapped in yesterday. Who do not realize that this twenty-first century economy is dramatically different from the one we leave behind, and it has displaced a lot of people. And, the result is the stagnation that now faces our country.
But I am here tonight to tell you that there’s good news. The good news is that despite these many challenges, I believe with all my heart, I really do, that our nation is on the verge of another American century. That I believe the twenty-first century will be even better than the twentieth century if we do a few simple but important things. It begins by turning the page on these leaders that are trapped in yesterday. By turning the page on these people that have forgotten, not just our fundamental truth, but the reality that while America has always been proud of its history, we have always been about the future. And applying the truths of our founding to the challenges of our time to do two things: The first is to reinvigorate our economy. And, to do that we must understand how different this economy is from the economy we leave behind.
Today, we are engaged in a global competition with dozens of countries, and we are holding ourselves back because of tax policies, and regulations, and a national debt that hamstrings our ability to grow. That is why we need tax reform, and regulatory reform, and energy reforms. So that once again we can become the most attractive place on earth to invest and innovate. And, if we do this, Americans will do what they have always done. They will create millions of better paying jobs. Not just new jobs, better paying jobs. Adjusting to the twenty-first century also means accepting that automation and technology have changed the nature of work. In this new economy machines have replaced the jobs that people once did. The good news is this new economy is creating new jobs that pay more than ones it’s replaced. But we have too many people who do not have the skills needed for those jobs. That’s why we need to graduate more people from High School ready to go to work as welders, and plumbers, and electricians, and airplane mechanics. These are good jobs with good pay, and we should not be stigmatizing them. That’s why we need to create a higher education system that people who have to work full time have access to. So that the single mother who has to work full time and raise her family can also go to school at night, on weekends, and on-line, and go from being a receptionist to a paralegal, from a home health aide making nine dollars an hour to a dental hygienist making sixty thousand dollars a year. And, we need to reform traditional higher education as well. We can no longer afford to graduate people from school with loans and degrees that do not lead to jobs. And, that’s why I believe that before any of our young people take out student loans that school has to tell you how much you can expect to make when you graduate from that degree, from that school. So, people can decide whether it’s worth borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to major in basket weaving. My apologies to the basket weavers, but winning in this twenty-first century requires us to embrace fundamental truths, as well.
And, here’s one we should never forget: You cannot have a strong country without strong people. And, you cannot have strong people without strong values. The thing is no one is born with strong values. Values have to be taught to you. They are taught to you in the most basic cell of society, the family. And they have to be reinforced by the voluntary groups and churches in our community that help parents raise their children. The social and economic well-being of our people are inextricably linked. And it should not surprise us that our country struggles economically when families are falling apart. It should not surprise us to learn that the single greatest contributor to poverty today is the disintegration of American families. And, we need leaders that understand this fundamental truth. Even if government’s role in it might be limited, it certainly is important. We should never have any policies that stand in the way of families. We should never have any policies that stand in the way of marriage. And, in this whole debate about the definition of marriage, I remind everyone that marriage as an institution existed before even government itself. That the institution of marriage is one man and one woman existed before our laws existed. And, that thousands of years of human history teach us a very simple truth: The ideal setting in where to raise children and instill in them values is when a mother and a father married to each other, living in the same home, raise those children together.
These fundamental truths also require us to accept that the world needs a strong America. That only America is capable of rallying the people of the world to take collective action to face down evil. And there’s always been evil, but never in so many places in so many different ways. Radical Islam, Iran’s hegemonic ambitions, China’s illegitimate territorial claims, Vladimir Putin’s efforts to re-litigate the end of the Cold War. All of these things require strong American leadership, which we cannot exert as long as we eviscerate military spending, which is what we are doing now. We are placing our nation in a dangerous position, unable not just to respond to the threats of today but the growing threats of tomorrow. We are the only nation that is not modernizing its nuclear weapons. We are the only nation that is not building the aircraft, the long range bombers, the additional aircraft carriers, the nuclear submarines that we need for our national defense. And, we will pay a heavy price for this. Every single time this nation has done this, it has had to come back and reverse it and it costs more money and it is more dangerous. And, we cannot be a strong country if we are ambivalent about our allies and we are accommodating to our enemies, because our allies are watching. And, you know what they say to themselves? If this is the way America treats Israel, a country with extraordinary support in Washington D.C., imagine what they will do to us.
And this is the position they have put us in. But imagine if we had leadership in this country that reinvigorated America on the global stage. Imagine if we had policies that once again understood that the family is the most important institution in society. Imagine if we had policies that would help us reinvigorate our economy and give our people the skills they need to succeed in the twenty first century. If we had these things then the twenty first century will also be an American century. And we won’t just save the American dream. We will expand it to reach more people and touch more lives than ever before.
I will close by saying that these elections in 2016 are not simply a choice about what laws we’re going to pass, or what Party will be in charge. The election of 2016 is a straightforward question: What kind of country are we going to be? I want this to be a special country. I chose to run for president at this time in our history and at this time in my life because, while America owes me absolutely nothing, I have a debt to this country that I will never repay. America is not just the nation I was born in. It’s the nation that literally changed the history of my family.
One of the most influential people in my life was my grandfather. I don’t often talk about him, but I chose to tonight because I think it’s right on point. My grandfather, as I pointed out earlier, was disabled by polio as a child. He went to school. He was the only person in his family to learn how to read. He was ambitious. He was talented. He had big dreams. And they were all impossible for him because his parents were not politically connected. Because he didn’t know the right people. Years later, as I was growing up, my grandfather would live with us. He would sit on the porch of our home and smoke three daily cigars. He lived to be eighty-four. And I would sit on that porch with him and listen to his stories. He taught me about history. He loved America. He commented how this country, he remembered… long before he was a citizen, long before he was fully in this country, he was an American. He marveled that a man who was born in 1899 when airplanes didn’t exist sat in front of a television in 1969 and watched an American walk on the moon. And he concluded from that, that Americans can do anything. But he taught me something else, not directly per se, but in the lessons that he instilled in me. He taught me that I was blessed and privileged to be a citizen of the one place on earth where even the son of a bartender and a maid could have the same dreams, and the same future, as the children of millionaires and people who were politically connected. He wanted me to believe that anything I wanted in life would be possible. That all the things that were never possible for him would be possible for me. Because I was a citizen of a special place. On nights like tonight I recall how proud he would be if he was here tonight. I remember the last day of his life because I rode with him to the hospital. And, I held his hand as he slipped away. And I know that he couldn’t respond, but he could hear me when I promised him, what I said at the time in Spanish was “I promise you that I would study.” That was a big deal to him. But what I really meant and what he really meant was he wanted me not to waste the opportunities I had that he never did. Because he understood how special an opportunity I had. And in the back of his mind, I’m sure he wondered what he could have become if he had had the opportunity to grow up in this exceptional nation.
And the reason why I say that to you tonight is because that is the country I think we owe those who follow us to inherit. This is the country that those of us inherited. We have a special obligation to leave that sort of nation behind for those that will follow. And whether America will remain special or not will not be determined by how many rich people we have. Every country has rich people. Whether America remains special or not will be determined by whether people can do for their children what your parents did for you. And what my parents did for me. I believe that it is this generation’s calling not just to restore the promise of America but to expand it, to reach more people than it has ever reached before. And, I have no doubt in my mind that we will. For Americans have always been about a better future, that is who we still are. We’ve had bad presidents before, we’ve had bad governments before, but we have always overcome and we will again. This generation will turn the page, and we will do for our children what our parents did for us. Leave for them the single greatest nation in the history of all mankind. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you. I appreciate it. Thank you.