Special to the Times
Posted: Jun 14, 2011 05:35 PM
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio delivered his maiden speech on the Senate floor Tuesday. Here is the text of Rubio’s remarks, as delivered.
• • •
Thank you, Mr. President. I have the honor of representing the great people of the state of Florida here in the Senate. And today I speak for the first time on this floor on their behalf.
The Senate is a long ways away from where I come from, both literally and figuratively.
I come from a hard-working and humble family. One that was neither wealthy nor connected. Yet I’ve always considered myself to be a child of privilege because growing up I was blessed with two very important things.
I was raised by a strong and stable family.
And I was blessed to be born here in the United States of America.
America began from a powerful truth – that our rights as individuals do not come from our government. They come from our God.
Government’s job is to protect those rights. And here this Republic has done that better than any government in the history of the world.
America is not perfect. It took a bloody civil war to free over 4 million African Americans who lived enslaved. It took another hundred years after that before they achieved full equality under the law.
Many others decided they could not wait. And so they came here from everywhere, to pursue their dreams and to work to leave their children better off than themselves. And the result was the American miracle.
A miracle where a 16-year-old boy from Sweden came here with no English in his vocabulary and five dollars in his pocket. But he saved enough money to open up a shoe store. Today, that store, Nordstrom, is a multi-billion dollar global retail giant.
A miracle that led to a young couple with no money and no business experience to open up a toy company out of the garage of their home. Today, that company, Mattel, is one of the world’s largest toy manufacturers.
A miracle where the French-born son of Iranian parents created a website called AuctionWeb in the living room of his home. Today, that company, known as eBay, stands as a testament to the familiar phrase, “Only in America.”
These are just three examples of Americans whose extraordinary success began with nothing more than an idea.
But it’s important to remember that the American dream was never just about how much money you made. It is also about something that typifies my home state of Florida: the desire of every parent to leave their children with a better life.
And it is a dream lived by countless people whose stories will never be told. Americans that never made a million dollars, never owned a yacht, a plane or a second home. And yet, they too lived the American dream – because through their hard work and sacrifice, they were able to open doors for their children that had been closed for them.
It is the story of the people who clean our offices here in this building, who work hard so that one day their children can go to college.
It is the story of the men and women who serve our meals in this building, who work hard so that one day their children can accomplish their own dreams.
It is the story of a bartender and a maid in Florida. Today their son serves here in the Senate, and stands as a proud witness of the greatness of this land.
Becoming a world power was never America’s plan. But that’s exactly what the American economic miracle made her.
Most great powers have used their strength to conquer. But America’s different.
For us, our power always has come with a sense that to those that much is given, much is expected. A sense that with the blessings that God bestowed upon this land, came the responsibility to make the world a better place.
And in the 20th century, that is precisely and exactly what America did.
America led in two world wars so that others could be free.
While our military and foreign policy contributions helped save the world, it was our economic and cultural innovations that helped transform it.
The fruits of the American miracle can be found in the daily lives of people everywhere.
Anywhere in the world, when someone uses a mobile phone, email, the Internet or GPS, they are enjoying the benefits of the American miracle.
Anywhere in the world, when a bone marrow, lung or heart transplant saves a life, they are touched by the value of the American miracle.
And on one night in July of 1969, the whole world witnessed the American miracle firsthand.
For on that night an American walked on the surface of the moon, and it was clear to the whole world that these Americans… could do anything.
Clearly, America’s rise was not free of adversity.
We faced a civil rights struggle that saw Governors defy Presidents, that saw police dogs attack innocent, peaceful protesters, and that saw little children murdered in churches by bombs.
I grew up in the 1980s, a time when it was morning in America. Yet even then, we faced a war on drugs, we lost soldiers in Beirut and Astronauts on the Challenger. We faced a devastating oil spill in Alaska and a terrifying new disease called AIDS.
Through challenges and triumphs, the 20th century was the American century. A century where America’s political, economic and cultural exceptionalism made the world a more prosperous and peaceful place.
• • •
THE NEW AMERICAN CENTURY
But now we find ourselves in a new century. And there’s this growing sense that for America, things will never be the same. That maybe this century will belong to someone else.
Indeed, we do now stand now at a turning point in our history. One where there are only two ways forward for us. We will either bring on another American century, or we are doomed to witness America’s decline.
Another American century is fully within our reach, because there is nothing wrong with our people.
The American people haven’t forgotten how to start a business. The American people haven’t run out of good ideas.
We Americans are as great as we have ever been. But our government is broken. And it is keeping us from doing what we have done better than any people in the history of the world: Create jobs and prosperity.
If we here in Washington could just find agreement on a plan to get control of our debt, if we could just make our tax code simpler and more predictable, and if we could just get the government to ease up on some of these onerous regulations, the American people will take care of the rest.
If this government will do its part, this generation of Americans will do theirs. They will give us a prosperous, upwardly mobile economy. One where our children will invent, build and sell things to a world where more people than ever can afford to buy them.
If we give America a government that could live within its means, the American economy will give us a government of considerable means. A government that can afford to pay for the things government should be doing, because it does not waste money on the things government should not be doing.
If we can deliver on a few simple but important things, we have the chance to do something that’s difficult to imagine is even possible. An America whose future will be greater than her past.
• • •
WE ARE HEADED IN WRONG DIRECTION
But sadly, that’s not where we’re headed.
We have made no progress on the issues of our time because, frankly, we have too many people, in both parties, who have decided that the next election is more important than the next generation.
And our lack of progress on these issues has led to something even more troubling – a growing fear that maybe these problems are too big for us to solve. Too big for even America.
• • •
Well, there is no reason to be afraid.
Our story, the story of America, it is not the story of a nation that never faced problems. It is the story of a nation that faced its challenges and solved them.
Our story, the story of the American people, is not the story of a people who always got it right. It is the story of a people who, in the end, got it right.
We should never forget who we Americans are.
Every single one of us is the descendant of a go-getter. Of dreamers and of believers. Of men and women who took risks and made sacrifices because they wanted their children to live better off than themselves.
And so whether they came here on the Mayflower, on a slave ship or on an airplane from Havana, we are all descendants of the men and women who built here the nation that saved the world.
We are still the great American people. And the only thing standing in the way of solving our problems is our willingness to do so.
• • •
AMERICA’S FATE MATTERS TO THE WORLD
And whether we do so or not is of great consequence. And not just to us, but to the whole world.
I know that now some say that times are so tough here at home that we can no longer afford to worry about what happens abroad. That maybe America needs to mind its own business.
Well, whether we like it or not, there is virtually no aspect of our daily lives that is not directly impacted by what happens in the world around us. We can choose to ignore global problems, but global problems will not ignore us.
You know, one of my favorite speeches is one that talks about our role in the world. It was the speech that President Kennedy was set to give had he lived just one more day. It closes with these words:
“We in this country, in this generation, are- by destiny rather than by choice- the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago “except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”
Almost half a century later, America is still the only watchman on the wall of world freedom. And there is still no one to take our place.
Well, today people all over the world are forced to accept the familiar lie that the price of security is our liberty.
If America declines, who will serve as living proof that liberty, security and prosperity can all exist together?
Today, radical Islam abuses and oppresses women. It has no tolerance for other faiths, and it seeks to impose its will on the whole world.
If America declines, who will stand up to them and defeat them?
Today, children are used as soldiers and trafficked as slaves.
Dissidents are routinely imprisoned without trial. They’re subjected to torture and forced into confessions and labor.
If America declines, what nation on the earth will take these causes as their own?
What will the world look like if America declines?
Who’s going to create the innovations of the 21st century?
Who will stretch the limits of human potential and explore the new frontiers?
And if America declines, who will do all these things and ask for nothing in return?
Motivated solely by the desire to make the world a better place?
The answer is no one will. There is still no nation or institution on this planet that is willing or able to do what America has done.
• • •
THE WORLD STILL NEEDS AMERICA
Ronald Reagan famously described America as a shining city on a hill.
Now, some say that we can no longer afford the price we must pay to keep America’s light shining.
Others like to say that there are new shining cities that will soon replace us.
I say they’re both wrong.
And yes, there are new nations emerging with prosperity and influence. And that is what we always wanted.
America never wanted to be the only shining city on the hill. We wanted our example to inspire the people of the earth to build one of their own.
You see, these nations, these new emerging nations, these new shining cities, we hope they will join us, but they can never replace us. Because their light is but a reflection of our own.
The light of an American century that now spreads throughout the earth.
A world that still needs America.
A world that still needs our light.
A world that needs a new American century.
And I pray with God’s help, that will be our legacy to our children and to the world.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
Marco Rubio is a United States senator representing Florida.
[Last modified: Jun 15, 2011 01:12 AM]
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