TAMPA, Fla. — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio took to the podium Thursday night at the Republican National Convention to address the importance of the 2012 presidential election and introduce Republican nominee Mitt Romney. But he accidentally drank from surprise guest speaker Clint Eastwood’s water bottle before he got started.
Rubio reflected back on his family’s history and his disabled Cuban grandfather’s message: that as an American he could do anything.
“I don’t recall everything we talked about, but the one thing I remember is the one thing he wanted me to never forget: The dreams he had when he was young became impossible to achieve,” he said. “But there was no limit to how far I could go, because I was an American.”
Rubio said that like his grandfather, Romney understands America’s uniqueness.
“Mitt Romney knows America’s prosperity didn’t happen because our government simply spent more,” he explained. “It happened because our people used their own money to open a business. And when they succeed, they hire more people, who then invest or spend their money in the economy, helping others start a business and create jobs.”
Saying America is “blessed” that Romney will be the next president, Rubio explained that Obama is not a bad person but rather a bad president who has taken the country “backwards.”
“The new slogan for the president’s campaign is ‘Forward,’” he said. “A government that spends $1 trillion more than it takes in. An $800 billion stimulus that created more debt than jobs. A government intervention into health care paid for with higher taxes and cuts to Medicare. Scores of new rules and regulations. These ideas don’t move us ‘Forward’; they take us ‘Backwards.’”
There has not been real “hope” and “change,” Rubio said, but big government ideas that many immigrants, ironically, come to America to flee.
“’Hope and change’ has become ‘divide and conquer,’” he said, describing the pitfalls of class warfare and the importance of values, faith, and personal independence.
“America was founded on the principle that every person has God-given rights. That power belongs to the people. That government exists to protect our rights and serve our interests,” he said. “That we shouldn’t be trapped in the circumstances of our birth. That we should be free to go as far as our talents and work can take us.”
But Rubio showed understanding for Americans who are struggling in a troubled economy.
“Yes, we live in a troubled time,” he said. “But the story of those who came before us reminds us that America has always been about new beginnings. And Mitt Romney is running for president because he knows that if we are willing to do for our children what our parents did for us, life in America can be better than it has ever been.”
The Florida senator spoke of his parents’ humble beginnings and the struggles he watched them overcome.
“When you’re young, the meaning of moments like these escapes you. But now, as my own children get older, I understand it better,” he said, recalling that his father worked “behind a bar” so that his son, as an American, “could stand behind a podium in the front of a room.”
“That’s not just my story. That’s your story. That’s our story,” he said, reminding the audience of Romney’s family history.
“We are all just a generation or two removed from someone who made our future the purpose of their lives,” he said. “America is the story of everyday people who did extraordinary things. A story woven deep into the fabric of our society.”
And those stories of everyday people succeeding in great ways, he explained, are what Republicans believe the 2012 presidential election will be about.
“Do we want our children to inherit our hopes and dreams, or do we want them to inherit our problems?”
Romney, Rubio contended, will create the circumstances for prosperity as president.
“The story of our time will be written by Americans who haven’t yet been born,” he said. “Let’s make sure they write that we did our part. That in the early years of this new century, we lived in an uncertain time. But we did not allow fear to cause us to abandon what made us special.”