Marco Rubio in person is like his book, America Dreams — inspiring, passionate, engaging, personal and a public policy proposal firehose. He brought all of that to RedState Gathering in Atlanta Friday, and the crowd of conservatives responded enthusiastically.
Early in his remarks, he grabbed the third-rail and talked about reforms to Social Security that would not only preserve it for future generations (including his own) without affecting current retirees (like his Mom), but would also lead to an economic revival by relieving the crushing weight of debt from our economy.
His youth, he says, will set him off from Hillary Clinton, but his forward-looking, innovative, technology-embracing attitude may do so even more. The best jobs of the 21st century will be here in America if we break the higher-education monopoly, refocus on vocational education, and realize that though we’ll be ordering our McDonald’s meals from a touchscreen, the people who make those touchscreens will make a lot more money.
One of his proposals would enable private investors to fund college education for individuals based on their performance and job prospects. Of course, this would have an effect on what students choose to study.
Or as Sen. Rubio said dryly, to much laughter, “The market for Greek philosophers has tightened over the past 2000 years.”
Tying domestic policy to national defense, Rubio said that we cannot pursue that better future if we are not safe, and that’s why “America must remain the strongest military power on the planet.”
“Radical jihadists have spread across multiple continents and dozens of countries, including the United States,” he said, “and we need to find them before they find us. They will not stop. They will not go out of business. They must be defeated.”
Finally, he connected his macro vision for the future with an intimate vision for families.
“You can’t have a strong country without strong people, and you can’t have strong people without strong values — hard work, discipline, self control, respect for others. These have to be taught, and instilled and reinforced. Why are these values eroding? Because the family’s eroding.”
Shifting to the personal, Rubio notes that some candidates come from privilege, but he thinks he did too, just not in the sense of wealth. He comes from privilege, he says, because he was raised by two parents who stayed together and who loved him and his siblings.
“We have to have a government that’s pro-family, and a tax code that no long punishes families,” Rubio said. That includes safety net programs that don’t punish you for staying married, and that reward work or training toward a job.
“We need to protect those institutions that helps us instill those values,” he said, referring to faith communities, and that brought him to civil and constitutional rights.
This country needs a president who will “protect and defend the right of every American to live out the teachings of their faith at work, at home and in their businesses. ”
The climax of his speech tied these threads together, noting that technology brings a world of customers to our door like never before, but warning “only America can lead the way,” because of our faith heritage, respect for human rights, and equal justice under law. In the vacuum that would be created by America’s absence, China or Russia would step in, and the entire world would step backward.
The child of Cuban immigrants who worked all their lives to make life better for their children, Rubio says with deep feeling, “America doesn’t owe me anything. But I have a debt to America that I can never repay.”
It struck me then that Marco Rubio is, in a sense, the personification of the American dream, and a stark contrast to Barack Obama, a man who speaks of his success as if it came despite America, rather than because of it.