Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Conservative Political Action Conference
Gaylord National
National Harbor, MD
March 6, 2014

[DEMOCRACY IN ACTION PARTIAL transcript / video]

...Thank you very much for that kind introduction.  Thank you.  It reminded me of that race, it reminded me of that race from a couple of years ago when I came to speak in January or February of that year, and I remember after getting elected—and let me tell you it's pretty impressive when you get to Washington, you go into these meetings, you start looking around the room, and you see so-and-so, they were on "Meet the Press," look at so-and-so, he ran for president, look at so-and-so—it's pretty amazing.  And you start wondering to yourself, man how did I get here?  And about six months later you look around the same room, and you say, man how did they get here? [laughter]  So we're at that phase now, but—

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you for a moment, what I think is really a critical moment in our country's history.  And I think you're going to hear that from every speaker tonight, but I wanted to take two points about why I think this moment is so critical.

First of all, let me share with you something that I hope you believe with all your heart.  And that is that while we are facing true challenges and real obstacles, there isn't a single nation on earth right now that I would trade places with.  There is no other country that I would rather be. [applause]  that doesn't mean we don't have challenges and problems to confront, and I'll talk about those in a moment.  But I am convinced that despite the bad leadership we're getting today, we are literally on the verge —if we make a few right decisions—of a new American century.

And I know that at CPAC it draws a lot of younger voters, a lot of younger Americans, and I want you to believe that that's possible because it truly is.  The opportunities of this new century are extraordinary, and they make possible for America its best moment ever.  Speaker after speaker will tell you that they believe our greatest days are yet to come.  I know that to be true, but we hve to overcome some of the challenges that we face.  And the good news is that they can be overcome.

Now our economy today is living through a moment of extraordinary economic insecurity.  This is happening as much as anything else because the global economy has completely transformed in our lifetime.

My grandfather used to remind me when he helped raise me that when he was born there weren't even airplanes in the sky.  Before he turned 70 an American had walked on the moon.  That's how much the world changed in 70 years.  Now realize that the world is changing even faster now than it ever has before.  And this presents real challenges for our economy, but it also presents real opportunities.

But that requires us to have a tax code that encourages investment, that encourages to deal with runaway regulations that are discouraging innovation, and that requires us to sell more of the products we have, particularly energy, to markets around the world that can now afford to buy American oil and natural gas.

This administration has failed in this regard because the policies they pursue have never worked, and they work less now than ever before.  They love to sell big government as a way to help those who are trying to make it.  What they don't tell you is that they actually hurt the people who are trying to make it.  Here's why they hurt them.  Big government—if you're a big corporation or a multi-billionaire, you may not like big government but you can afford to deal with big government.  You can hire law firms and lobbyists to influence that law or to help navigate it.  If you are trying to start a business out of the spare bedroom of your home—probably in violation of the zoning code—but if you're trying to start a spare business out of the bedroom of your home, you can't deal with runaway regulations and complicated laws. And that's why we're not getting the sort of innovation and investment our country desperately needs. 

Do you realize American companies have close to $4 trillion cash sitting in bank accounts.  That's more than the entire size of the German economy.  But they will not invest it in this country so long as we have a runaway debt, runaway regulations and a tax code that discourages investment in America and a health care law that must be repealed.

Because their policies fail, they resort to what the left always resorts to.  Dividing people against each other.  More than any other administration in modern American history, the go to Americans that are struggling and they tell them, the reason why you're worse off is because someone is doing too well.  It is someone else's fault that you're going through these difficult times, and the only solution is to give government more power to go after those people.  This disunity they've created in our country is unacceptable, and it is holding us back from that American century.  This notion that we're going to pit Americans against each other on issue after issue is something that we should never accept as a people because it's never been who we are and it isn't who we are right now. [applause]

But there are some other challenges that we face for—  We can overcome these economic challenges because the good news is that the primary cause of them is a president who is done in three years.

Our other challenges are a little more difficult.  And that involves the world around us.  And the events of the last few weeks remind us of exactly what it is we're talking about.  I grew up in an era where people used to tell us—I remember college professors in particular telling us—that we had to accept the spread of communism and the existence of the Soviet Union as a permanent thing.  That we needed to deal with that and perhaps even accept the notion that they would actually be on the rise while we would be on the decline.  Fortunately for us we had a leader in the White House that didn't accept that notion, and by my second year in college the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and so did the Soviet Union. [applause]

I want you to take a moment and take a look at the world around us today because it is truly as challenging as that period of time was to our country.

In Asia, China is making increasing territorial claims.  They claim they control islands that do not belong to them; in fact they claim they control almost the entire sea where a significant portion of world commerce traverses through there.

In North Korea, they not only have nuclear weapons, they're developing rockets capable of reaching the United States.

In Latin America, an illegitimate Venezualan government is slaughtering and killing innocent protesters in the street. 

And Cuba continues to be a dictatorship that oppresses its own people.

In the Middle East, Iran is acquiring or trying to acquire nuclear weapons and a capability to become the dominant power in the region.

Al Qaeda, which was once a cell of terrorists hiding out in caves, has now spread into five or six separate cells operating in twelve to thirteen countries.

And of course in Europe, Vladimir Putin is trying to reconstitute the power and the influence of the former Soviet Union.

I say this to you because of the number of young people that are here today.  I want you to extrapolate what the world would look like in ten years if this continues forward.  If you inherit a world where the Chinese get to decide who gets to ship products to the South China Sea and all the countries in that region are tributariates [phon.] to them, if you inherit a world where North Korea can blow up California or the West Coast of the United States with a nuclear weapon, if you inherit a world where Iran can reach the East Coast of the United States and can wipe Israel of the face of the earth with a nuclear attack, if you inherit a world where Russia continues to hold its neighbors hostage, not just because of its military capabilities but also because of dependency on Russian oil and gas—

And by the way what do all these countries have in common?  These are totalitarian governments.  All the problems in the world, all the conflicts of the world are being created by totalitarian regimes, who are more interested in forceing people to do what they want them to do than truly achieving peace and prosperity and respect for the rights of others.

I outline all of this to you for the following reason.  There is only one nation on earth capable of rallying and bringing together the free people on this planet to stand up to the spread of totalitarianism, there is only one nation on earth that can do that and that is ours.  The United Nations cannot do this; in fact they cannot do anything. [applause]

That doesn't mean that we're going to be involved in 15 wars or that American foreign policy needs to involve armed conflicts in every corner of the planet, it also doesn't mean we can solve every conflict.  But what I am trying to say to you is that without American engagement the world I just painted to you is not just a possibility, it is a real probability. 

And I don't like to make these issues of national security partisan, because it's important that our country be united in moments like this, but we cannot ignore that the flawed foreign policy of the last few years has brought us to this stage.  Because we have a president who believed but by the sheer force of his personality he would be able to shape global events, we have a president that believed that by going around the world and giving key speeches in key places he could shape the behavior of other nations and other people.

We do not have the luxury of seeing the world the way we hope it would be, we have to see the world the way it is, and we must address these issues before they grow unmanageable, and they threaten not just our freedoms, but our economy.  And that is the true challenge that we have in the 21st century.  And we must confront them with a seriousness of purpose that requires an American foreign policy deeply rooted in our values and in our moral principles, in the notion that every human being has rights given to them not by their governments or by their leaders.  A right that's given to you by your creator; all human beings have these rights.  By the principle that any government and any leader who violates those rights is an illegitimate one.

The president loves to point to Ronald Reagan and say well Reagan talked to Russia, Reagan talked to the Soviet Union, why can't we talk to Iran.  But there's a difference.  Reagan dealt with the Soviet Union because they had nuclear weapons and he wanted peace, but he never accepted the Soviet Union.  He called them what they were: an evil empire.  He never relinquished the moral arguments that what they did was wrong and unsustainable and contrary to the rights of all men.  He never ceded that ground.  He did not fall victim or in the trap of moral relativism in foreign policy, where we somehow look the other way at these violations of human rights that occur all over the world in these countries and accept them as a normal type of government, just a different type of government. 

There is nothing normal or acceptable about a government that does not allow you to worship as you please.  There is nothing moral or acceptable about a government that forces women to have abortions. There is nothing moral or acceptable about a government that slaughters people in the streets. There is nothing moral or acceptable about a government that jails political opponents.  There is nothing moral and acceptable about a governments that sponsor terrorism as a tool of statecraft and we should never accept any of those things as a legitimate form of government. [applause]

What I advocate to you on both of these fronts is that America must be involved in leading the world—not in dictating to the world, we don't want that role.  Americans have never wanted the role of telling other people what to do and quite frankly we would much rather just focus on our lives here and figuring out ways to do business and trade with people all over the planet in a fair way.  But we cannot ignore the reality of who we are, we cannot ignore the global importance of this nation, and we cannot ignore the implications to our future if we fail to step up to this call.

If you think high taxes and regulations are bad for our economy so is global instability and the spread of totalitarianism.  If you think that Obamacare is hurting our economy, it is.  So is Russia controlling the South China Sea—I'm sorry China controlling the South China Sea if in fact they ever have the ability to do that.

The foreign policy issues of our time have deep economic ramifications, but in order to exert that leadership, we need leaders that understand clearly what our role in the world is in an unapologetic way and we also need to be able to afford it, which means we have to have an economy that sustains it.

And the good news is that we have everything we need to succeed economically except the leadership in the White House.  We have all—  We've been blessed by God with natural resources.  We have been blessed with a hard-working and creative people.  We have been blessed with a free enterprise system of government that we need to reinvigorate, not undermine.  And if we do these things, we will have a strong economy that will not only sustain and provide for our people, but will make the world a safer and better place.

I always close these talks by reminding people don't take for granted what we have.  Don't fall into the trap that some of us do—and I count myself included—of taking for granted what we have in this country.  What we have in America is the exception not the rule in human history.  Almost everyone who has ever lived on this planet didn't get to choose their leaders, and they didn't get to choose their life either.  You were stuck doing whatever your family and your parents were stuck doing before you.  What made us exceptional and different is that here truly anyone from anywhere can accomplish anything.  And if we lose that it is so difficult to recapture it.  And that's something worth fighting for.

Every time I talk about how special America is, some commentator or whoever it may be will roll their eyes and say well that's just something Americans tell each other to make themselves feel good.  You have the right to believe that.  I don't have that option because I've seen it with my own eyes.

Let me close with the 30 seconds or 45 seconds that I have left with a story that I've rarely told, maybe once or twice in a public forum, but I wanted to share with you today and I thought it was appropriate to do here.  When I was running against Charlie Crist near the end of that campaign, my dad was diagnosed with cancer; he was very sick.  I reached the primary—I had, even though he switched parties as you recall he was an independent and now he's a Democrat; he's running out of parties—I had a primary; it wasn't very competitive but I had a primary. 

My dad at that point was nearing the end of his life.  I remember going by to see him that day.  I was going to win the primary, and my nephew answered the door with a big smile.  I said what are you smiling about.  He said come in and you'll see.  My dad had not been out of bed for a month and a half.  He was fully dressed, sitting in a wheelchair, because no matter how bad he felt that night he was going to go to my victory party.  Unfortunately that night by the end of the night he was too tired and he couldn't make it.  And I thought about, especially after he passed, why was that so important for him.  The normal answer is that was your day; he was proud of what you had achieved.  But I realized it was so much more.  You see my dad at nine years of age his mother died and he had to go to work, and he worked for 70 years.  He struggled.  He never made a lot of money.  He was never rich; he was never famous.  And I'm sure that in his darkest and most discouraging days he wondered what his life was all about. 

You know what gave his life purpose and meaning?  Is seeing us being able to do all the things he never could.  Giving us the chance to achieve the kind of life he perhaps wanted for himself, but that door never opened for them.  That was his American Dream, and this country made that possible.  That's why I know America's special, that's why I know she is different and that's why I know she is worth fighting for and saving and that's why I know that that's what we will do.  Thank you very much.  God bless all.  Thank you.