Florida Sen. Marco Rubio launched his presidential campaign Monday with a speech at Miami’s Freedom Tower.
Here is a transcript of the full remarks.
After months of deliberation and prayer about the future of our country, I have come here tonight to make an announcement on how I believe I can best serve her.
I chose to make this announcement at the Freedom Tower because it is a symbol of our nation’s identity as the land of opportunity. And I am more confident than ever that despite our troubles, we have it within our power to make our time another American Century.
In this very room five decades ago, tens of thousands of Cuban exiles began their new lives in America. Their story is part of the larger story of the American miracle. How, united by a common faith in their God given right to go as far as their talent and work would take them, a collection of immigrants and exiles, former slaves and refugees, became one people, and together built the freest and most prosperous nation ever.
For almost all of human history, power and wealth belonged only to a select few. Most people who have ever lived were trapped by the circumstances of their birth, destined to live the life their parents had. But America is different. Here, we are the children and grandchildren of people who refused to accept this.
Both of my parents were born to poor families in Cuba. After his mother died when he was nine, my father left school to go work. My mother was one of seven girls raised by a disabled father who struggled to provide for his family.
When they were young, my parents had big dreams for themselves. But because they were not born into wealth or power, their future was destined to be defined by their past. So in 1956 they came here, to the one place on earth where the aspirations of people like them could be more than just dreams.
My father became a bartender. My mother a cashier, a maid and a Kmart stock clerk. They never made it big. But they were successful. Two immigrants with little money or education found stable jobs, owned a home, retired with security and gave all four of their children a life far better than their own.
My parents achieved what came to be known as the American Dream. But now, too many Americans are starting to doubt whether achieving that dream is still possible:
Hard working families living paycheck to paycheck, one unexpected expense away from disaster…
Young Americans, unable to start a career, a business or a family, because they owe thousands in student loans for degrees that did not lead to jobs…
And small business owners, left to struggle under the weight of more taxes, more regulations and more government.
Why is this happening in a country that for over two centuries has been defined by equality of opportunity?
Because while our people and economy are pushing the boundaries of the 21st century, too many of our leaders and their ideas are stuck in the twentieth century.
They are busy looking backward, so they do not see how jobs and prosperity today depend on our ability to compete in a global economy. So our leaders put us at a disadvantage by taxing, borrowing and regulating like it’s 1999.
They look for solutions in yesterday, so they don’t see that good-paying modern jobs require different skills and more education than the past. They blindly support an outdated higher education system that is too expensive and inaccessible to those who need it most.
And they have forgotten that when America fails to lead, global chaos inevitably follows, so they appease our enemies, betray our allies and weaken our military.
At the turn of the 19th century, a generation of Americans harnessed the power of the Industrial Age and transformed this country into the leading economy in the world. And the 20th century became the American Century.
Now, the time has come for our generation to lead the way toward a new American Century.
If we reform our tax code, reduce regulations, control spending, modernize our immigration laws and repeal and replace ObamaCare, the American people will create millions of better-paying modern jobs.
If we create a 21st century system of higher education that provides working Americans the chance to acquire the skills they need, that no longer graduates students with mountains of debt and degrees that do not lead to jobs, and that graduates more students from high school ready to work, then our people will be prepared to seize their opportunities in the new economy.
If we remember that family – not government – is the most important institution in society, that all life deserves protection, and that all parents deserve to choose the education that’s right for their children, then we will have a strong people and a strong nation.
And if America accepts the mantle of global leadership, by abandoning this administration’s dangerous concessions to Iran, and its hostility to Israel; by reversing the hollowing out of our military; by giving our men and women in uniform the resources, care and gratitude they deserve; by no longer being passive in the face of Chinese and Russian aggression; and by ending the near total disregard for the erosion of democracy and human rights around the world; then our nation will be safer, the world more stable, and our people more prosperous.
This election is not just about what laws we will pass. It is a generational choice about what kind of country we will be.
Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for President by promising to take us back to yesterday.
But yesterday is over, and we are never going back. We Americans are proud of our history, but our country has always been about the future. Before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America.
We can’t do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past. We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them.
That is why today, grounded by the lessons of our history, and inspired by the promise of our future, I announce my candidacy for President of the United States of America.
My candidacy might seem improbable to some watching from abroad. In many countries, the highest office in the land is reserved for the rich and powerful. But I live in an exceptional country where even the son of a bartender and a maid can have the same dreams and the same future as those who come from power and privilege.
I recognize the challenges of this campaign, and the demands of the office I seek. But in this endeavor as in all things, I find comfort in the ancient command to, “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
I have heard some suggest that I should step aside and wait my turn. But I cannot. Because I believe our very identity as an exceptional nation is at stake, and I can make a difference as President.
I am humbled by the realization that America doesn’t owe me anything; but I have a debt to America I must try to repay. This isn’t just the country where I was born; America is the place that changed my family’s history.
I regret my father did not live to see this day in person. He used to tell me all the time: En este pais, ustedes van a poder lograr todas las cosas que nosotros no pudimos.
“In this country, you will achieve all the things we never could.”
On days when I am tired or discouraged, I remember the sound of his keys jingling at the front door of our home, often well past midnight, as he returned from another long day at work. When I was younger, I didn’t fully appreciate all he did for us, but now as my own children grow older, I fully understand.
My father was grateful for the work he had, but that was not the life he wanted for his children. He wanted all the dreams he once had for himself to come true for us. He wanted all the doors that closed for him to be open for me.
My father stood behind a small portable bar in the back of a room for all those years, so that tonight I could stand behind this podium in the front of this room.
That journey, from behind that bar to behind this podium, is the essence of the American Dream.
Whether or not we remain a special country will depend on whether that journey is still possible for those trying to make it now:
The single mother who works long hours for little pay so her children don’t have to struggle the way she has…
The student who takes two buses before dawn to attend a better school halfway across town…
The workers in our hotel kitchens, the landscaping crews in our neighborhoods, the late-night janitorial staff that clean our offices … and the bartenders who tonight are standing in the back of a room somewhere…
If their American Dreams become impossible, we will have become just another country. But if they succeed, the 21st Century will be another American Century. This will be the message of my campaign and the purpose of my presidency.
To succeed on this journey, I will need your prayers, your support, and ultimately, your vote. Tonight I am asking you to take that first step with me, by joining us at marcorubio.com.
My wife Jeanette and my four children are here tonight. The next 19 months will take me far from home. I will miss watching Amanda run track, Daniella play volleyball, Anthony play football and Dominick play soccer.
But I have chosen this course because this election is about them. Theirs is the most important generation in American history. If we can capture the promise of this new century they will be the freest and most prosperous Americans ever. But if we fail, they will be the first generation of Americans to inherit a country worse off than the one left for their parents.
The final verdict on our generation will be written by Americans not yet born. Let us make sure they record that we made the right choice. That in the early years of this century, faced with a rapidly changing and uncertain world, our generation rose to face the great challenges of our time.
And because we did, there was still one place in the world where who you come from does not determine how far you can go.
Because we did, the American miracle lived on.
And because we did, our children and theirs lived in a new American Century.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.