U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio told a gathering of evangelical Christian activists that he would work to transform the U.S. economy and tax system – as well as make the government more aware of the core values needed to make the nation strong.
“You cannot have a strong country without strong people,” the Florida Republican on Thursday told the event, which was organized by the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “You cannot have strong people without strong families. And you cannot have strong families with a government that strong-arms parents and our faith.”
The event was a must-stop among contenders for the GOP presidential nomination. Rubio is one of a dozen declared candidates, with several more waiting in the wings to determine if they’ll jump in as well. Rubio was warmly received by the crowd, although political experts say that other candidates have a deeper well of support among the party's evangelical base, which is vital in early states in the presidential nominating process.
His speech was a standard recitation of his life story and his goals if he were to be president. It’s a tale that starts with his parents coming to the U.S. from Cuba and ends with Rubio’s views on a muscular foreign policy and a need to get the government off the backs of businesses, taxpayers and families.
He emphasized the role of his family, led by his parents’ constant work to help build a better life for their children. On the campaign trail, he said, “I will see something that reminds me of my parents. Today it’s easy – I’m in a hotel banquet room, which is what my father did for many years as a bartender...It’s a reminder to me and hopefully to our audience that so much of what I’ve been able to do in this life – the opportunities that I’ve had – has been directly the result of the experience that they felt in this country.”
He was heckled briefly. Before the protesters were escorted out, Rubio turned the outburst into a lesson on how even rude dissent is allowed in the U.S. – unlike in Cuba, where somebody engaged in such an interruption would be quickly tossed in jail.
Outside of his references to faith and values, the audience heartily applauded his plans to revamp higher education, returning to a greater reliance on the kinds of jobs that are often marginalized today.
“We still need more welders, more plumbers, more electricians, more people to work the construction trades,” he said. “And for the life of me, I do not understand why we have stigmatized these good jobs that pay more than the job of a psychology major.”
He noted that “traditional college will still be available.”
“But I believe that before you take out a student loan, you should be told how much people make when they graduate from that school with that degree – so that you can decide if you want to major in Roman philosophy,” he said to broad laughter. “Because the market for Roman philosophers has been very tight for the last 1,500 years.”