So begins Rubio's 100 year journey
Standing before the portrait that will hang in the House for a century, Speaker Marco Rubio displayed his charm, humor and self-styled passion for big ideas in a long, emotional farewell.
"I always wanted us to be focused on what people are taking about when they are at dinner," said the 36-year-old Miami Republican, the first Cuban-American to attain such power in the Legislature.
“I've always been motivated by the hope that I can be an advocate for what I believe is right to do. I leave here today with full peace in my heart because I know I have done my best, the best I can do, I have tried and done. I just hope it was good enough.”
But the most heartfelt moment came when Rubio told the story of his parents growing up poor in Cuba – his father sleeping on a bed made from wood crates, his mother playing with dolls fashioned from Coke bottles - and coming to America to raise a family that prospered while their own dreams went unfulfilled.
Rubio paused, crying.
“And to this day, to this very day, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel like I’m living three lives in one. Like I’m not trying to accomplish all the things they could not do. And it drives me in everything I do.
"I've been distracted almost my entire life by this obsession to do all the things they couldn’t to do. ... So if I look a little hyper or a little focused, governor,” he said look at sometimes adversary Gov. Charlie Crist in the front row, “and sometimes I drive a little too hard, I just want you to know what’s driving me. I want them to know that their lives mattered."
The houlong ceremony included speeches from some of Rubio's friends and colleagues.
Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, recounted that how as a college student in 1996 he was visited by Rubio, who was then working on the Bob Dole campaign. "His energy and charisma were overwhelming," Lopez-Cantera said. "It was that day I decided to make politics part of my life."
Ray Sansom, the incoming speaker, noted Rubio's place in history, observing how his portrait will be hoisted onto the wall and slowly make its way around the chamber as new speakers are honored.
"It will take 100 years before Speaker Rubio ends up in the men's bathroom," Sansom joked. Shortly before pulling off the crimson-colored cloth covering the portrait, Sansom said, “I will always look up at that and I will smile because out of all the gifts you have, you have a way to make sure we have fun.”
By Alex Leary
Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio gets a hand bop from Florida Governor Charlie Crist during Rubio's farewell speech on the floor of the House. It came after Rubio suggested lawmakers pass a bill next year mandating that every household have HDTV. [All photos: Scott Keeler, Times]