In 1980, I watched my first Republican convention with my grandfather.
He was born to a farming family in rural Cuba. Childhood polio left him permanently disabled.
Because he couldn’t work the farm, his family sent him to school, and he became the only one in the family who could read.
As a boy, I would sit on our porch and listen to his stories about history, politics and baseball while he puffed on one of his three daily Padron cigars.
I don’t recall everything we talked about, but the one thing I remember, is the one thing he wanted me to never forget. The dreams he had when he was young became impossible to achieve.
But there was no limit to how far I could go, because I was an American.
For those of us who were born and raised in this country, it’s easy to forget how special America is. But my grandfather understood how different America is from the rest of the world, because he knew what life was like outside America.
Tonight, you’ll hear from another man who understands what makes America exceptional.
Mitt Romney knows America’s prosperity didn’t happen because our government simply spent more. It happened because our people used their own money to open a business. And when they succeed, they hire more people, who then invest or spend their money in the economy, helping others start a business and create jobs.
Mitt Romney’s success in business is well known. But he’s more than that.
He’s a devoted husband, father and grandfather. A generous member of his community and church.
Everywhere he’s been, he’s volunteered his time and talent to make things better for those around him.
We are blessed that soon, he will be the president of the United States.
Our problem with President Obama isn’t that he’s a bad person. By all accounts, he too is a good husband, and a good father — and thanks to lots of practice, a pretty good golfer.
Our problem is he’s a bad president.
The new slogan for the president’s campaign is “Forward.”
A government that spends $1 trillion more than it takes in.
An $800 billion stimulus that created more debt than jobs.
A government intervention into health care paid for with higher taxes and cuts to Medicare.
Scores of new rules and regulations.
These ideas don’t move us “Forward,” they take us “Backwards.”
These are tired and old big government ideas. Ideas that people come to America to get away from. Ideas that threaten to make America more like the rest of the world, instead of helping the world become more like America.
Under Barack Obama, the only “Change” is that “Hope” has been hard to find.
Now millions of Americans are insecure about their future. But instead of inspiring us by reminding us of what makes us special, he divides us against each other.
He tells Americans they’re worse off because others are better off. That people got rich by making others poor.
Hope and Change has become Divide and Conquer.
No matter how you feel about President Obama, this election is about your future, not his. And it’s not simply a choice between a Democrat and a Republican.
It’s a choice about what kind of country we want America to be.
As we prepare to make this choice, we should remember what made us special. For most of history almost everyone was poor. Power and wealth belonged to only a few.
Your rights were whatever your rulers allowed you to have. Your future was determined by your past.
If your parents were poor, so would you be. If you were born without opportunities, so were your children.
But America was founded on the principle that every person has God-given rights. That power belongs to the people. That government exists to protect our rights and serve our interests.
That we shouldn’t be trapped in the circumstances of our birth. That we should be free to go as far as our talents and work can take us.
We are special because we’ve been united not by a common race or ethnicity. We’re bound together by common values. That family is the most important institution in society. That almighty God is the source of all we have.
Special, because we’ve never made the mistake of believing that we are so smart that we can rely solely on our leaders or our government.
Our national motto is “In God we Trust,” reminding us that faith in our Creator is the most important American value of all.
And special because we’ve always understood the scriptural admonition that “for everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.”
We are a blessed people. And we have honored those blessings with the enduring example of an exceptional America.
I know that for so many of you, these last few years have tested your faith in the promise of America.
Maybe you are at an age when you thought you would be entering retirement. But now, because your savings and investments are wiped out, your future is uncertain.
Maybe, after years of hard work, this was the time you expected to be your prime earning years. But instead, you’ve been laid off, and your house is worth less than your mortgage.
Maybe you did everything you were told you needed to do to get ahead. You studied hard and finished school. But now, you owe thousands of dollars in student loans. You can’t find a job in your field. And you’ve moved back in with your parents.
You want to believe we’re still that place where anything is possible. But things just don’t seem to be getting better. And you are starting to wonder if things will ever be the same again.
Yes, we live in a troubled time. But the story of those who came before us reminds us that America has always been about new beginnings.
And Mitt Romney is running for president because he knows that if we are willing to do for our children what our parents did for us, life in America can be better than it has ever been.
My mother was one of seven girls whose parents went to bed hungry so their children wouldn’t. My father lost his mother when he was nine. He left school and went to work for the next 70 years.
They emigrated to America with little more than the hope of a better life.
My dad was a bartender. My mom was a cashier, a maid and a stock clerk at K-Mart. They never made it big. They were never rich. And yet they were successful. Because just a few decades removed from hopelessness, they made possible for us all the things that had been impossible for them.
Many nights I heard my father’s keys jingling at the door as he came home after another 16-hour day. Many mornings, I woke up just as my mother got home from the overnight shift at K-Mart
When you’re young, the meaning of moments like these escapes you. But now, as my own children get older, I understand it better.
My Dad used to tell us: “En este pais, ustedes van a poder lograr todas las cosas que nosotros no pudimos” “In this country, you will be able to accomplish all the things we never could.”
A few years ago during a speech, I noticed a bartender behind a portable bar at the back of the ballroom. I remembered my father who had worked for many years as a banquet bartender.
He was grateful for the work he had, but that’s not the life he wanted for us.
He stood behind a bar in the back of the room all those years, so one day I could stand behind a podium in the front of a room.
That journey, from behind that bar to behind this podium, goes to the essence of the American miracle — that we’re exceptional not because we have more rich people here.
We’re special because dreams that are impossible anywhere else, come true here.
That’s not just my story. That’s your story. That’s our story.
It’s the story of your mother who struggled to give you what she never had.
It’s the story of your father who worked two jobs so doors closed for him would open for you.
The story of that teacher or that coach who taught you the lessons that shaped who you are today.
And it’s the story of a man who was born into an uncertain future in a foreign country. His family came to America to escape revolution.
They struggled through poverty and the great depression. And yet he rose to be an admired businessman, and public servant.
And in November, his son, Mitt Romney, will be elected President of the United States.
We are all just a generation or two removed from someone who made our future the purpose of their lives.
America is the story of everyday people who did extraordinary things. A story woven deep into the fabric of our society.
Their stories may never be famous, but in the lives they lived, you find the living essence of America’s greatness. To make sure America is still a place where tomorrow is always better than yesterday, that is what our politics should be about.
And that is what we are deciding in this election.
Do we want our children to inherit our hopes and dreams, or do we want them to inherit our problems?
Mitt Romney believes that if we succeed in changing the direction of our country, our children and grandchildren will be the most prosperous generation ever, and their achievements will astonish the world.
The story of our time will be written by Americans who haven’t yet been born.
Let’s make sure they write that we did our part. That in the early years of this new century, we lived in an uncertain time. But we did not allow fear to cause us to abandon what made us special.
We chose more freedom instead of more government.
We chose the principles of our founding to solve the challenges of our time.
We chose a special man to lead us in a special time.
We chose Mitt Romney to lead our nation.
And because we did, the American Miracle lived on for another generation to inherit.