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Biden Administration

Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 20, 2021
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. RUBIO. Mr. President, at noon today, Joe Biden was sworn in as our new President. I never served with President Biden when he was a Senator, but I can tell you, from direct and firsthand experience, that he is a man of tremendous empathy. I have witnessed it. And so I pray that God will bless him with strength, with health, and with wisdom, because I don't need to tell anyone that we, in our Nation, are living in troubled times.

President Trump was elected and then, in this last cycle, received 75 million votes, in part because he spoke to and was brutally honest about some of the grievances and the fears that are now dividing our country. It is important to understand that he didn't create them, and that is why his exit alone is not going to make America normal again.

The troubles we face and the things that now divide us really aren't so much about politics or about ideology. If you look into them, they are really more about the things that are at the core of our identity as a nation and as a people.

Our people want a country where everybody has the opportunity to find a good job, to get married, to live in a safe neighborhood, to not go into debt because they have a baby, to send their kids to a good school, and one day to retire with dignity and security. But we have millions of Americans who increasingly feel that that kind of life and those kinds of things are out of reach for them, and they are really frustrated that neither those in government or either political party seem to be doing much about them.

The people need a sense of belonging and purpose, but the places that we used to get that from--our families, the community groups we joined, the synagogues, the churches--many of them are in collapse. So now you have millions of people who feel isolated or alienated and some who are turning to hyperpartisan politics and even online conspiracy cults to fill the void that those institutions once filled.

The overwhelming majority of Americans reject racism and bigotry and discrimination. But they also reject identity politics, which constantly seems to want to divide us against and apart from each other on the basis of race and ethnicity and gender.

We are a nation that is proud of our heritage as a nation of immigrants, but millions of Americans--I would say the majority--also believe we are a nation that has to have immigration laws. They need to be followed, and they need to be enforced.

Most Americans accept that our country, our society is changing, and they understand that there are people with different views and different ways of life. What they do resent is efforts to demonize and to persecute those who hold the traditional values that are inherited from our Judeo-Christian heritage.

Most Americans believe decency and morality require that everyone is entitled to dignity and to respect. But there are also many growing increasingly tired of walking on eggshells of political correctness and forced to undergo sensitivity training because everyone seems to be so easily offended these days by everything.

People understand that we have to do something. It is a problem. We have do something about people who use social media to spread dangerous lies, to instigate violence. But I think they also have a right to be very troubled that five CEOs of technology companies--five people in five companies, elected by no one, accountable to no one--have the power, if they so choose, to wipe out, to silence anyone--even a President.

And I would tell you that, almost without exception, they were horrified--horrified--about what happened here 2 weeks ago today. They want those people in jail. But they also wonder: Where was that outrage when this summer, in multiple cities, across a number of months, there were people setting fire to police cars and breaking into police stations and attacking courthouses and looting private property?

I will tell you that they see firsthand every day the extraordinary damage being done by this terrible pandemic and the damage being done by our bitter divisions, which, frankly, I think most Americans will never understand why the first thing we are going to do here, potentially, is an impeachment trial of a President who isn't even in office anymore.

What happened today was incredibly important. The pageantry, the rituals behind it--it matters. And for the 59th time in our history, we peacefully transferred power from one leader to the next. I think the fact that that happened on the very steps of this Capitol, where just 2 weeks ago on this day we saw an unimaginable attack on democracy, that should serve as a reminder to all of us in this country and a powerful message to the world that our Republic remains resilient.

But now the hard work of self-government begins, and these anxieties I have just described--the tens of millions of Americans--need to be acknowledged, and they need to be addressed. If they are ignored, if they are allowed to fester, what it will do is it will leave us not just a nation that is paralyzed and can't take action on important issues; we are going to be left a nation that remains vulnerable to those who are willing to exploit and stir the most destructive impulses.

Today, President Biden struck important tones of national unity, and I believe they were sincere. But pursuing a radical agenda in a country so divided does not serve the cause of unity. It will only serve cynicism that destroys trust.

By the same token, continuing to fan the flames of grievances or, in the alternative, pursuing vengeance disguised as accountability will not serve the cause of unity either. That is nothing but the politics of resentment and retribution, which only leads to a fractured nation of people who literally come to hate each other.

Demanding that the other side in a debate on a topic, on a principle, agree with you on everything isn't unity. That is the arrogance of believing that any of us--that we are the sole holders of the truth: Anyone who agrees with us is good, and anyone who disagrees with us is wrong--not just wrong but, actually, evil.

The truth is that real unity isn't everyone having the same ideology or the same views or the same ideas. The unity we need actually comes from remembering--remembering who we actually are.

We Americans are not a racist or nativist people. We are a good and compassionate people who--in an overwhelming majority, they do not ask about race when they donate unwrapped toys so that no child has to wake up on Christmas morning with no present under the tree. They don't ask where a soldier's or sailor's or airman's or airwoman's parents came from when they put together and send care packages to them halfway around the world that they defend. We Americans are a bold people. In our veins literally runs the blood of pilgrims, of settlers, of exiles, of immigrants, of people who overcame slavery and segregation. We are the descendants of people who refused to surrender to fear and to abandon the hope of a better life.

We Americans are not the inheritors of an American dream that is some prize that we have to fight against one another for in some winner- take-all competition. We are the inheritors of an American dream that anyone can achieve without it being denied to someone else.

This is who we were when this country inspired and changed the world, and I hope this is who we will be again: a people who disagree over principles, who argue over policies--that has to happen because our Republic depends on every view having a voice and every voice having a place to be heard--but also a people who now understand that the choice before us is, we will either find a way to share a nation and a future, or we will all share the condemnation of history and the rebuke of Americans yet to come.

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