Freshman GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, who has steadily become a central figure in today’s Republican Party, spoke at the Ronald Reagan Library Tuesday. His message: Americans want the nation to be free and prosperous, but also compassionate.

National Public Radio reports today that Rubio offered “coy answers to the question everyone in the press was there to see him answer: would you want to be vice president?” During the speech, according to NPR, Rubio “called for a political future that combines ‘prosperity and compassion.’ He mentioned ‘free enterprise’ about 40 times. He has apparently decided to bring back ‘compassionate conservatism,’ which, truth be told, isn’t a bad wine to rebottle.”

“We will not tolerate our children being punished for the errors of their parents and society,” Rubio said, adding that government programs “have weakened us as a people.”

“We built government and its programs without any account on how we would pay for it,” he said, adding that Americans in the 20th century built the most prosperous nation in the world, but also a government “we cannot afford to pay for.”

He assured his audience that “defining the proper role of government remains a central issue,” and that while Republicans blame President Obama, he has only “accelerated policies already in place and that were doomed to fail.”

Rubio said government must change because the role of government in America “cannot be sustained the way it is.”

Afforded what he called a “golden opportunity,” Americans have the opportunity to “craft a proper role for government,” to create a “collective vision” where “prosperity and compassion can live side by side.”

Rubio laid out what he called “principles” and “truisms”: The free enterprise system does not create poverty and does not leave people behind. “People are poor and people are left behind because they don’t have access to the free enterprise system.”

“The second truism that we must understand is that poverty does not create our social problems, our social problems create our poverty,” Rubio said.

Rubio said these truisms “are important because they lead to public policy that define the proper role of government,” adding that prosperity from a government perspective is growth, job creation and opportunity, “a tax code that is fair and easy to comply with” and “a regulatory framework that doesn’t exist to justify the existence of the regulators.” He said “government should build roads and bridges as part of infrastructure, not as a jobs program.”

Rubio said that “conservatism is not about leaving people behind,” it is “about empowering people to catch up,” to give them the tools to access “all the hope, all the promise, all the opportunity that America offers and our programs to help them should reflect that.”

He said he believes in America’s retirement programs, Social Security and Medicare. “But we must embrace public policy changes to these programs,” he said.

Watch the full speech:

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