Kathryn Lopez

I suspect Marco Rubio hadn't time to read the statement before he took the stage, but he didn't need to. He has read the country's founding documents and he knows how they have helped make America great. He also looks around, and sees -- in his own state and elsewhere -- politicians and elected officials slouching toward something different: a push toward statism. Out with the flourishing of freedom, in with a behemoth of a welfare state. And Rubio doesn't like it, because he knows history and he knows how harmful that instinct has been. He knows, further, that the American identity leans toward and hungers for something else. Which is why he referred, in his CPAC speech, to the upcoming congressional elections as being about our "identity" as a nation. He was received as a rock star at the conference -- if I had a dollar for everyone who told me they got to shake his hand, I would be retiring at my young age -- not because he's a fresh new face, but because what he says rings true. It rings true to Americans who believe that there is something special about this country that, as Rubio puts it, keeps boatloads wanting to be a part of it.

In his speech to the same gathering, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney put it this way: "Ours is the creed of the pioneers, the innovators, the strivers who expect no guarantee of success, but ask only to live and work in freedom. This creed is under assault in Washington today. Liberals are convinced that government knows better than the people how to run our businesses, how to choose winning technologies, how to manage health care, how to grow an economy, and how to order our very lives. They want to gain through government takeover what they could never achieve in the competitive economy -- power and control over the people of America. If these liberal neo-monarchists succeed, they will kill the very spirit that has built the nation -- the innovating, inventing, creating, independent current that runs from coast to coast."

Those are not Republican values, Mormon values or white-millionaire values. They are rooted in a much deeper national consensus. They're the values that got Scott Brown elected in a state not known to be a bastion of Republican voters. They're the values upon which we were founded. They're the values that are sparking a renewal of civic engagement around the country. They're the values that are inspiring men and women to ask themselves what they can do -- even beyond raising the next generation to believe these things are worth respecting and fighting for to ensure that they exist beyond their own lifetimes. And, yes, they're values that even some white guys who worked in the Reagan administration love. And thank goodness for what they've done to help preserve them, here and around the world. With gratitude I join them, and I'm not alone.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.