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NATIONAL HARBOR, MD, March 15, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL, touted his support for traditional values at 2013’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the yearly gathering of conservative luminaries and mostly young activists that this year was held on the sun-bathed banks of the Potomac River, at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort.

“Science has proven that life begins at conception,” said Rubio, speaking before a packed house in the Potomac Ballroom, which seats 5,500.

The crowd went wild, reacting with applause and cheering in response to Rubio’s remarks – which contained some of the very few mentions of social issues coming from the main stage on Thursday.

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While other prominent pols stuck to a narrow set of talking points focused largely on criticism of President Obama’s handling of the economy, foreign policy, and healthcare, the 41-year-old Rubio went off-script to voice his support for the dignity of life and traditional marriage.

“Just because we believe that life, all life, is human and worthy of protection at every stage of its development does not make us closed-minded,” Rubio told the crowd. “The people who are actually closed-minded in American politics are the people that love to preach certainty about science with regards to our climate but ignore the absolute fact that science has proven that life begins at conception.”

“Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in the traditional way does not make me a bigot,” he added.

Rubio said the root of most of society’s problems is in the destruction of the traditional family unit. “Don’t underestimate the impact the breakdown of the family is having on our culture and people,” he said. But he said it would take people, not government, to solve the problem.

“Government’s role in this is limited,” Rubio said.

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He suggested the solution to keeping families together and addressing social ills such as poverty, out-of-wedlock marriage, and violence is an increase in personal responsibility, family involvement, and church and community outreach. “We have responsibilities to each other,” said Rubio.

More than 8,000 people attended the event, which is sponsored by the American Conservative Union. Most of Thursday’s speakers were politicians rumored to be contemplating presidential runs in 2016, including Sen. Rubio.

In his remarks about the economy and foreign policy, Rubio raised the specter of China’s rising dominance in the world and warned his audience that staying ahead of China is about much more than economic competition.

Rubio slammed China's one-child policy, forced abortions, forced sterilizations, and other human rights violations. “This is the force they use against their own people,” he said. “And they want to be the leading country in the world, want to be the leading voice on this planet.”

“While we are here bickering in this country…there is a nation trying to supplant us,” Rubio said. He said that while he understood that many Americans were weary of “solving the world’s problems” and maybe even tempted to let someone else lead for a while, he believed no one else – least of all China – could lead the world better than the U.S.

At the conclusion of his speech, the senator attempted to predict the critical response to his remarks.

“Number one, I drank too much water,” Rubio joked, referring to an incident during his rebuttal to the State of the Union address, in which he leaned awkwardly out of frame to take a sip.

At CPAC, organizers teasingly provided him with several glasses of water at the podium, to which he said, “Let me just say I love the hospitality, but this is an exaggeration. One should suffice.”

Throughout his speech, every time he took a sip, the crowd cheered wildly. “Never in the history of the world has water been so popular,” Rubio quipped.

The second criticism would be that “I didn't offer any new ideas,” Rubio predicted. But the senator argued that new ideas might not be the way to fix old problems.

“There's the fallacy of it,” Rubio said. “We don't need a new idea. There is an idea – the idea called America – and it still works.”

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