Exclusive: Marco Rubio's 'An American Son'

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," June 22, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Tonight for the hour I will be joined by one of the most talked about elected officials in the country, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who, earlier this week released his brand new autobiography, it's called "An American Son." And he is here in studio.

And you'll also hear later from his wife and his kids. They're seated right there in our studio audience. But first, we welcome the senator from the great state of Florida. How are you, Senator?


HANNITY: Good to see you

RUBIO: Thank you.

HANNITY: Senator Rubio.


RUBIO: Thank you.

HANNITY: You know, I've learned so much about you in this book. And one of the things you really highlight is how difficult your grandparents, the life that they had, the life of your parents and how fortunate you are.

And you had even one -- at one point in the book, said I'm -- I'm not half -- half the man my grandfathers were.


HANNITY: My father was.


HANNITY: You had doubt, at one point. Tell us about their lives.

RUBIO: Well, first of all, I think that there's this misconception that the immigrant story is one of instant success. And it's not in this country, very rarely. In fact, in many instances, people come and work all their lives and -- and barely get ahead more than where they when they got here.

But -- but what they do is they're able to leave their kids with every opportunity they didn't -- they didn't have. Now, in my parents' case, when they first got here, they were discouraged for a number of years, in fact, thought about going back to Cuba when, initially, people thought Fidel was actually going to be a good thing.

Ultimately, they had to settle here and accept it and -- and -- and accept that this was their -- their new life. They're very grateful to this country for that opportunity. And because of their hard work, because of their sacrifices, they were able to give me the chance to do all the things that they had to give up on for themselves.

HANNITY: You know, to me, it was the quintessential American story. You talked about your mom. She wanted to be an actress.


HANNITY: And she had to settle for being a maid for most of her working life. You talk about your father. He had other aspirations, but he was a bartender for, what, 70 years -- for -- for most of his adult life --

RUBIO: Right.

HANNITY: -- or a big part of his adult life. And you even have a picture in the book about your dad. He wanted to be a business owner. Tell us what their goals for you were.

RUBIO: To be whatever it is I wanted to be. They never had a specific job in mind. They wanted me to have dreams and they wanted me to pursue those dreams and to have the real chance to do it. And I think that was true for me and it was also true for my brother and my two sisters. That's what they wanted for us.

And, you know, one of the things a book forces you to do, when you sit down and you have to research your parents and who they were and where they came from and how their journey here began, you learn -- you -- you meet these people you've never met before. You meet -- you realize that your parents were once your age. And when they were your age, they had hopes, they had dreams, just like you did.

And for some parents, it becomes impossible. In my -- in the case of my parents, the circumstances that they faced coming here -- a new country, didn't know anybody, didn't know the language, didn't have much of an education. But the purpose of their life became I want my kids to be able to do all the things we weren't able to do. Whatever their dreams are, that's what we want them to do. It was never to be a senator or to be an actor or to be an athlete. It was whatever we desired. And I -- and I think that is really a testament to America.

HANNITY: You talk about the night that you were elected senator and you watched your mother walk up the stairs --


HANNITY: Just before you gave your speech. Tell everybody about that.

RUBIO: You know, that was her -- that night was her birthday.


RUBIO: And I thought about what a different place that was from where she was just three, four decades before. My mom was born into a family that struggled. You know, my grandfather actually did OK for a while. And overnight, he lost his job running one of the railroad stops in Cuba and was thrown into -- into poverty because he was a disabled man.

And in rural Cuba in the 1940s and '30s, there was no -- there was no unemployment. There was no welfare. There was no food stamps. What there was is you got up in the morning and you got any work you could find in the hopes of getting enough money that day to feed your kids. And he was disabled, so there wasn't a lot of work around for a disabled man back in -- in that time, as you can imagine.

He struggled. And I thought about how far removed that was from where we were that evening, where I rose to a very, you know, distinguished position and an honor -- honorable one in the greatest nation in all of human history. And I just thought what a testament that was to my grandfather, to my mother and to this country.

HANNITY: It -- you talked about your father had died two months prior --


HANNITY: -- to the night you became senator. But you said he died believing you would win.

RUBIO: Yes, I think -- well, he got to vote in the primary and I think he knew at that point that we had kind of turned the corner on that race. And I like to tell people, my dad did see what happened that night, he just didn't see it on television. He saw it -- he had a better --

HANNITY: He had better seats.

RUBIO: He had better seats. And, you know, in -- in so many ways, again, my -- my dad was -- I'll tell you, he was obsessed with your show. He would TiVo it every night or DVR the "Hannity" show every night, because he thought I was on every night. And I told him, no, I'll let you know when I'm going to be on and --

HANNITY: Now, why -- why are you trying to take away viewers from me (INAUDIBLE)?


RUBIO: Well, I -- I'm sure they get --


RUBIO: -- I'm sure they get your show where he is now, too.

But -- but my point is that, you know, he wasn't a political guy. I mean, he wasn't -- in terms of someone that loved politics and followed it. He cared about it and he certainly never pushed me in that direction. But he showed his pride in the attention he paid, especially at the end of his life. And my mom would talk about -- I mean he had Fox on 24-7 just in case I came up for 30 seconds in -- in some interview somewhere.

So I think he was proud of what we accomplished, because as, A, we were his kids. And all parents are proud of what their kids accomplish. But I -- I talk in the book about when I first ran for office in the city of West Miami. And that's a very small city, so you -- the way you run there is you knock on doors. You go door to door. And it was during that time, going into the living rooms of my neighbors, a lot of elderly Cuban-Americans, that I got to know who I really was and who my generation was.

And invariably, those conversations turned to when they were young and the hopes and dreams they once had for themselves and how that was lost to them because of history. And it became the purpose of their lives to give their children and their grandchildren every chance they didn't have. In essence, what gave their life meaning at the end of their lives, what -- what -- what was their statement that they mattered, that they had been here, was what we were now able to do in our own lives or through the lives of their kids. And I think it was the first time that I really began to understand that my generation of Cuban-Americans were the heirs of two generations of unfulfilled dreams.

HANNITY: You know, it's interesting you say that, because I've been going through Ancestry.com. And the things my -- my grandfather, in 1940, earned $600 in this country, came to the country in the early part of the last century. It's -- it's fascinating, you know, what you learn about them and how we really stand on their shoulders, on the shoulders of our grandparents, great grandparents and our parents.

You even told the story, an interesting background about your grandfather, from a broadcaster's standpoint, is that part of his job was to read the news --


HANNITY: -- in a factory where they were rolling cigars so that it would -- it would keep them working.

RUBIO: The early part of the book --


RUBIO: -- details my family's history, back to the birth --


RUBIO: -- of my grandfather in 1899, when the U.S. still basically governed Cuba, up until 1902.

My grandfather, when he was born into a large rural family, there were a lot of kids. And they -- one of the reasons why they have a lot of kids is to help work the farm. But my grandfather was stricken with polio at a very young age, so he -- he lost the use of one of his legs. He couldn't work the farm. So he was the only one of his siblings that got sent to school and learned how to read.

And when he lost his job at the railroad station, one of the jobs he took up was he'd go to this cigar factory where they would roll cigars and they would hire him to sit at the front of the factory and read the newspapers to the workers. And then afterward, novels, to the workers.

And from that, he picked his lifelong -- first of all, he learned a lot, obviously, covering history as it was happening and -- and later reading the classics. But he also picked up this lifelong passion for reading and for learning, which, years later, he would share with me on the porch of our home as he smoked one of his three daily cigars --


RUBIO: -- at the -- in the porch of our home in Las Vegas. He would talk to me about history. And invariably, that turned to politics.

HANNITY: And -- and, also, it wasn't an easy time for your father, who, at nine years old, had to begin his work life and take care of younger siblings.

RUBIO: That's right. His mom died when he was only nine. And literally within hours or days, he went to work and he never stopped working. His first job that I talk about was at a small little cafe just around the corner where the -- he had found some money or a wallet and he turned it in. And one of the guys playing dominos there, it was owned by some Spaniards that accused him of stealing the wallet. And the owner chastised the guy and told them, don't accuse this kid, he's an honest kid. Did you see he turned the wallet over to you?

And he said, hey, kid, do you want a job here bussing tables and helping out? And that's where he started to work. And, unfortunately, a few months later, he got fired for -- for taking a chocolate bar without asking for permission.


RUBIO: But --

HANNITY: The things you learn.

RUBIO: -- just think about it, that he was nine years old.


RUBIO: And instead of being in school, he was working. And he worked virtually until the time, you know, he -- he passed away. That's a -- that's a lot of work.

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