Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) made his first speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, offering a sweeping defense of America’s role as an example and protector of liberties around the world.

Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, was the last of the new senators elected in 2010 to give his “maiden” Senate speech. That low-key approach made a sharp contrast to the campaign, when the telegenic young Republican was one of 2010’s biggest stories. It also contrasted with the approach taken by two other freshmen senators elected with tea party support: Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), both of whom have been very vocal in their first months.

In his speech, Rubio also charted a different course for America in the world. Instead of worrying about the cost of projecting U.S. power--as Paul, in particular, has done--Rubio said the world needed American strength.

His voice catching with emotion, Rubio quoted a speech written for President John F. Kennedy, during an era when the United States was at a historic peak of influence around the world. The speech, which Kennedy died before giving, called this country a “watchman on the walls of world freedom.”

“Almost half a century later, America is still the only watchman on that wall of world freedom. And there is still no one to take our place,” Rubio said.

Rubio said that launching another “American century,” would require not only the desire to influence the world, but improvements in the country’s economic and political health.

Here, Rubio was neither very partisan nor very specific, saying only that the country needed a simpler tax code, a plan to cope with its debt, and a reduction in burdensome regulations.

“If we can give America a government that lives within its means, the American economy will give us a government of considerable means,” Rubio said. He envisioned “a government that can afford to pay for the things a government should be doing, because it does not waste money on things it should not be doing.”

Rubio cited his own story as proof that the country nurtures grand dreams, mentioning that his parents were a bartender and a maid. After he finished, leaders from both parties praised both him and his rhetoric.

“No one is a better example of the American dream than he is. And no one expresses American exceptionalism better,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).