My parents were both very special people who not only lived through the Great Depression and fought in World War II, but they were true embodiments of what has become known as the “Greatest Generation.”
My father and his older brother were orphaned in the 1920’s at a very young age. My mother, who was born in England, grew up in a boarding school. Her parents, due to the collapsing economy, were forced to leave her behind and move to India for work, which was a British colony at the time.
Like many people during this period, both my parents enlisted to fight in World War II. My mother was in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, and my dad was in the United States Army Air Force.
Growing up, I was one of five children. When I was 11, we moved to Florida, so my father could take over a concrete block business he purchased with two of his military buddies. My parents’ priority was their family. They came to our games, knew all of our friends, and made our house the center of their children’s social universe. Our house wasn’t fancy, but our friends loved to hang out there and eat my Mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches and play tennis and basketball on the court my Dad built for us.
Throughout my childhood, the most important lessons came while we were seated around the dinner table. After overcoming such extraordinary obstacles during one of humanity’s darkest periods, my parents instilled in us the importance of courage and philosophy. They stressed the importance of knowing what we believed was right and good—having a philosophy—and to have the courage to fight for it. My mother would say, “If you lack the courage to fight for what you believe, you are no better than someone who believes nothing.”
So, at every turn, both our parents challenged us to have a philosophy and to courageously fight for it when we could make a difference.
After graduating from Hudson High in Pasco and earning my Bachelor’s Degree from St. Leo University, I went on to law school at Regent University. It is there that I met my wife Anne, who was also studying law. My wife and I have practiced law together, and in her free time, she volunteered and founded a charter school in our community. Together, we have six kids ages 5 through 16: Kate, Jack, Caroline, Luke, Major, and Evangeline.
Early on in my education, I was fascinated by conservative philosophy and the role it played in history. It is during that period that I gained a deep appreciation for our nation and the miracle of our Constitution. There has never been a country more committed to liberty and justice than the United States of America.
Though our nation has undoubtedly made mistakes, her Constitution proves that the truth that the country was founded upon transcended the time in which it was written. The words in the Constitution have continued to move us closer towards fairness, righteousness, and freedom. It’s that truth that led me into politics, the practice of law, and to understanding my own philosophy, which I fight for today.
However, the early 90s were tough times in Florida for conservatives. We were a largely Democratic state, and Republicans struggled to gain a footing. I went to work at the grassroots level, helping Republican candidates at a time when there was a Democratic governor and Democrats controlled both houses of the Legislature.
From there, I worked closely with conservative Republicans with the goal of turning Florida red. In 1996, we did just that. I went to work for Speaker Dan Webster, the first Republican Speaker of the Florida House in 122 years. We started a conservative renaissance in Florida, which led me to continue serving as a top adviser to two more House Speakers, Tom Feeney and Marco Rubio.
In those roles, we passed landmark conservative legislation. We began the school choice movement; we cut taxes and regulations; and we began turning the tide on wasteful government spending.
But it wasn’t until 2010, when the conservative wave swept the country, that I was elected to serve. I joined other conservative leaders, like Governor Rick Scott, in Tallahassee and together, we crashed against the status quo.
We cut taxes by $7 billion, while also reducing our debt by $7 billion, becoming the #1 ranked state in terms of fiscal health. We added 1.4 million jobs and cut over 5,000 burdensome regulations. We fought in-state tuition for illegals and opposed sanctuary cities. We passed free market health care reforms giving more access and greater quality at lower costs.
I was then elected by my colleagues to serve as the Speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives—which has truly been one of the greatest honors of my professional career. When I first addressed the House chamber as Speaker, my message was simple: less talk, more action. I challenged our legislative body to take our conservative philosophy, know it, and have the courage to fight for it regardless of our opposition. I am proud to say we joined together and answered that call.
And during my time as Speaker, we passed one of the most transformative education bills in the nation. We went after corrupt judges and we won. We drained the Tallahassee swamp by instituting the most restrictive and transparent ethics rules in the entire country. And we ended the corporate welfare that gave taxpayer money to big, profitable companies.
These major conservative victories were accomplished because we knew what we believed—we had a philosophy—and we came together to courageously fight for it.
Now, as I enter my final legislative session as Speaker, my goals remain the same. We will take our conservative vision, the philosophy we hold deep, and we will fight for it. We will be transformative. And we will make sure that Florida keeps winning.