MIAMI Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s new running mate, introduced himself to the nation Saturday, speaking the language of the capacity crowd at Florida International University — Spanish, and Democratic politics.
The U.S. senator from Virginia, a former governor and Richmond mayor, took the stage with Clinton for the first time to deafening applause from the audience, where two-thirds of the students come from Hispanic backgrounds.
In the most emotional moment of his speech, Kaine held back tears when describing his role as governor on April 16, 2007, when a gunman killed 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech, before taking his own life.
“That was the worst day ... of my life.”
Near the end of his remarks, Kaine quoted “another Kansas City guy,” President Harry Truman.
“America was not built on fear,” Kaine said. “America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”
Clinton kicked things off, with Kaine taking a seat on the sidekick stool behind her.
“Senator Tim Kaine is everything Donald Trump and Mike Pence are not,” she said, referring to the Republican nominees for president and vice president who will be in Virginia Monday for a 3 p.m. town hall at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center.
She called Kaine “a progressive who likes to get things done,” adding: “That’s just my kind of guy.”
And she alluded to Kaine’s undefeated record as a politician as an indication that he must be doing something right.
“At every stage of his career, the people who know him best have voted to give him a promotion.”
Clinton and Kaine took turns during their remarks. She stood and spoke while he sat behind her on a stool, often clapping in support.
Kaine then stood and spoke without notes for more than 30 minutes, while Clinton took a seat. They appeared to have a comfortable rapport, with Clinton often smiling or nodding during his remarks.
Clearly humbled by the moment, with his wife Anne Holton seated just behind the elevated stage holding back tears, Kaine called himself the “luckiest dad and luckiest husband in the world.”
Also present for the rally was the couple’s oldest son, Nat, an officer in the Marine Corps who deploys to Europe next week.
Kaine gave a shout-out to St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, his home parish in Richmond, and said he and his wife will be home for Mass on Sunday morning.
Kaine’s fluency in Spanish is an asset to Clinton in diverse swing states such as Florida. In his remarks Saturday, he switched to Spanish early and often.
“Hello Miami, hello FIU,” Kaine said at the outset. “Bienvenidos a todos. Es nuestro pais. Verdad? Porque somos Americanos todos.”
In other words: “Welcome everyone. This is our country. Right? Because we are all Americans.”
In thanking Clinton for selecting him, Kaine again briefly segued into Spanish, saying the running mates will be “companeros de alma” — or soul mates.
Later, he told the audience, “Soy Católico,” which translates as “I am Catholic.”
“I’m feeling a lot of things today, mostly gratitude,” Kaine told the crowd.
The rally came two days before Democrats from across the country gather in Philadelphia to formally put forward their team for the November election.
In addition to reciting some of his personal story, Kaine took on the familiar role of most No. 2s — taking on the opposition.
“When Donald Trump says he has your back, you better watch out,” Kaine said. “From Atlantic City to his so-called university, he leaves a trail of broken promises and wrecked lives wherever he goes.
“We can’t afford to let him do the same thing to our country. And folks, we don’t have to, because Hillary Clinton is the direct opposite of Donald Trump.”
“She doesn’t insult people, she listens to them.”
Kaine acknowledged that many in the crowd didn’t know much about him or might not have even heard his name before Clinton named him as her running mate.
“Vice president was never a job I thought about, growing up in Kansas,” he said, running through his personal narrative. He told of growing up near Kansas City, the son of a dad who owned a welding shop. He spoke of his year as a Catholic missionary during a break from Harvard Law School that solidified in his mind that “I wanted to do something for social justice.”
He spoke of his courtship and marriage to Holton, their three children and his time as mayor of Richmond and governor of Virginia.
Marrying Holton, the daughter of former Gov. Linwood Holton, “remains the best decision of my life,” Kaine said. He said his wife, whom he met at Harvard Law School, was a better student of negotiation, which is how a “Kansas City kid” wound up in Richmond.
Kaine, who has never lost an election, said at one point that he welcomes a political challenge.
“I’m 8-0 and I promise you I’m not about to let that change,” he said.
Kaine, whose nomination has taken some criticism from the left, said he and Clinton will fight for “a strong, progressive agenda.”
Trump took to Twitter to criticize the new Democratic ticket.
“Just saw Crooked Hillary and Tim Kaine together. ISIS and our other enemies are drooling. They don’t look presidential to me!”
Clinton called Kaine a leader who cares more about “making a difference than making headlines.”
“Beyond that smile is a backbone of steel,” Clinton added.
She called Kaine “the proud father of three grown-up kids,” Nat, Woody and Annella.
She said he is “a loving husband of a brilliant wife,” calling Holton a progressive leader in her own right.
The nearly full FIU arena was adorned with large American flags and new, cornflower blue “Clinton Kaine” campaign signs to reflect the newly minted ticket.
Clinton supporters who didn’t know much about Kaine when he was introduced came away saying they liked what they saw and heard.
“I had no clue about him,” said Rudy DeOliviera, 33, who drove over from Miami Beach with his mother, Maria.
“We’re in love with him. He’s a humble person, with a good background. You can tell he loves the country — a family person.”
DeOliviera had thought earlier that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., would be a better choice, but said he realized she was “too lefty,” for a general election battle with Trump. Kaine, he said, fits the bill.
“We’re walking out of here happy.”
The Weitz family of Coconut Grove — Michael, Noah and Saralee — also didn’t know what to expect. But after hearing Kaine’s story, as told by Kaine, they seemed sold on the genial Virginian.
“He’s incredible,” said Micah. “The background, the work ethic, his speaking and accomplishment. The guy’s a superstar.”
“Approachable,” said teenager Noah Weitz.
“I had heard a rumor that he was boring,” said Saralee Weitz. “He was the opposite of boring.”
The campaign will make its way to Philadelphia next week for the Democratic convention. On Friday, the day after the convention concludes, they will hold a rally at Independence Mall, a part of the historic park north of Independence Hall.