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'Help the poor,' Miami lawmaker urges young sons in poignant House farewell speech

Florida Legislature

On what was likely his final day in the Florida House, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz chose to speak to his young sons, Dominick and Christian.

"Your father is the luckiest man in the world," he began.

The Miami Republican was taking the rare step of giving his legislative farewell speech one year early -- because he expects to be either Miami U.S. attorney or in the state Senate (or out of office entirely) by the 2018 session.


Most lawmakers wouldn't get that sort of accommodation before they've even resigned from office. But Diaz, known as Pepi, is one of the best-liked House Republicans, the chairman of the influential regulatory affairs committee, and the head of the powerful Miami-Dade County delegation. He wanted to say goodbye, and he did.

Diaz delivered a poignant speech to lawmakers -- "some of my closest friends in the world are in this room" -- but mostly to his boys, whom he calls "tornadoes." He thanked his Cuban parents, who immigrated "with nothing."

"I was never supposed to be here, because as a kid I spoke funny, didn't believe in myself, and I let others define my expectations of myself," Diaz said. "I pray that you realize that helping others is everything. There are rich people, and there are poor people. Help the poor ones. Help the disadvantaged. Help the sick. And don't do it because someone is watching. Do it because it will make a difference in their lives, not yours."

In a speech more personal than political, Diaz offered his sons life advice.

"Don't be afraid to cry," Diaz continued, his own voice about to break. "It means that you are alive."

"Love early, love often, and love profoundly so that your heart dances," he added. "Be careful with your words. They are your strongest weapon. They protect you, but they also leave lasting scars."

When he concluded, he received a standing ovation. And then some of his friends -- led by Miami Reps. Carlos Trujillo, Jeanette Nuñez and Michael Bileca, approached him one by one to give him hugs.

Photo credit: Mark Wallheiser, Associated Press