Janesville, Wisconsin (CNN) – Back in his high school gym in Janesville, Rep. Paul Ryan's voice cracked when he recognized so many familiar faces in the crowd.
"It's very moving," said Paul as he looked around the packed gym that included family, friends and acquaintances, as well as homemade signs and people, including his son Sam, who were wearing cheesehead hats spray-painted with Romney-Ryan logos.
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His first hometown rally since he became Mitt Romney's running mate on August 11 was supposed to be a send-off rally for the Tampa-bound vice presidential nominee who is scheduled to deliver his speech to the Republican National Convention Wednesday night.
Like so many people whose travel plans got postponed because of Tropical Storm Isaac, which is churning into a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, Ryan and his family will travel to Tampa on Tuesday as opposed to Monday evening.
"And while we take stock of our community, I think we should right now put in our minds and our prayers the people who have been victims of Hurricane Isaac and those who will stand in the path of the storm," said Ryan.
His remarks Monday offer a glimpse into themes he might address in the convention speech he has been crafting for weeks with speechwriters John McConnell and Matthew Scully.
"Friends, family this is a defining moment for our country. This is not an ordinary election this is not an ordinary time. We have a big choice to make. We're not just picking the next president for a few years. We are picking the pathway for America for a generation," he said.
As an example of the town's resilience, Ryan talked about General Motors closing an assembly plant after the 2008 economic crash that cost the area thousands of jobs.
"You know we always used to say as GM goes so goes Janesville. Do you remember that statement? You know what? We've been hit hard, we got a hard knock, but we are hardy people and we will recover from this."
He talked about a couple of friends who lost jobs but learned new skills. "That's the kind of thing we need to do is pick ourselves up, help people in need, give them the job training skills they have, flourish entrepreneurs and small businesses so that people can get back on their feet," Ryan said.
Ryan and wife Janna are raising their three children, 10-year-old Liza, 9-year-old Charlie and 7-year-old Sam in the same neighborhood he grew up in where they are surrounded by extended family members.
He said at one time he and his brother Tobin counted 67 cousins living in Janesville. "It helps you win a town like that," the seven-term congressman joked.
Near the beginning two hecklers briefly disrupted Ryan's speech but they were quickly drowned out by people shouting "USA!" and were blocked with Romney-Ryan campaign signs before local law enforcement escorted them out of the gym.
Ryan shared a story about his ancestors from Ireland, who like many other immigrants sought after a better life in the United States.
In his family's case it was a result of the potato famine in the 1850s.
"And it's not a unique story, it's the American story, and the reason our family came here, the reason everyone else's family came here is because of what this country stands for. America is not just a piece of geography, it's an idea," he said.
It was summertime when his great-great-grandfather settled in Wisconsin and bought a farm in Janesville. According to Ryan, it reminded him of Ireland.
"Then came winter and he said, 'Oh crap,'" Ryan delivered in his best Irish accent.
Growing up in Janesville, now with a population of more than 60,000, taught the vice presidential hopeful the importance of community and helping neighbors in need.
"And what we do in our communities is we look out for one another, that's what's so special, that's what government can't replace or displace," said Ryan before listing a number of non-profit groups in the area.
"We have crisis pregnancy centers, community nursing homes like Saint Elizabeth's," he added. "These are the things we do in our communities that bring us together, to help our neighbors in need. You know they call it a civil society. I call it Janesville, Wisconsin."
After the rally at Craig High School, Ryan was going to spend the rest of the day working on his convention speech, according to a campaign aide.
Asked how the speech was coming along, "It's going great," Ryan told CNN.
Last week Ryan reminded reporters that he used to be a speechwriter for New York Rep. Jack Kemp.
"I've done a lot of speechwriting the past, words matter a lot and I'm putting a lot of effort into them," he said on Aug. 22.