Remarks at the Every County Counts Kickoff in Council Bluffs, Iowa


Spoken by

Hillary Clinton

Thank you all so much.

It is such an honor to be here, back in Council Bluffs, with all of you, especially with friends like Connie Gronstal and her daughter Kate and her husband Mike. Connie’s a great leader of my campaign. Both she and Kate have been just devoted and working hard. I’m sure they’ve harassed a lot of you to be part of the team we’re putting together. And I also am absolutely overwhelmed personally to have my friend of 25 years, Bob Kerrey, endorse me with such a vote of confidence.

As Connie said, Bob has given a lifetime of service to our country. He has literally been on the front lines fighting and standing up and advocating for the values that we believe are really at the root of the American dream and this great country’s journey toward progress.

I also want to add, in addition to everything else that he has done, he served with great distinction on the 9/11 Commission. That was especially important to those of us in New York. He tried to get to the truth; he tried to hold people and institutions accountable. Bob and I have talked at length about what we need to do in America to make our country safe, to deter and defeat terrorism and to make our intelligence services as effective as possible. Bob Kerrey is the embodiment of patriotism in action. And it is a tremendous privilege for me to be here with him back across the river from Nebraska where he served with distinction as he sets forth the reasons for his support of my candidacy. He knows something about courage and leadership. He’s got some experience in tough fights, so I am thrilled to have him on my team. Thank you so very much Bob.

We are kicking off today our “Every County Counts” tour right here in Council Bluffs.

Over the next five days, I and my friends and supporters will blanket Iowa. We’re going to be in all 99 counties. We’re going to be knocking on doors and making phone calls, visiting people’s homes, their places of work, all with a very simple but urgent message – the road to the White House for the next president begins here in Iowa. Iowans have an awesome responsibility, especially this year. Because we have to make a decision that will not only help us figure out who will be the next democratic nominee, that’s important, but even more so, who is ready to be President and who is ready, willing, and able on Day One to do the job that we need done.

So I’m excited about our 99-county blitz. I’m actually even going to get in a helicopter after I leave you. We’re calling it a “Hill-a-copter,” and we’re going to be able to cover more ground that way. But I have friends of a lifetime who have come to Iowa to help me, including my best friend from elementary school with whom I am still very close, people I have worked with in Arkansas, New York, across the country, and I am thrilled to introduce them to Iowa and to have so many Iowans hear their stories about why they would take time from their busy lives to come here on my behalf.

I was especially honored by the endorsement this morning of my candidacy by the Des Moines Register.

It was an important event in this process. I am very grateful that they have zeroed in on the work that needs to be done by the next President, by my vision for our country, my plans for change, and my ability to lead. Now with Bob Kerrey’s endorsement, with Congressman Leonard Boswell’s endorsement of a few days ago, our campaign is energized, we’re picking up momentum, and we’re going all the way to January 3rd with your help.

I can feel the excitement growing and it really spans all ages. I was talking to an Iowan on the phone as I was driving from the airport to come here and he told me that his daughter is turning 18 before the caucuses, they live in Des Moines, and she’s going to caucus for me. Then I got a report that a 102-year old man is also going to caucus for me.

We are appealing to every generation. And that’s the way it should be because we need everybody in America committed to the changes that we have to make together. It is inspiring to me that people in their 90s and now in their second century will care enough about the future to say “you know what, no matter how inconvenient it is, how difficult it might be, regardless of the weather, I want to be there to stand up for Hillary Clinton.” And young people whose whole lives are before them understanding what is at stake in this election.

So I could not be more pumped up. I am thrilled at the vast and growing support we have across the state. But as Bob Kerrey said, we have to translate that into action on January 3rd. And I want to make to you a case for my candidacy because as I also am reaching out and meeting with as many people as possible, and traveling all those miles, I have to rely on all of you the way I rely on Connie and Kate to be my eyes, my ears, really to speak for me.

And I hope that you will impress upon people what a critical election this is. And that I am asking for your support based on my 35 years of work, my understanding of the changes that we need, my commitment to apply the persistence, the perseverance, and yes, the perspiration to get it done. Because I understand very well what’s happening in America today.

I grew up in a middle class family outside of Chicago, right here in the Midwest. My father came home after serving in the Navy for five years and he wanted to do three things: he wanted to start a small business, he wanted to start a family, and he wanted to save enough money to buy a house. My mother, who didn’t have a very easy upbringing, she wanted to give her children she never had a chance to do and that was to go to college. So we lived the middle class values. We understood, as my parents taught me, that we had to work hard, be self-reliant, be resilient, but also to be compassionate and caring. To be part of the larger community in order to give every American, particularly every child, a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential.

Well my 88-year old mother, God bless her, still lives with me. I brought her out on the campaign trail as some of you may have seen from the media and she had such a great time that she decided she might do a little more of that if she had enough rest in between stops.

But as we traveled around, it was a great reminder to me of the commitment I feel to making sure that those who are in the twilight of their years and those who are at the very dawn of their lives, all have a chance to pursue that American dream that has meant so much to all of us.

And so I run for president because I know that there are a lot of families in America today, certainly here in Iowa, whom I’ve met. They’ve been kind enough to share their stories and concerns with me, and their worries they feel anxious and insecure. They don’t know whether life will be better for their children and their grandchildren. They ask themselves everyday: “why is it no one seems to notice that I’m working as hard as I can and I’m not getting ahead? That I don’t have health care for myself or my children; that my job has been outsourced and I don’t know where I’m supposed to go to get another one.”

These are the real life concerns that Iowans have shared with me over the past eleven months. I want to tell you that there will not be any invisible Americans when I am President. Everyone will be seen, respected, heard.

And just as I’m saying that every county counts in my campaign, I want you to know that you’ll be able to count on me when I am your president. I will get up every single day thinking about what I could do that day to make life a little easier, to make our country fairer, to restore shared prosperity and economic opportunity, to restore our moral authority around the world and to give Americans back our pride in our country that we love so very much.

After seven years of George Bush, America is ready for change. We are ready for a new beginning.

Now it all comes down to one question. Who is ready and able to make the changes we need starting on day one in the White House?

Audience: You are.

Well, some people believe you make change by demanding it. Some people believe you make change by hoping for it. I believe you make change by working hard for it. That’s what I’ve done all my life and that is what I will do for you.

I know that’s how you make real change in the lives of the real people that I know and care about, that I have fought for for 35 years. Now that hard work demands that you know when to stand your ground and when to find common ground. If you’re too unyielding, you won’t get anything done. Not in America; we’re not a dictatorship. You have to work with other people. But if you don’t stand up and refuse to compromise on what’s important, then you could lose out the opportunity to make change. So you have to know how to balance it; how to stand your ground and how to find common ground.

For 35 years I have been a change-maker and that is exactly what I hope to do for all of you and for every American. Now for me that means that I started when I got out of law school, not going to work for a big corporate law firm but going to work for the Children’s Defense Fund. And I did that because I watched and learned about my mother’s life. The fact that she had to go to work as a mother’s helper when she was 13 and it was hard. And I believe that kids should be given a better shot than that, and that a lot of kids draw the short straw in life.

One of the first things I worked on was going door to door, trying to find out where missing children were. Missing not because somebody had kidnapped them but missing because they weren’t in school. Back in the early 1970’s you could look at census figures about the number of children who lived in a particular area. Then you could look at school enrollment figures and there were children who were in the area who weren’t in school and nobody could figure out why. And I found out why. I found children who were blind, children who were deaf, children in wheelchairs, children with other kinds of disabilities. There was no place for them in a beautiful school like this. So I worked with many others to change the law, to make it possible for children with disabilities to get a public education and I was proud to be part of making change that helped millions and millions of Americans.

In Arkansas I worked to expand rural health care into some of the poorest places in the state. I worked to reform schools so if you were a poor child living in a really poor area of Arkansas you often would go to a school that didn’t have physics, it didn’t have advanced mathematics, or chemistry, it didn’t have foreign languages. So no matter how talented you were, no matter how hard working you were willing to be, you would never be able to compete for a first class education. So we changed that. We changed the standards. We improved education and independent observers said it was one of the best reforms in the country. Because, you see, I knew that to make change you had to work with people, to raise teacher’s salaries and to expand the curriculum, so thousands of Arkansas students now have an education that was denied to previous generations and I am proud that I was part of making those changes as well.

And as I continued to work, I chaired the Legal Services Corporation to make sure that equal justice under law wasn’t some cruel hoax in America. That if you were poor and you had a legitimate legal problem, you would have somebody who would give you your day in court.

And I was very pleased that I could, in 1993, work with a lot of very knowledgeable people to try to bring universal health care to our country. Now we were not successful but I am very proud we tried because it was the right thing to do and now we are going to get it done when I become president again.

I traveled to Beijing as First Lady on behalf of all of you, to stand up for a very simple proposition – that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights. It’s not only what we believe, here in our country, it’s what we know is important for our national security. Countries that deny women their rights are often countries that we have problems with, aren’t they? So we’ve got to continue to stand up for American values and make sure those values are heard around the world, and when I am president I will continue to make the changes on behalf of women that are good and right for women and smart for American security.

I wrote a book called “It Takes a Village,” because that’s what I believe, about how we can build a better country for our children. I was pleased to turn all of the proceeds from that book – over a million dollars – to children’s charities. Because it’s not only what we do in our government that counts, it’s what we do in our daily lives. How we support charitable enterprises that are there with a helping hand for people that need it. And I want, as president, to inspire more philanthropy, to get more Americans involved in helping their neighbors. There’s more than enough work to do, and we want to harness what is really the genius of our country – the willingness of our citizens to give of themselves.

When we weren’t successful with health care for everyone, I did not give up. I sometimes think you can tell more about a person when you see what they do after they don’t succeed than if they have already succeeded. Because we want people who pull themselves up, don’t we? Who get up after being knocked down and keep going. And that is what I did when I helped to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program and we have seen that program over the last 10 years expand health care to millions of kids and now George Bush has vetoed our efforts to expand it.

Well, I’ll tell you, when I become president, we’re going to expand health care for every single American child.

In the Senate, I have worked across the aisle to make change. When I was elected, the people of New York took a chance on me and it was a great honor that they did. But I knew that I had to go and get things done. I couldn’t just say, ‘we’ll I’ve been elected, thank you very much.’ That’s not who I am that’s not what I do.

So I immediately went to work, expanding economic opportunities in our rural areas for our farmers in our small towns. Working across the aisle with Republicans to get health care for our National Guard and Reserve members who didn’t have it. Working to make sure we had a national emergency system so that when you hit 911 on your cell phone, somebody would know where you were. Working to make sure that despite the differences we have in philosophy or ideology, that we cannot let partisanship stand in the way of improving the lives of the people in our country.

I look forward to working with Republicans, as well as Democrats and Independents, to create a new beginning for America. That new beginning will once and for all give us universal health care. Everyday people come up to me with their problems. They tell me horror stories about insurance companies that reject their claims, about premiums going up so fast and high they can’t possibly keep insurance for themselves and their families, about being without insurance, not able to afford the prescription drugs and the treatment that their doctors say are needed. I listen to so many of these stories and it just strengthens my resolve that we will put together a great coalition of business and labor, of doctors and nurses and health care professionals and together we will take on the health insurance companies and the drug companies. And we’re going to be successful this time.

The stories that I hear, the personal acquaintances and friends that I have convince me that nothing other than health care for everyone should be the standard. When I was working on my health care plan there were those who said “but that’s controversial, that’s politically risky, why don’t you just cut yourself a little slack here. It’s not going to hurt to leave people out – that’s a better political case to make.”

I said “who should I leave out? Who gets to choose who is left out?” Should I leave out people like Dawn Carstens and her husband Greg from Webster City? They run their own auto body shop. They work really long hours every single day but they can’t afford insurance. Should I tell them just to roll the dice? Should I leave out Ellen Duffy? A nurse I met in Waterloo diagnosed with breast cancer. Her treatments made her so sick she couldn’t possibly continue to work and when she finally recovered and tried to go back to work the hospital told her she no longer had a job, she lost her health insurance. Who should I leave out? I don’t want to leave anybody out. I am not running for president to put band-aids on this problem. I am running for president to solve it. And I need your help to make that case.

We’ll make a new beginning for our seniors. We’re going to provide retirement security for working Americans. We’re going to provide long-term care. I will go after those insurance companies that swindle seniors out of their money, sometimes out of their life savings. I will go after those nursing homes that abuse our seniors. We’re going to have more home health aid, we’re going to have more dignified and respectable alternatives. I want to provide a $3,000 tax credit for caregivers who do the hard work of caring for not only aging family members but children with disabilities. This is a labor of love. It’s one of the most important jobs any of us will ever do and I don’t think people should be penalized for it.

I was in Winterset two weeks or so ago and there was a man there and a woman in a wheelchair and the man was standing behind her with his hands on the back of the wheelchair. Occasionally he would reach over and give her a drink, occasionally wipe her mouth. And I called on him when question time came. He told me that he and his wife had been married for 50 years, that she’s had Parkinson’s for 29 years and it got increasingly more difficult to care for her, he tried to get long-term care insurance, nobody would help him with his wife.

All he’s looking for is a little bit of help. He wants to take care of her, they’ve been together a really long time. But it’s going to be hard if he doesn’t get help at all. When I’m president we’re going to provide help to loving family members like him and so many others who are doing the right thing.

We’re also going to get a new beginning on energy independence and combating global warming. This is a security issue. We cannot continue to be dependent on foreign oil. This is the most important environmental issue. Aren’t you proud of Al Gore getting the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming?

Well, we need to translate that incredible commitment that he and many others have made to action. So I have a plan to do that, to move toward homegrown energy just like we’re doing here in Iowa with biofuels and wind, promote more energy efficiency.

I want to applaud the Democratic Congress. We’ve raised gas mileage standards for the first time in decades. So there’s enough work for us to do to protect our planet, to protect our economy and to protect our security. And you know what the good news is? If we do this we’ll create millions of new good jobs right here in Iowa and across our country.

We’ll make a new beginning for our economy. We’re going to rebuild our great American middle class. We’re going to support our unions. We’re going to give people the right to organize and bargain collectively.

We’re going to give tax cuts to the people who need them, not the people who don’t. And we’re going to change our tax codes so we don’t give incentives to those who outsource jobs and we’re finally going to move toward trade agreements that do have labor and environmental standards so it’s not a race to the bottom but a real move of lift to the top.

We’re going to move back to fiscal responsibility, something that Bob Kerrey when he was Senator had an instrumental role in making possible. And look at what has happened. Under this president, all of that hard work has been squandered. Well we’re going to get back to reclaiming our future by stopping the mortgaging of our country and having us borrow billions and billions of dollars from countries like China and Mexico and every place in between.

And we’ll make a new beginning on education. We’re going to provide early childhood education, something that Connie has worked on her entire professional life. We need to build stronger families. We need to have more early intervention. We need to help parents know what they need to do in order to help their own children. This is something I have worked on for decades. I brought a program to Arkansas, the Home Instruction for Preschool Youngsters program, that gave parents the tools they needed to help their own children. Because that’s the best way for us to really make a difference in a child’s life. And then we’ll have a universal pre-kindergarten program that reaches those kids particularly who are disadvantaged to give them even more help and support. And we’re going to end the unfunded mandate known as No Child Left Behind.

And I have pledged to make college affordable again for every young person who goes and is motivated. We’re not going to forget those young people who don’t go to college. How about more job training? More apprenticeship programs? Let’s give them the kind of help that they deserve to have for a good job and a good future.

We’ll make a new beginning in reforming our government. I’m going to end the cronyism and the no-bid contracts for Halliburton.

We’re going to end the kind of war on science that the Bush Administration has waged. It’s time we start actually investing in science again. So how about lifting the ban on stem cell research? And how about making America the innovation nation again? We can create so much if we have a partnership between levels of government and the public and the private system.

And I have the idea I’ve been promoting all across Iowa. How about appointing qualified people to the government again after the Bush Administration?

Finally we will make a new beginning to restore America’s leadership in the world. It will start with ending the war in Iraq and bringing our troops home as quickly and responsibly as we can.

And when I am president, there will be a very simple message that goes out across the world – the era of cowboy diplomacy is over. We’re going to start working with people again.

But I can’t do any of this without you. I’m going to work as hard as I can to earn your support and your trust. And I need every one who is ready for change to go to the caucuses on January 3rd. If you can’t afford health care, you’re tired of paying through the roof for your gas every time you try to fill up your car or your truck, you’re tired of seeing the economy tilt more and more toward the already wealthy and privileged – if you think it is time to make sure we have no invisible Americans, then I need you to stand up and caucus for me.

If you can’t bear to see our young men and women, our sons and our daughters, continuing to fight another country’s civil war, if you believe that the best way to support our troops is to bring them home – but you want to be sure it’s done the right way – then I need you to stand and caucus for me.

If you want to get our country back into the solutions business, if you believe our future can be better than our present or our past, if you want to feel that pride again in America, then I need you to go stand up and caucus for me.

Because if you will go and do that on January 3rd, I promise you I will stand and wage a winning campaign for our values and our principles and then when I am elected, I will stand and fight for each and every one of you every single day.

Let’s make history together. Thank you all very, very much.