Thank you so much. I think the best thing for me to do is just say thank you very much. I am very grateful to so many of you for coming out this morning and being part of this event here in Johnston. It is very exciting for me to have so many of my friends from my entire life who have come out here to talk with Iowans, to answer questions, to give you some insight and information about our relationships, about what I’ve been trying to do for my entire life and particularly as an adult.
There are so many people who feel invisible right now. They feel like nobody is listening. They don’t have health care for themselves and their families and they don’t know what they are going to do. Or they have just been told their job is going to be moved overseas and they are not quite sure how they are going to keep going. Or they are counting pennies at the table trying to make sure that they can pay to fill the tank in their car or their truck. I think it’s one of the most important jobs of a president, of anybody in public life because it is such a public trust, to really listen and to reach out and to learn and to work as hard as you can to make a difference. To try to help people who are doing the best they can, but sometimes life has a way of hitting you upside the head.
I was listening to my friends talk and I was thinking about each one of them. Bonnie Campbell, who’s been a leader here in Iowa and did just wonderful work for our country when she was in the Justice Department during my husband’s presidency. I think about her with her husband Ed, and how devoted she is to him and how caring she is in making sure that he is always taken care of and included. That kind of sums up the way we all live. We are not all the same in every setting we find ourselves, are we? When you’re with your family, you’re going to be a little bit different than when you’re at work. When you’re at work, you’re going to be a little bit different than when you’re at the mall. That all adds up to the people we are. Every time I think of Bonnie Campbell, I think about the work she’s done for those who will never know her name and all she’s done for people who are very close and personal to her. I’m very proud that she’s my friend.
Jeff Volk is someone who came into my life because of what happened to his family down in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. I was grateful that we were able to give him some help, some advice, some information when he was, as any person would be, worried about his family. When I met him he started out by saying ‘I’m a conservative Republican.’ I said ‘well, that’s ok, my dad was a conservative Republican. But he evolved.’
I have gotten to know Jeff and his family and I am so grateful for his support. It means a lot to me to have someone who knows we’ve got to cross party lines. That what’s most important is that instead of acting like Democrats or Republicans, we start acting like Americans again and roll up our sleeves and solve our problems together.
I so appreciate Shannon coming all this way because she has a very demanding life and her wonderful daughter is getting such love and attention from a mom who adores her, who does everything she can for her. I’ve met a lot of moms like Shannon over many years, who don’t know where to turn. I’ve met a lot of dads who can’t figure out how they are supposed to take care of the person they love the most, a child who’s been stricken with an illness maybe they’ve never heard of, or had an accident, and now needs so much care. These are people that I think every one of us can relate to, whether anything tragic and bad has happened to us personally, we know people who have faced the same dilemma that Shannon and her family faced.
I believe I have a great honor and a privilege to be in public office. What I try to do everyday is figure out how to help somebody. You can’t always pass the laws you want to pass right away. You can’t snap your fingers and get people to cooperate. You have to work on that every minute of every day. But you can try to help somebody every single day. I have tried to do that as a public servant, as an activist, and now as a Senator and that’s what I will do as president. Because I want to help those people like Shannon and so many others who deserve our help.
My friend Besty, whom I met in 6th grade – in Mrs. King’s class – has been with me through thick and thin, that’s not just a reflection on how we look today. About the good times and the not so good times, we both have to do better on the other part. In junior high and high school, I wore really thick glasses, which I really hated. There was always some boy or another that I was hoping would notice me, so I used to take them off and that meant I did not know where I was going. Betsy would arrange to meet me so that we could walk down the hallway together so I would not bump into a locker, but also so she could say, ‘Don is on the right.’ I could say, ‘Hi, Don,’ like I actually did see him. She’s been guiding me around ever since. I’m so pleased she could be here. She and her family are very important to mine.
Each one of us could tell stories like this, about the people who you know and the people who know you. Here in Iowa, I want you to have some flavor of who I am outside of the television cameras – when all of the cameras and the lights disappear, what I do when nobody’s listening or taking notes, and recording it. Because it is hard when you’re in public life to have that kind of sharing experience with thousands and millions of people.
On our 99-county blitz, which we started yesterday, I’m going to get to as many places as I can, but so are my friends. And people whom I’ve worked with, and for, over a lifetime. I think this election is one of the most important that we’ve ever had. There’s a big responsibility facing Iowans because you get to make the first choice. Not just the country, but the world will be watching. We all know that we need new leadership. But it’s not just changing who lives in the White House, it’s having a president who is ready to lead to make the changes that all of us know are necessary.
I’ve been making change my entire life. For 35 years as an adult, I’ve worked to try to help kids with disabilities get into public schools back in the early 70s when I worked for the Children’s Defense Fund. I worked in Arkansas to expand health care and education, and I have friends from Arkansas who are here today who have been dear friends to me. I know what a difference it makes when people are really committed to trying to expand opportunity beyond where it is to what it can be.
I was privileged to spend those eight years in the White House as part of the team around my husband, and to work on expanding health care to every American – quality, affordable health care. That’s a hard job. Lots of people have tried – Harry Truman, even Richard Nixon – because it’s the right thing to do and it’s the smart decision for us to make as a nation. But we weren’t successful that first time. But I think you actually learn more about people when they may not be successful than if they just slope through life. I had a choice: I could have said ‘ok, we didn’t do it, I’m not trying anymore.’ Or, what I decided to do was to say ‘ok, we didn’t do it, let’s regroup and see what we can get done.’ That’s why I worked to make sure that all our children were immunized, and that drug companies were required to test drugs before they gave them to children. Then I went to work to help create the Children’s Health Insurance Program and now 6 million children have health care who wouldn’t have had it otherwise.We’re trying to overcome the President’s vetoes of giving health care to even more children.
In the Senate I have worked across party lines and I have done that in order to get work done that would help people. Betsy was kidding about the way I immerse myself in all of the issues affecting New Yorkers including dairy farmers, our fruit and vegetable farmers, and so many else.
For me it is about getting up every day and working as hard as you can so that when we found out the National Guard and Reserves didn’t have health care, I teamed up with a Republican Senator, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. Over the opposition of the Pentagon and the opposition of the White House, we passed health care for Guard and Reserve members, like so many who have left here from Iowa. When we saw that our young men and women were coming back from Iraq with something that was being called Traumatic Brain Injury and realized that nobody was paying attention, I went to work. I wrote and helped to pass the first legislation that addressed the Traumatic Brain Injury problem. When we started hearing about how families – when they had an injured son or daughter coming back from war, they couldn’t take enough time off from work without losing their job to be there by the side of their son or daughter – I teamed up with Chris Dodd and Republicans and we passed an extension of the Family Leave Act so if you’re son or your daughter is injured, you don’t have to worry about losing your job. You are protected. You can be there during that most important period.
These are real problems that real Americans face. There’s nothing abstract about it. It’s what I hear about every single day.
Everybody talks about change in this election. People have different ideas about how to bring about change. Some people believe you can get change by demanding it. Some people believe you can get change by hoping for it. I believe the way you get change is by working hard for it. Persistence, perseverance, even some perspiration – that is how you change lives, you change institutions. That is what I have done my whole life. That is what I will do as your president.
Because I intend to give America a new beginning. The whole world will breathe a sigh of relief when George Bush leaves the White House.
And then we do have to get to work, don’t we? We need a new beginning in health care. I have proposed a plan, the American Health Choices Plan that will provide quality affordable health care for everyone. And here’s how it will work. If you have health insurance and you’re happy with it, nothing changes. But if you don’t have health insurance or if the health insurance you have doesn’t cover what’s called a preexisting condition; you’re a diabetic and it won’t cover your diabetes. You have a heart condition and it won’t cover your heart condition. So it’s really not insuring you for what you need most. It’s too expensive. You will be able to have new choices.
I want to open up the Congressional plan to every American. It’s a good plan. Over 250 choices, private insurance company choices that you can decide how best suits you at an average cost below what you can get through an employer or in the private marketplace. Every federal employee has access to this plan and you pay for it because you pay the bulk of it, because it is paid for out of tax dollars â about 75% of it. I figure if it’s good enough for members of Congress, it’s good enough for every American to have those same choices at the same affordable cost.
We’re going to help people who have a little trouble affording it with health care tax credits. We’re going to emphasize prevention because we’re now not paying for prevention and therefore we pay more when somebody gets really sick. We’re going to emphasize chronic care management, we’re going to take better care of people who are chronically ill. We’re going to have electronic medical records, something I worked on with Newt Gingrich and Bill Frist which raised some eyebrows in Washington.
I believe we can move toward a health care system that covers everyone, that decreases costs for everyone, and improves quality for everyone. When I was finalizing my health care plan, there were a lot of people who said to me, ‘you know trying to cover everybody is controversial. It’s going to engender all of the usual talking points from the other side. So you really shouldn’t start being so ambitious. I asked people, ‘in other words, you want me to leave out millions of people from my health care plan?’ Well ok, who do we leave out? Do we leave out Shannon’s daughter, Isabella? People say that she has a deteriorating condition â maybe we just leave her out of health care. Do we leave out the young couple I met in Webster City who own an auto body shop? They can’t afford insurance for themselves and their kid. They’re working as hard as they can. Maybe we should just leave them out and hope they stay healthy. Or maybe I should leave the nurse out from Waterloo I met, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. The treatment made her really sick. She couldn’t go to work. By the time she got back to work, she found out she didn’t have a job anymore. When she lost her job, she lost her health care. Maybe we should leave her out.
I don’t want to leave anybody out. I am not running for president to put band-aids on our problems. I want to solve our problems, once and for all and I want to start by setting forth a plan that will do that.
Maybe we can get a new beginning in energy and global warming. This is an area that we have to act on. We cannot continue to be held hostage to those who produce oil. They’ve got us over a barrel, the oil barrel. That barrel is now about $100 a barrel. It was $20 when George Bush became President. Now we are spending more and more money sending it to countries that often turn around and use that money against us. I think we can do a lot better. I have proposed a comprehensive energy plan that will be good for our security, that will be good for our environment because we do have to deal with the greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere, and that will be good for our economy. I believe if you just follow the example of Iowa, and what has been done here with bio-fuels and wind, we will create millions of new good jobs across America. These are jobs that can’t be outsourced. These are jobs that will be done right here in Iowa and right here in our nation. That’s the kind of energy future that I’m convinced we have. We should treat this like the Apollo moon shot. When I was a little girl, that lifted our sights and it also created a lot of jobs and a lot of spinoff. The Internet actually came out of research that was done on the space program.
Who knows what we will invent if we get serious about energy and global warming. Let’s unleash the innovative genius of America again. There isn’t anything we can’t do if we put our minds to it.
I want a new beginning in education. Education begins in the family and we’ve got to do more to help families get the tools and resources they need to take care of their own children. That’s also work that I’ve done a very long time. Going back to my earliest years when through my church, I was involved in all kinds of activities affecting small children that had some difficulties, that had some disadvantages to overcome. I want to do more to help families. I want to have a universal pre-kindergarten program, again – like what you are doing here in Iowa to help every child, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds get better prepared. And I want to end the unfunded mandate of No Child Left Behind which has interfered with learning and teaching.
We have to start reimagining education. It’s the 21st century. I go into classrooms across America. I was in a school in Iowa here about two weeks ago and there was a lot going on that was different and new and there were computers, but the classrooms looked pretty much the same as they looked when I was there with Betsy back in 6th grade. Let’s start thinking about how we are going to tailor instruction more to meet individual children’s needs because every child learns differently. I think we’ve got to do more to help give each child a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential. I want to be a president who will actually work with teachers, and work with others who care about improving education the right way.
And then we’ve got to make college affordable for middle class and working families. Let’s make it easier for those kids who want to go to school â I meet them all over Iowa â who say they don’t know how they’re going to afford it. They have to go into such deep debt. I want every young person who is willing to work hard to go to college to be able to afford to do that. I also don’t want to forget that the majority of our kids will not go to college. Let’s start taking care of the young men and women who do the hard work that keeps the economy going, who fight our wars, who take care of us, who protect us.
Education is still the passport to opportunity and we need to stamp that passport, 21st century, and start making it work again.
We need a new beginning when it comes to reforming our government. No more no-bid contracts, and cronyism, and corruption, and incompetence, and insensitivity. Every one of us is a customer of the federal government. I sure don’t think we’ve been getting very good customer service the last seven years. We can do so much better. What I want to do is make sure the government works for everybody, not just for the privileged and the connected. There is a lot of work to be done here, but we’re going to start with a very simple proposition â how about electing qualified people for the jobs we ask them to hold in the United States government again; people who know what they’re supposed to do, are committed to doing it, and can deliver results?
We’re going to have a new beginning to America’s leadership in the world. We’re going to start with ending the war in Iraq and bringing our troops home as quickly and responsibly as we possibly can. We’re going to do some other things as well. We’re going to thank those young men and women who have served their country because they have done everything they were asked to do.
But there is no military solution. We should not permit them to continue to serve as referees of the Iraqi Civil War. It is up to the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own country and when I am president, they will have to do just that.
When our troops come home, we have to take care of them. A lot will be needing health care. They have been injured and wounded. Some of it visible. They’ve lost arms and legs. They’ve been blinded. Some of it is not so visible. It’s the traumatic brain injury. It’s the post-traumatic stress disorder. A few months ago I was at Walter Reade visiting with soldiers who had come back from Iraq and Afghanistan and I met a very handsome young Army Captain, who had lost his right arm in Baghdad and lost the ring finger on his left hand when his wedding ring melted into his finger. I said, ‘Captain, how are you doing? How’s it coming for you?’ He says, ‘You know, I’m learning how to use the prosthetic. I’m figuring it out. They’re really helpful. They’re teaching me what to do.’ And then he said, ‘But where do I go to get my brain back?’ Because those explosive devices, that kill and maim so many of our young men and women, also produce a concussive effect. A physical shaking of the brain. He said, ‘I went to West Point. I never had anybody take care of me. Now my wife has to give me a list every morning of what I have to do, of what I do next, of what I do then.’ So I worked to get legislation passed to begin to deal with these issues.
I will pledge to you that I will be a president who takes care of our veterans. I think it is disgraceful that we have people waiting months for appointments. They can’t get their disability claims processed. The president doesn’t seem to either know or evidence any concern. When I’m president, veterans are going to get the highest priority treatment â and not just those who are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, but all our veterans, particularly from my own generation who served in Vietnam, who never got the welcome and the help that they deserved to have.
We can have a new beginning in America. But I can’t do any of this, and all of the other issues and concerns that I’ve talked about in my campaign, without your help. On January 3rd you have a big decision. I was thrilled and honored to get the endorsement of the Des Moines Register. They put us through our [inaudible].
I have never seen a more grueling process. They not only interviewed 18 of us once, they interviewed 8 of us twice, plus they did research, plus they asked probing questions in other settings where they really were taking our measure. I was in Dunlap yesterday at a sale barn, a livestock salebarn. I’ve been in sale barns often, particularly in Arkansas. I was standing up where they show the cattle and I said ‘I’ve never been in this position’, but that’s the way I felt. I thought ok, you want to look inside my mouth. Alright, have at it.’ But at the end of that process they made the case for my candidacy.
We have good people running. Everybody brings different experiences, qualifications, different ideas about what they want to do. But the Register said what I believe – that we don’t have a minute to waste. We don’t have a margin for error. We’ll always make mistakes, we’re human beings. But we’ve got to go for proven leadership, that’s been tested, that is ready on Day One. I offer that to the people of Iowa for these caucuses. I hope you will decide to go and stand up for me in your caucus. I’m so excited by the growing energy and enthusiasm and people coming on board from across the state.
One day I met a 17 year old who was just about to turn 18, who is going to caucus for me and I heard about a 102-year old man who is determined to go to the caucuses and has made his 81-year old son promise to take him.
I’m asking you to stand up for me for one night and I will stand up for you throughout this campaign. Standing up for our values, our principles, for the kind of change we need to bring the country together just as I did in New York. Then I will stand up every single day in the White House. I will be thinking about you, and about your family, about your job, and your health care. I will be thinking about how to restore our leadership and our moral authority around the world. And together we will not only make history, but we will once again feel pride and progress in the country we love.
Thank you all very much.