Remarks in a Question and Answer Session at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa


Spoken by

Hillary Clinton

[joined in progress]

[unknown student speaker]: I’ll be graduating in May, and on graduation I’ll be heading to Annapolis, the naval academy, to major in systems engineering.

Clinton: All right, good luck.

Ellen Charmin, Student: My name is Ellen Charmin (ph). I’m a junior at Monticello High School. I started taking Kirkwood classes my sophomore year. I began taking an online class. I’m currently in the arts and sciences academy. And by the time that I graduate, I’ll have 48 credit hours done.

Clinton: Really?

Charmin: Yeah.

Clinton:Year and a half. Wow. That’s great!

Charmin: Yep.

Clinton: OK.

Diane Temple, Student: I’m Diane Temple. I’m an away girl at heart. For the last 21 years I’ve been a high school as an English teacher. I spent six years here part time as an adjunct composition instructor.

Clinton: Great.

Mason McLaughlin, Student: I’m Jason McLaughlin. I’m a 7th through 12th grade principal at Central City High School. We’re one of the eight partner schools that partner with the facility to send kids of all grades for opportunities. We’re happy to have you here. Welcome to Monticello.

Clinton: Thanks. Thank you.

I’ll introduce…[crosstalk]

Clinton: That’s good. That’s a good luck omen. [laughter]

McLaughlin: Yeah.

Drew Mullin, Student: I’m Drew Mullin. I’m a junior at central city. I’m currently taking auto tech and biotech programs here. I’ve had a great time. It gives a taste of the college experience. I plan to go on and do something with engineering after I get out of high school.

Clinton: Great. Good. Thanks.

Bethany Moore, Student: I’m Bethany Moore. I’m what they call a non-traditional college student. I’m taking business administration management, and I also am doing the continuing ed program here at Kirkwood.

Clinton: Great.

Well, first I want thank you, Nick, for having me here and a few of my friends in the college. I just had a terrific tour of the advanced manufacturing laboratory. I got to talk with the instructor and four of the students, all of whom are high school students who are doing what you have described as the great opportunity to mix your high school years with college learning and college credits as you move forward.

And I am really pleased to be at a community college that is visionary and effective and trying to serve as a bridge for people who are non-traditional but coming back to add to their stills all the Beltway high school students who are taking advantage of the opportunities. And the cooperation between the college and the high school is something I want to see a lot more. This is a real model for how we can provide more continuous learning starting in high school but going as far as necessary to help better prepare not only young people but all people for the economy that is awaiting us.

And before we get started — because I want to hear from each of you, I want more information about what you see as challenges as students and educators and the opportunities you hope to take advantage of — I just want to tell you a little bit about why I’m here today. I think we all know that Americans have come back from some tough economic times. And our economy and our country are much better off because American families have basically done whatever it took to make it work. But I think it’s fair to say that as you look across the country, the deck is still stacked in favor of those already at the top. And there’s something wrong with that. There’s something wrong when CEOs make 300 times more than the typical worker. There’s something wrong when American workers keep getting more productive, as they have, and as I just saw a few minutes ago, is very possibly possible because of education and stills training, but that productivity is not matched in their paychecks. And there’s something wrong when hedge fund managers pay lower tax rates than nurses or the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here the last two days. And there’s something wrong when students and their families have to go deeply into debt to be able to get the education and skills in order to make the best of their own lives. I looked at the figures. The average Iowa graduate from a four-year college comes out with nearly $30,000 in debt. And that’s I think the ninth-highest debt load in the country. And people are struggling. I met earlier today with a young student who is piecing together work and loans, knowing full well he’s going to come out owing a lot of money.

We’re got to figure out in our country how to get back on the right track. And I’m running for president because I think that Americans and their families need a champion, and I want to be this champion. I want to stand up and fight for people so that they cannot just get by, but they get ahead and they can stay ahead. And a lot of people in the last few days have asking why do you want to do this? What motivates you? I thought a lot about it and I guess the short answer is I’ve been fighting for children and families my entire adult life, probably because of my mother’s example. She had a really difficult childhood, was mistreated, neglected, but she never gave up. She had to basically be on her own at the time she was 14 but she just kept going. My father, who was a small business man, believed you had to work hard to make your way and do what you had to do to be successful, and provided a good living for our family. And then I was thinking, too, about the lessons from my church. You’re supposed to give back. You’re supposed to do what you can to help others. And that’s what I tried to do. And we’ll have more time to talk about as that as we go forward.

When I got out of law school, I worked for the Children’s Defense Fund. One of the projects there was literally going door to door. This was back in the ’70s when kids with disabilities were basically shut out of our schools. And thanks to your great former Senator, Tom Harkin, that’s no longer the case. But I was knocking on doors asking is there anybody school age not in school, and finding blind kids and deaf kids and kids in wheel chairs who were just left out. And I was able in Arkansas to work to try to improve education there and give more kids chances who really deserved them. And as first lady, to fight for health care reform and keep fighting until we get health care insurance for kids. Then as Senator, dealing with the problems that faced New York after 9/11 and trying to help people get what they needed, the victims’ families and first responders. It was an incredible honor to do that. Then, as secretary of state, standing up for our country.

So when I look at where we are as a country, I’m so absolutely convinced that there isn’t anybody anywhere who can outcompete us, who has better values, who can do more to provide more people the chance to live up to their own God-given potential. But we can’t take that for granted. So I want to be the champion who goes to bat for Americans in four big areas, four big fights that I think we have to take on, because there are those who don’t agree with what I think we should be doing. And they’re pretty powerful forces.

We need to build the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday. We need to strengthen families and communities because that’s where it all starts. We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment, and we need to protect our country from the threats that we see and the ones that are on the horizon.

So I’m here in Iowa to begin a conversation about how we do that and to hear from people about what’s on your minds, what the challenges that you see are. And I’ll work hard to meet as many people. I’ll be rolling out ideas and policies about what I think will work. But I want it to be informed by what’s actually working and to build on what works going forward, and to stand up for those who have a different vision of our country, a different one than what I grew up with and a different one than I think is best for everybody.

So with that what I’d love to do is just, you know, ask a few questions and hear…[end of transcript]