Remarks at a Campaign Event in Mason City, Iowa


Spoken by

Hillary Clinton

CLINTON: Thank you. Wow. Thank you. I am thrilled to be here with all of you.

And Sarah, that was excellent. I thank you so much.

And I hope you’ll get to know Sarah and spend time with her and help her as she works so hard between now and February 1st.

And Dean and Gary, thank you for welcoming us to your beautiful home; what a delight it is to be here with you. [applause]

Somebody asked me the other day, well, you know, you’re going to these events, where you’re taking time to actually talk and listen to people, is that really what you’re going to do?

And I said, well, yes, it is because not only do I learn a lot but I also feel like it’s the best way to make those connections that will not only give me a firm foundation in the caucus here in Iowa or in a primary in New Hampshire—because it really is about people-to-people connections if we’re really talking about what we want to do—but it will also give me the kind of information I need to be an even better president.

And I just had another example about that. You may know that Gary’s a radiologist and right before we came in, we were talking about his work. He’s an expert in breast cancer. And I asked him about the mammography recommendations that’s at least the women in the room I’m sure have seen over the last several years.

And he was giving me some really important insight into the commission that made those recommendations and his expert opinion about them. And I’m so grateful to you for that because it’s the kind of discussion that you can’t have unless you have an opportunity to actually talk and listen with people.

I want to thank all of you for coming. I am delighted to have this chance to talk with you. I think what we’re going to do is I’ll say a few words about the campaign and what I want to achieve. And then we’ll have a chance to talk individually and I’ll be able to hear from each and every one of you.

I have been incredibly impressed over the last several years at how hard the American people have worked to pull ourselves out of the Great Recession. People have made a lot of sacrifice. People have lost jobs. They lost houses. They lost the chance to finish or go on with their education. And they did everything that they could think of to do to get back on their feet.

And I’m so relieved that, as I travel around the country and talk with people, there is a sense that we are on our feet. We’re not running yet but we are on our feet. And we can see the changes that are happening in people’s lives and put them in a context as to where we go from here now as a country.

I’m very grateful to President Obama for the hard decisions he made when he inherited the mess that he inherited when he became president in 2009. [applause]

And I know that he and I and everyone who was in his administration realizes that, unless the American family and the American worker is strong, everything we want to see happen for our country is going to be much more difficult. And so I come to this campaign committed to being a champion for Americans and American families.

That’s what my work has been throughout my entire adult life, starting with my first job out of law school when I went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund, all the way through to the work that I did as secretary of state promoting women’s rights, promoting the rights of people who would otherwise be marginalized or left on the sidelines.

And I know that, although we have to—it’s still hard to imagine exactly how we’re going to get to the point where people are not just getting by but getting ahead again and staying ahead because, look, the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. We know that.

And so we have to be especially focused on how we’re going to bring about the changes that will ignite opportunity for everybody willing to work hard for it again.

So when I look at where we are as a nation and where we need to be, I see four big challenges that we have to take on together. And there are going to be fights, because they’re—if they were easy, they would already be done. So I will posit that right now.

Number one, we have to build the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday. It needs to be innovative. It needs to be sustainable. It needs to be producing good jobs with rising wages. We need to get back into the habit of actually rewarding workers with increases in their paychecks for the increases in productivity and profitability that they have helped to bring about. [applause]

You know, Warren Buffett has said it, but so have a lot of other people. There’s something wrong when the average American CEO makes 300 times more than the typical American worker or when hedge fund managers themselves make more and pay less in taxes than nurses and truck drivers.

In fact, I heard a statistic the other day that really made a big impact on me, that the top 25 hedge fund managers together made more money than all the kindergarten teachers in America.

And when you think about value, what it is that’s going to get us moving again, I think kindergarten teachers are really important. And so—[laughter and applause]—and we’ve got to make a claim on becoming the 21st century clean energy superpower. Iowa has really helped us. The RFS, the renewable fuel standard and a lot of the investments that have made here, has been one of the reasons why we have made some real progress but not near enough. And other countries are going to seize that title unless we do what we have to.

It’s also imperative that we give people the tools through education and job training and skills not just in rhetoric but in reality so that they can make the most out of their own lives. And for me that starts at the very beginning.

I have been a child advocate and a child development proponent for my entire adult life because it’s what I really care about, what I believe in. And I think we have to start before kindergarten. We have to have universal pre-K but we also have to do more to reach out to families so they know the tools they should use to be their children’s first teachers.

Now we’ve got this new granddaughter who is unbelievable. And we were with her this weekend. You know, we go and just stare at her. I mean, that’s what—it’s really—it’s wonderful and silly at the same time.

But we also read to her. Here she is, 7.5 months old, we’re reading and reading and reading. And I imagine among her first words were—will be, you know, “Enough with the reading,” because between her mom and her dad and Bill and I, we’re constantly doing that.

But we’re doing it not only because we love to do it and we love to see her begin to reach her hands out and grab onto the books, we’re doing it because we know that it aids her brain development. That has been one of the great discoveries with brain research in the last couple of decades.

We increasingly can see what happens when you are literally feeding the brain as well as the body of these infants and then the babies and the toddlers. That will help them be better prepared when they actually end up in kindergarten and it will begin to close the achievement gap because, you know, we’re going to do everything we can for our granddaughter. Charlotte will get every opportunity we can possibly imagine.

But what kind of country will she grow up in?

And what kind of world will she enter?

And what will happen to all of the other infants, babies, toddlers and children in our country today?

So we have to look at education from the very beginning. Then we have to make sure that we are doing all we can to empower our teachers, to make sure that they have the support of parents so that they can do the job they have been trained to do to help prepare our kids.

And then we’ve got to make sure that college is affordable. And that cannot happen at the rate we’re going unless we change the way we fund college education for young people who wish to have that experience.

Many of us in this room, I bet, as I did, borrowed money to go to college. But then we were able to pay it back because it wasn’t such an overwhelming burden as it has become now.

The average student in Iowa graduates with $30,000 in debt and that then makes it very difficult for them to start a business or buy a new home or even get married, as one young man told me not so long ago.

So we have to deal with the indebtedness to try to move toward making college as debt-free as possible. I’m 100 percent behind President Obama’s proposal for free community college. We’ve got to try to get that through.

And then we’ve got to try to do everything we can to make college available and affordable to all of our young people. [applause]

You know, when you think about our economy today, it is absolutely linked to education. It is also linked to strong families and strong communities. And that’s our second challenge, because a lot of families and communities have been under tremendous strain.

One of the biggest stresses in anybody’s life is health care. I will fight to protect the Affordable Care Act and I will work to make the changes that are required. [applause]

We are really now in a different world, 16 million people who didn’t have health insurance who now do. We have to do everything we can to make sure that Medicare is as available and protected and affordable as possible. And we have to be sure that where there are changes that can be made we try to find ways to work across the aisle to make them.

I don’t hear my friends on the other side of the aisle talking as much as they used to about getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. I think the reason is is because there are a lot of people that they may actually be encountering from time to time who have been helped. And we need to make sure to make the argument over and over again, what will you do if you say to people we’re going to take away the health care we finally have been able to provide for you? That is just unacceptable.

But there are some problems. You know, one of the problems—and I heard about this in Iowa—is what happens when a 26-year old becomes a 27-year old and is no longer eligible to be on his or her parents’ policy? That was one of the best changes in the Affordable Care Act. And the fact is that a lot of young people aren’t making the income they need yet to be able to afford their own health care. So we have to look out to see what we’re going to be able to do to help them.

There are two issues that fall into this category that are huge strains on families. And I heard about them first—I heard first in Davenport and I heard about it all the way across the state until I got to Council Bluffs. One is the drug epidemic—meth, pills in Iowa and then I got to New Hampshire.

And at my very first coffee shop meeting I heard about the heroin epidemic in New Hampshire. In the past year I’ve been told reliably we had more people die of drug overdoses in America than automobile accidents for the first time in our history.

This is tearing families apart but it is below the surface. People aren’t talking about it because it’s something that is hard to deal with.

I also heard a lot about untreated mental health problems. And so many communities, so many states turning their backs on people with mental health problems. Facilities are being closed. Even though we now require there to be treatment in the Affordable Care Act, there’s not enough available treatment. Not enough resources.

The other day, I was in California at an event. And I just said what I said. I said, you know, mental health is not being treated. We claim we’re now going to be able to help people with their health care problems, but if we don’t help with mental health, we’re leaving out a huge number of people. And a young woman came up to me and asked me a question. She said, “Did you know that we’re having all these suicides in my high school?” I said, “No, I did not know that before I came.” She goes, “Well, we’ve had four young people kill themselves in the last months.”

Then I was in New York at an event this past way. Said the same thing that I said to you, and then I was visiting with people. And a woman come up—came up to me and she goes, “Thank you for mentioning mental health. We have gone in the last six months to four funerals of friends of my children who have killed themselves.”

I have to tell you, when I started running, when I started thinking about this campaign, I did not believe I would be standing in your living room talking about the drug abuse problem, the mental health problem and the suicide problem. But I am now convinced I have to talk about it. I have to do everything I can in this campaign to raise it… [applause] …to end the stigma against talking about it.

And we also have a challenge that affects everything we do, and that is to fix our dysfunctional political system. And that—that underlies everything that we can possibly hope to get done. I’m very committed to meeting with anybody, going to have any conversation, to try to find common ground. But we also have to stand our ground. And we have to try to figure out how we’re going to get people to work with us for the betterment of our country, the betterment of people who need a good positive support system, whether it be health care of aid for college, or anything else.

We also have to address the unaccountable dark money in politics. I think the supreme court made a grave error with its Citizens United decision. And I will do everything I can do to appoint supreme court justices who will protect the right to vote, and not the right of billionaires to buy elections. [applause]

And, you know, I’ve been consulting with a lot of legal experts. and some of them think there may be a way to get legislation through that will enable us to regulate this kind of use of money in our political system which is so corruptive and corrosive. But others agree with former Justice John Paul Stevens, who recently wrote a book in which he said it’s going to take a constitutional amendment. I will work for that if that’s the only way to fix this problem, because we cannot continue with the kind of assault on our democracy, on voting rights, and on the opportunity for us to know where the money is coming from that influences our political system.

Now, for us , we have challenges around the world. I was coming through the—the garage, there’s a TV that Dean and Gary have, and it was talking about ISIS in Iraq. We have threats that we know of. That we can begin to try to figure out how best to address. It’s not just dictators. Also disease, climate change, which—I think global warming is a threat to us. But we have to be confident and strong in understanding that there are many ways to approach the problems that America will be confronting in the world. And we must do so in cooperation with our friends, our allies, our fellow democracies around the world.

I am convinced that the 21st century can once again be a century in which the United States leads and helps to set the values and the standards. But we have to have an agreement, first of all, foremost, with our own country and in our own Congress about how to do that. I was outraged, and said at the time, that when a group of Republican senators sent a letter to the ayatollah of Iran, in a—essentially criticizing the actions of the president of the United States—I don’t care what party you are. We have one president, and we should stand behind that president when he’s trying to work out very difficult problems. [applause]

So, I know there are a lot of hard choices ahead of us. I wrote a book called “Hard Choices.” There is it. There is it. I’ll sign that for you. But I think we’re more than up to it. You know, I am a confident optimist about where America’s future lies. That doesn’t mean I’m not aware of how difficult it is. I’m going into this race with my eyes wide open about how hard it is to be the president of the United States. I have a little experience about that. And I have to tell you, I find it, you know, very reassuring because I do have that experience to know what’s possible and how best to proceed. but I also know that we are living in an incredibly complicated time in American history. It is not a time for easy answers or glib answers or one-liners or applause lines. Those are all great. That’s part of campaigning.

But at the end of the day, we need a president who has both the experience and the understanding to deal with the complexity of the problems that we face. And I appreciate what both Dean and Sarah said about the experiences that I’ve been privileged to have during the last decades. I really believe that I can go into that office on the very first day and begin to do what is required.

So I look forward to visiting with each and every one of you. I look forward to working with you, not only as we move toward the caucuses. I would be honored to have your support on February 1st. And then I will need your help as we move toward the general election because I don’t want this election to be about me. I want to it to be about us and the agenda that we want to set for our country.

You know, when I campaigned so hard against then-Senator Obama, I was, you know, working as hard as I could. He was working as hard as he could. And at the end of the day, he won. And then I went to work to make sure he got elected our president. And I was so relieved and happy when that finally happened.

The Sunday after the election, Bill and I went for a walk in an area that Sarah would know, a big kind of nature preserve near where we both live, and we just wanted to let down because we’d been working so hard to elect then-President-Elect Obama. So we’re wandering through the woods, and Bill’s phone rings, which is sort of a miracle since we have terrible cell coverage there. And he pulled it out of his pocket and it was the president-elect. And he said, “You know, I’d like to talk to you and Hillary.” And Bill said, “Well, we’re kind of in the middle of a forest. Can we get home and call you back?”

And so we did. And when he called back—when Bill called back, he talked to the president-elect and then I talked to him. And he said to me, “I want you to come see me in Chicago.” And I said, “Sure. When?” He goes, “As soon as you can get here.” And I said, “Well, OK.” So the following Thursday, I went to Chicago and he asked me if I would serve as secretary of state.

And I said, “You know, Mr. President-elect, I, you know, I really want to go back to the Senate. I’m very flattered, but there are a lot of other people who could do that.” “No,” he said. “I know what I want and I want you to do this.” I said, “Well, you know, Mr. President-elect, I really want to go back to the Senate and that’s where I think I can best work with you and best serve you.” He goes, “Look,” he said, “I don’t want to hear from you again until you say yes.” [laughter] So, you know, I told him “no,” you know, again later. And he just said, “Don’t—don’t call me until you say yes.” And I did tell my husband, I said, “He’s so persistent. I’ve told him no twice and he keeps saying, you know, I’m waiting for you to say yes.” And Bill said, “Yeah, well, I asked you to marry me twice before you said yes.” [laughter]

So I guess there’s a connection there. So then I—I stayed up that night and I—I thought, you know, supposed I’d been honored to win, and I had wanted this incredibly talented American to be in my cabinet and I’d asked him, I’d want him to say yes. And I thought, you know, what’s what I have to do.

So I called him and I said, “You know, President-elect, I would be honored to serve in your cabinet.” And we immediately got starting to work. A few months later, on my very first trip as secretary of state, I went to Asia. And I went in part because everybody I called, all of the leaders in the countries that I spoke with, were saying, “You know, we just don’t know whether the United States cares about us anymore; nobody’s been paying any attention to us; you know, we’re—we’re kind of feeling like we’re not important to you anymore.” I said, “Well, you are, and the president feels that way; I feel that way; I will come see you.”

So I went out. And one of the countries that I went to was Indonesia, in part because it’s a very important country, but also President Obama had a personal connection with it. And my idea was not only to talk to the leaders, but to talk to the people, what’s called public diplomacy. So that as you were—as I was out there talking to presidents and prime ministers and others, I would also find ways of trying to connect to to tell people, “Look, the United States really does care about the world we’re trying to create together, and that’s part of my message from our new president.”

So I went on a—I agreed to go on a show in Jakarta, which was their morning show. And it was like a combination of MTV and a reality show and all that. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And so I go onto the set and people are jumping and they’re singing and they’re dancing. And it’s called “The Awesome Show.”

So I’m on “The Awesome Show,” and I’m talking a little bit to the interviewer. And then they ask people if they have any questions. And somebody in the audience says, “I want to ask you, we saw you campaigned very hard against President Obama; he campaigned very hard against you. He won. You lost. And then he asked you to be his secretary of state. Why?”

And I realized, you know, in a lot of these new democracies and other places of course, you run against somebody and you lose, you could get exiled or imprisoned, even killed; not asked to be secretary of state. And so this was a very legitimate question. And I thought, “I have to answer this in a very, you know, serious way that maybe they can understand in our democracy, you know, we do try to close ranks after we have hard elections,” at least that’s what we should be doing. I said, “Well, you’re right. We campaigned hard. He won. I lost. I then campaigned to get him elected. He asked me to be secretary of state, and I said yes for the same reason: We both love our country.”

And at the end of the day to me… [applause] …that’s what elections are supposed to be about. We can disagree and we will. We’ll have all kinds of arguments, even, about the best way to do things. But we should be coming from a place of love—of loving our country and of respecting one another. And we have to rebuild this feeling in our country again.

We have too much work to be done. We have too many people who deserve a better shot at a future for themselves and their families. I want to be their champion. And with your help, I will get up every single day doing the best I can to make sure that the country we love is the country we deserve to have.

Thank you all. [applause]