Hello, Democrats! [applause] I love being in Ames. I live in northwest Iowa, I grew up in Des Moines and went to Iowa State. So you can imagine that I don't get to spend a lot of time around a lot of Democrats, so I'm just glowing in all of this fun.
Ames is like a hometown to me. My dad was an engineer. He went to South Dakota School of Mines but he adopted Iowa State when he and my mom moved to Des Moines. When I was applying for colleges, he told me he wouldn't pay for my college if I went to "that other school." [laughter] So when I filled out my applications and did my ACT, I put Iowa State, Iowa State, Iowa State. So it's good to be back in Ames. I have a son that is going to Iowa State – he's a junior – so we're really proud of that.
When I tell people that I'm running against Steve King, first reaction is usually a hug [laughter], or "God bless you!" [laughter] – I'm a huggy person so it's a really good thing – but then it's followed up with a "Oh my gosh, you're so brave." [laughter] And I said, you know what. It's not about bravery. It's about passion. I'm very passionate about giving people a voice.
For the last eight years, I have worked as a long-term care ombudsman. For those of you who don't know what that is, I advocate for people in nursing homes and assisted livings and I give them a voice. I help them have a better way of life. And I go into situations where there's two sides of an argument that they're not getting along and when I walk out they're agreeing, and somehow magically they each think they got exactly what they wanted. And that's part of facilitating solutions, and I think that's what we need here in the district.
I worked for many years as a grassroots activist – making phone calls, knocking on doors. I've knocked on doors in all four districts. I drove over and helped with Liz Mathis' special election, and people in my area said, "Why are you doing that? She's not your senator." I said, "Trust me. If we lose the Senate, we all lose."
And so when I was approached by several people in the district and asked to run, the very first time I said – it was actually Jim Mowrer that called me – I said, "Jim, you're lucky I didn't just take a drink of my Diet Coke or I would have spit it out all over the phone." And he laughed and he went, "No, Kim, you're perfect. You know all the activists. You care about the district. You've lived here for 25 years."
I am a dyed-in-the-wool Iowa. When my great-great-grandmother Siri – like the iPhone Siri but she was Siri first – came over from Norway, she first settled in Story City with her brother and her three boys – her husband had died the year before – and then they moved on and homesteaded in the South Dakota. And my parents were smart enough to come back to Iowa and have me here.
So I'm really excited about the campaign. I'm having fun. People think, Oh, this is such hard work. But I gotta tell you – I love it. If I wasn't campaigning for me, I'd be out knocking on doors and working for other people. I built six websites for state House and Senate candidates last cycle. So I figured, you know what – I might as well campaign for the rest of the district and myself at the same time.
So when you elect me and send me to D.C. – because you will – [applause] – thank you – [applause] – Maggie, are you hearing that? Get their names on the clipboards, please. She's back there, they're going around.
What I'm going to do, is I'm going to work to for an expansion of the AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer program. [applause] And one of the reasons why is because we're talking about the high cost of tuition in college. But what about the people who have already graduated? My daughter's a second-year medical student. She's going to have huge debt. She's fluent in Spanish and is going to be an OB/GYN and wants to work with underserved populations. I told her, "That's wonderful, honey, except you are my retirement plan." [laughter] She said I needed to get a new plan. [laughter]
So what I want to do with the expansion of the AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer program is that graduates who have huge debt can volunteer up to 4 hours a week to different community organizations and have their student loans deferred and their interest deferred, and at the end of the year have an amount applied to their student loan balance. So they can build a family, buy a home and contribute to the community.
In addition, this will help us seniors that I serve and love so dearly, because there are so many people that are living in their homes, especially in rural areas. We talk about Metro Transit – we don't have that in rural Iowa. But if we could get a new college grad to volunteer to help the senior citizen down the street get to her doctor's appointments or pick up her groceries or shovel her sidewalk, then she's going to be able to stay her home.
And with the high cost of nursing home care – 5, 6, 7, even $8,000 a month – not too many people in this room can afford that. Everything you have, everything you've worked for will go to the nursing. So if you can stay in your home longer and have a higher quality of life, then I think it's worth it.
And people say, "How are you going to pay for this program?" You know, people complain and they say, "These students – the took on this debt. They should know. They should pay for it." But we forget that they're our future. How can they build businesses? How can they build a life if they're shackled with this debt? I'm not saying give them a handout. I'm saying give them an opportunity to pay back their debt while also helping society.
I also like to remind people that there is a group of people that made some really bad choices financially and we bailed them out. They're called Wall Street.
So I'm going to need your help. Please sign up on the clipboards that are coming around. If you can't knock on doors and you can't make phone calls, promise me, I will find something for you to do. Maybe it's make cookies for the volunteers. We will find something. And I need your help and it's not going to happen without you.
And one thing I like to tell people when they tell me I'm brave – no, I'm not brave. I'm just bold. Besides that, they can't take away my birthday.
Speech from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFXEASJKEX0.