Senator Grassley, Senator Ernst, Congresswoman Finkenauer, Congresswoman Axne, Governor Vilsack, Lt. Governor Gregg, Madam Speaker, Mr. Leader, leaders, Mr. Chief Justice, justices and judges, legislators and other elected officials, distinguished guests, family and friends:
I am incredibly honored and humbled to stand before you today as the first woman elected governor of our great state. [applause]
I am grateful for the faith you have placed in me, humbled by the generosity you’ve shown me, and eager to continue to serve the people of Iowa.
This is a journey that began over 24 years ago at our kitchen table, when Kevin challenged me to put my ideas into action and to run for county treasurer.
Kevin, I’m not sure either of us knew where that challenge would lead, but I want to say thank you for that little push – when he didn’t want to hear me talking about it anymore [applause] – and for being a willing partner in this life of public service.
The people of Iowa are truly lucky to have you as their First Gentleman. Whether it’s your work with disabled veterans, your passion for conservation, you have embraced this new role with enthusiasm and purpose. [applause] So it goes without saying, thank you for being my source of strength, a loving husband, and an amazing father and grandfather.
To our three daughters, Nicole, Jen, and Jess: Thank you for always being there, for believing in me, and for reminding me to keep things in perspective.
Ryan, Jason, Scott, our sons-in-law: Thanks for always saying “Sure, we can do that!” when I know you were probably thinking “Really, are you kidding me?” Thank you.
To our 10 active and – I’m a grandma – adorable grandchildren: Did you know that being your grandma is the best job ever? [applause] Now, being governor is a really, really close second, so…. I know I’ve missed a few ballgames and concerts, and haven’t seen you as much as I’d like. But please know, there is nothing more important to me than all of you.
Mom and Dad — well first of all, thank you for raising me in Iowa. I cannot think of a better place to grow up, and my life has been so blessed because of it. Thank you for leading by example, showing us through 60 years of marriage this year, what true devotion and commitment are all about. I love you. [applause]
To all of my family, I want you to know this: When I’ve succeeded, it’s because I’ve stood on your shoulders. And when I’ve failed, I moved forward because you carried me. I would not be here without your love and support.
Lt. Governor Gregg — thank you for those very, very inspiring remarks this morning. Your passion and love of Iowa are contagious. I am so grateful for your leadership, for your counsel and for your friendship, and I’m so excited about what lies ahead. Thank you. [applause]
I am so blessed to stand before you today and address a state I truly love.
In 1948, well after his time as president had passed, Herbert Hoover delivered an address in his hometown of West Branch titled “I am proud to be an Iowan.” He opened by talking about his parents and grandparents, and of them he said this: “They worshiped God; they did their duty to their neighbors. They toiled to bring their children greater comfort, better education and to open to them a wider opportunity than had been theirs.”
I love that quote. President Hoover was describing his family, but he could have said the same thing of so many Iowans — then and still today.
We worship God; we take care of our neighbors; and we strive to teach our children the same values and give them a life that is better than our own.
It’s that simple. And it’s why Iowa is the best state in the nation.
We may not have snow-capped mountains or white sandy beaches. Or year-long 70-degree weather. (We’re lucky if we get two weeks of it.)
What we have — what makes Iowa so special — is the character of our people, whether they are an Iowa by birth or by choice, no matter where they came from.
As your lieutenant governor and now as governor, I’ve been fortunate to travel all 99 counties every year for eight years. Very few Iowans get that opportunity—though I do spot a few others in the crowd who do.
This travel gives me a unique vantage point. I get to see Iowa as a whole, and when I do — when I step back, squint my eyes and focus — here’s what I see: one, big small town.
In small town Iowa, residents don’t wait for government or far-flung strangers to take care of their ailing neighbors; they do it themselves.
When a farmer gets sick, the community drops everything to harvest his crops. When a neighbor loses her job and is struggling to get back on her feet, the town sees her through it; food and clothing are provided, and Christmas presents find their way under the tree.
In a small town, everyone works together and does life together, and because of that everyone takes care of each other.
That’s Iowa. Whether it’s Des Moines or Sioux Center, Decorah or Davenport, Iowans exhibit those small-town values. They work hard, but not so much for themselves. They’re ambitious, but not at the expense of others.
Last year, I witnessed this over and over again. Whether it was cleaning up after a flood or a tornado, looking for a missing loved one, or reaching out to someone who had lost their way, Iowans were flashing that small-town character and taking care of each other.
Over the next four years and beyond, everything we do should be done with an eye towards preserving and strengthening that way of life.
It will not be easy. And it will truly take all of us. Government didn’t make Iowa the best state in the nation, and government can’t keep it that way.
But too often, across the country, people are looking not to themselves but to government to solve their neighbors’ problems. They are focused less on what they can do and more on what they believe someone else is doing wrong.
Social media has become an accelerant for this way of thinking.
The internet has given a voice to millions of Americans. You no longer need a printing press to publish your ideas. A phone in your pocket will do.
That’s powerful. But it is also making us powerless.
Too many have become dependent on their phones, captive to social media and to the bitterness and pain that exist there.
I see it less here than in other parts of the country. But I see it. And if we aren’t vigilant, we will lose our character. We will lose our small-town way of life.
My ask of all Iowans, as we go into the next four years, is that we devote less time to online political arguments and more time to each other. That we don’t let a screen steal from our family and friends, from our communities and schools.
Because here’s the thing: If we look up and to each other, we will see that there are great things happening in this state. And if we put our energy into action instead of outrage, we will find that there are even greater days to come.
Today, we have the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, more Iowans are working than ever before, and their wages are going up. Iowans have more access to affordable healthcare, and we are beginning to focus as much on our mental health as we do our physical well-being.
Our fields are more productive than ever, and we are harvesting energy from the wind and sun.
Our teachers are connecting the classroom to the real world, and our schools are more innovative than ever. That’s preparing our students for success in a changing and dynamic environment.
And here’s the deal – we are just getting started. [applause] We’re doubling our efforts to show young people the opportunities that exist, and we’re giving them skills they need to seize that opportunity when it comes.
Of course, we must do more than just prepare our kids for a career. We have to teach them to be moral, productive members of society. We must instill in them the Iowa values that our parents instilled in us.
That kind of education doesn’t just happen in a classroom. It starts at home and must be supported by the community. Our children learn from observing — from watching you and me. So we all play a part. We must all take responsibility for nurturing the character of the next generation.
We must also recognize that our education is never over. We are never done learning and we should never stop challenging ourselves.
The economy is changing and the jobs are changing with it. Across Iowa, in cities and small towns, businesses are expanding and help-wanted signs are everywhere. These new jobs pay well, and the careers are rewarding, but they require more skills and training than we’ve seen in the past.
That presents a challenge, but the way I see it, it’s also an opportunity. Many Iowans are rising to the occasion. They’re signing up for apprenticeship programs or going back to school. Employers are stepping up, too, creating new scholarship and training programs.
But there are still Iowans who are struggling. They work hard but feel like they can’t get ahead. They want something more, but believe that time has passed them by and it’s too late..
For those Iowans, I’m here to tell you it’s never too late. I’m living proof of that. Our lives are not set at age 22, 30 or even 50. In Iowa, it’s not just our values that are timeless, so are our opportunities.
If we’re to be successful in all of this — in educating Iowans young and old, in paving the way for opportunity, and most of all, in keeping our small-town way of life — we must be sure that every part of our state is succeeding.
Iowa is unique in that our people aren’t concentrated in one city or even one part of the state. In every part of Iowa — in every corner and in every county — there are vibrant communities with a school, multiple houses of worship, and a Main Street that displays the community’s pride.
Iowans live out small-town values no matter where they are — whether it’s Cedar Rapids or Red Oak. But those values were born in these rural communities. That’s where Iowa’s character comes from.
So if we are going to protect that way of life, we must show our sons and daughters there is a future here for them, and that this future is bright.
As I travel the state, I am seeing a resurgence in many places. Our young people are coming home, new shops are opening, and the schools are brimming with as much pride as they ever have.
In the months and years ahead, it’s my hope that we can ignite that kind of passion in even more communities. That we can connect every part of Iowa to high-speed internet; that we can connect every Iowan to a rewarding career and affordable healthcare; and that we can connect Iowa, our products, and services to every part of the world.
If we do that — if we bring prosperity to every corner — then Iowa will remain the best state in the nation. [applause]
That’s not to say there won’t be challenges in the days ahead. The world is constantly changing — sometimes for the better and sometimes not. We must be prepared to embrace the change that enriches our lives and lets us focus on what’s important.
But when it comes to the qualities that define our great state, let’s not let the world change us. Let’s change the world. [applause]
Let’s worship God and take care of our neighbors. Let’s strive to teach our children the same values, and let’s give them a life better than our own.
If we do that, we will have lived a life that we can be proud of. A life that is worthy of the freedoms we’ve been given. A life truly that is Iowan.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this great state and its people. Thank you. [applause]
Neither the Catt Center nor Iowa State University is affiliated with any individual in the Archives or any political party. Inclusion in the Archives is not an endorsement by the center or the university.