Kirsten E Gillibrand

Iowa State Fair Political Soapbox - Aug. 10, 2019

Kirsten E Gillibrand
August 10, 2019— Des Moines, Iowa
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First I want to introduce the director of fun, Henry Gillibrand. Henry just won this sloth named, his sloth what's the name?

Henry: "Blueberry"

Yes and this is this is the driver of the RV, Jonathan Gillibrand.

Jonathan: "Hi everyone"

"They've made my trip to Iowa amazing, we've done a RV tour over the last few days. We have a couple more days to go, it's been the best part of our summer and we've loved it and Henry loves your State Fair so thank you.

(Video cuts)--I think it is I got my--(video cuts)--our state legislature 75 years ago. She looked around. All the legislators were men, all the support staff were women. So she wanted to have a voice. She didn't know how. She knew her voice was important but what she figured out is the voice of all the women was even more important. So she learned to work on campaigns, she learned to organize, she taught women how to go door to door, how to stuff envelopes, how to make phone calls.

And my first memory on a campaign was when I was Henry's age and I walked into this campaign headquarters and it was a hot August day and the women were wearing dresses not unlike mine—sleeveless, cotton dresses to keep cool—and they were stuffing their envelopes and as they stuff and I'm thinking wow; I'm mesmerized by their arms, their very jiggly arms and I'm saying to myself, I want to be just like those ladies someday. Sure enough, jiggly arms for everybody!

So I loved my grandmother and I loved how much she loved politics, 'cuz it was an extension of her values. It was an extension of who she was, what she wanted to accomplish and who she wanted to help in her communities. So I followed in her footsteps.

But the one lesson my grandmother taught me was that I should never give up, that there was nothing I couldn't do and there was no such thing as impossible. I took those words to heart and if you need to know anything about me anything at all—you tell me something’s impossible, I get it done and I've done it my whole life.

When I first ran for Congress in 2006 I was told I could not win my upstate New York congressional district.

I went to my pollster and I said, “Jeffrey, I really want to run in New York 20, can I win?” and he said no. I said, “Really, I can't win?” He said no.

I said, “But I've been helping campaigns for a decade. I know how to raise money. I bet I could raise two million dollars and get my message out. Can I win then?”

He said, “No, Kirsten, it's two-to-one Republican. You can't win.”

I said, “Yeah, but what happens if I run the perfect campaign? You can't tell me that if I have enough money and run a perfect campaign that I can't win.”

He said, “Kirsten, there are more cows than Democrats in your district. You just can't win.”

Well I'm frustrated by this point and I said, “You know, Jeffrey, what happens if this guy gets indicted? I could clearly beat him then, right?” Well, he says it depends what he gets indicted for.

So it's a red, red, red district. The only person who thought I could win was my mother.

Now, that tells you a lot about my mother. My mother was raised by her mother, my grandmother, to be strong, to be brave. My mom was one of only three women in her law school class. When she came to be an Albany lawyer, a lot of people in the gay rights community didn't have lawyers, so they went to her. So if they wanted to buy a house she helped them, if they wanted to have a will for each they wanted to have a will for each other she helped them. My mother was also tough. By the time she was my age, she was the second degree black belt in karate. My mom didn't just cook the Thanksgiving turkey, she shot the Thanksgiving turkey.

So I grew up in a family of strong women and so when I ran for this congressional district nobody thought I could do it but I did.

The one mistake my opponent made is he never took me seriously, not once. He demeaned me he dismissed me, he called me names just like Trump will do.

In fact, one time he said to me, “Huh, you’re just another pretty face.” I said thank you. Then I talked about all the ways I was different from him. I talked about why we needed to get our troops out of Iraq, I talked about why health care should be a right and not a privilege. I ran on Medicare for all in a two-to-one Republican district and won.

I ran for re-election, my opponent again didn't take me seriously. That particular campaign I was out to here pregnant with Henry who you just met, I had a toddler at home. Theo, who is fifteen, is still at camp canoeing in the wilderness. And I'm walking around the district like this and he runs all negative ads really mean negative ads so mean I had to turn the TV off 'cuz I had a toddler at home. I didn't want him to see his mother's face in red with flames coming out of my head and a very dark voice saying, “She's not who you think she is.”

So we learned something in politics that day—you cannot win a congressional campaign against a young mother with an infant and a toddler with negative ads, no one believes you. I beat him by 24 points so it was not impossible.

When I got to the U.S. Senate I met with a soldier, a man who said, "I joined the military because I believed in the honesty, the integrity, the character of people who serve in the military and I wanted to be one of them." He said, "But not for me, because I am forced every day to lie about who I am and who I love and I cannot bear it."

So I said, "Well, I will help you repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. I will lift up your voice."

I went to the advocates.... I went to the advocates. I said we must repeal this now and they said, "Oh, Kirsten, that's impossible. You can't do it. The military won't let it happen. The best we can hope for is that President Obama doesn't enforce it."

And I said no, that's not good enough. We actually have to repeal this corrosive, horrible discriminatory policy, and I got to work. I went first to my Democrats and I said we gotta repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. I'm sorry to say some Democrats said, "Kirsten, why are you doing this now? It's not convenient."

When are civil rights ever convenient? I got all the Democrats on the bill. I found the Republican allies I needed. I asked Susan Collins, we worked together, we got the seven Republicans, we stood up to the Pentagon and we repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell. It was not impossible.

So then I'm asked as a freshman senator, "You have to help, Kirsten. We need to pass the 9/11 health bill."

Well, I was told it was impossible because it was dead on arrival. It had sat in the House of Representatives for seven years, twenty hearings, no progress. In the Senate, it hadn't even been introduced, not even written, not even a hearing.

And so I got to work. So I wrote the bill. I introduced it. I got a hearing. I found a Republican. He co-sponsored it with me. I went to my friends in the Senate, my women friends, and said how do I pass a big bill like this? And they said, "Kirsten, we'll help you. We'll tell you how to pay for it in a way Republicans can't say no." They helped me behind the scenes. We asked the first responders to come to Washington over and over and over again. Within a year and a half, everybody was talking about it. We had MSNBC of course, we had CNN of course, we had Jon Stewart—two whole episodes on the 9/11 health bill. But we didn't have Fox News. So I went into the lion's den and I met with Roger Ailes and I said Roger, you say you're the party of first responders. Where are you on this bill? I convinced him.

We learned a second thing that's true in politics—when you have Jon Stewart on one side and Fox News on the other side, you are gonna win. It passed unanimously, not impossible.

I had to bring it back up five years later because the money was running out and it wasn't permanent. We passed it again and just two weeks ago we made it permanent for our first responders for compensation and health care forever. Not impossible!

So now the number one question on any Democrat's mind is, can you beat Trump? The number two question on any Democrat's mind is, can you beat Trump? Number three: can you be Trump?

The answer is yes, I can beat Trump, it is not impossible.

I'll tell you how—because I always represent everyone. It doesn't matter who you are, where you live or who you love, I have your back. I will represent your family as if you were my own. It's who I am, it's what I've done.

My three races in New York: 2010, 12, 18—highest vote percentage in the history of the state, higher than Obama, higher than Hilary, higher even than Trump. I just won back a bunch of counties that Trump had won in the last election. So I win in the red places, the purple places, in the blue places and I bring people together.

I actually get stuff done. I passed 18 bills in the last Congress that President Trump signed into law. He does not know he signed my bills into law but he did, so I get things done.

And I gotta tell you, President Trump is dividing us. Hate crimes have gone up under him. Racism, homophobia, misogyny, anti-Semitism. And he's emboldened white supremacists. He's emboldened racists. He's emboldened hate groups. He finds moral equivalences where there are none. He said there were good people on both sides after Charlottesville. He laughed when a when an organizer in Florida... When he's doing a big rally and they say, “What do we do with immigrants” and someone yells out “shoot them,” he laughed. He's giving permission for hate to flow.

And I decided to run for president because we need someone who will remind this country we are so much stronger when we care about one another. We are such a better country when we believe in the Golden Rule. When we treat others the way we want to be treated, when we love one another, when we care about the least among us.

That is who I am. I am a person of deep faith. I believe in Matthew 25. I believe in Matthew 5, that we are the light of the world. That we are meant to be on a hill so all can see that is the beacon of light and hope of America. We are meant to be the light of the world.

I also know what to do. The first thing, the very first thing I'm going to do when I'm elected president—I'm going to Clorox the Oval Office. The second thing I'm gonna do is restore our moral leadership on the world stage. Sign on to the Global Climate Accords, lead the world in a worldwide conversation about how we attack global climate change. It's an idea that's big but we can do it.

When John F. Kennedy said, "I want to put a man on the moon in this century—in this decade—not because it's easy but because it's hard, because it's a measure of our inventiveness, our effectiveness, who we are as the country," he knew that a space race with Russia would galvanize the country to want to be an astronaut, to want to be an engineer, and it worked.

We can do the same thing with green energy. Our Iowa farmers can be part of biofuels, can be part of how we do carbon sequestration. Rural America can lead the way in how we tackle global climate change. Our scientists, our engineers, are the brightest in the world. They can invent our solutions out of this problem—put a price on carbon, make sure you're rewarding entrepreneurship and innovation.

We can do this. I will do this as your president. Is it impossible? Not impossible. Pass health care as a right and not a privilege, take on the drug companies and the insurance companies—not impossible. I will deliver health care as a right.

And I just spent this morning with people who have lost loved ones because of gun violence. Lost their loved ones--suffered through it, survived gun violence and it's crippling. One of my best friends in the House was Gabby Giffords. I watched what happened to her when she just went to a Congress on her corner to serve the public and a little girl who wanted to see her. congresswoman, showed up and was shot and killed. Gabby survived—how many others don't? So I will take on the NRA, I will get money out of politics, I will have a publicly funded election because it's not impossible.

Thank you so much.