Tom Harkin - U.S. Senate  
Iowa's Values for Iowa's Future

Photo - Tom Harkin delivers his campaign announcement speech in Cumming, Iowa Tom Harkin
Cumming, Iowa
March 18, 2002

I want to thank you, Ruth for those kind words and for your 34 years of love, support and encouragement. Thank you for being a great partner in all our endeavors — including raising the two best daughters in the whole world.

First of all, I want to thank you – my fellow Iowans – for your trust and support. It’s the greatest honor of my life to work for you and to work for Iowa in the United States Senate.

Now it is time to write the next chapter. Our campaign is about one thing: building a stronger and brighter future for Iowa. We can only do this together. That’s why our campaign will reach out to include every Iowan. While our campaign will be about our future and the challenges before us, our guiding star will be Iowa’s rock solid values. Values I learned from my parents growing up here in Cumming in this very house.

I’m the product of a hard working family, just like my wife Ruth. She grew up in a Minnesota community much like Cumming – the only difference is she came from the big city – her town had 300 people. But she learned the same values from her father, who was a farmer, and her mother, who was an elementary school teacher.

My mother was an immigrant who came to America with no money – only her hopes, dreams and courage. She died when I was 10 years old. But she left her hope in me.My father was a coal miner and a handyman. He only had an 8th grade education but he had a lot of common sense. My father believed in hard work, he believed in saving, and he believed in his children and our future.

No matter where I’ve gone – from flying jets in the Navy to representing Iowa in the Senate – more and more I realize that everything I ever needed to know I learned here in Cumming. Values like hard work, family, honesty, taking responsibility for your actions…being frugal…faith in God…love of country….a care and concern for those less fortunate than ourselves.

These are my values, and they’re Iowa’s too. We aren’t a state of whiners and wimps. Those folks left after the first winter. We’re a state with good people with good hearts who care about our neighbors and care about our future.

I live here in Cumming in the home in which I was born; but more importantly, I live the values I learned here, and they guide my work each day in the United States Senate.

For our values and for our country, this is no ordinary time. Seldom has there been a greater challenge to our values than international terrorism.

Right after that dark day of September 11th, I asked Iowans to join Governor Vilsack, Senator Grassley, our Congressional delegation and me for a memorial service at Drake University. I was never more proud to be an Iowan than when I looked out across that crowd and saw hundreds of Iowans standing up for America.

On that day we made clear that in the fight against terrorism, there are no Democrats; there are no Republicans; there are only Americans. And we all stand with our president in this great test of our national resolve and our national security. On your behalf, I will do all that I can to ensure that America’s military remains the strongest, most effective, best equipped fighting force in the world.

At stake is not only the strength of our arms, but the strength of our spirit. And just as the bravery of our men and women in uniform has made us proud, the story of people like Betty Neilsen, Pat Archer, and the people of Varina has touched our hearts and also made us proud.

Betty, Pat, and their friends helped make over 1500 handmade quilts for the families of the September 11 victims. In difficult times, they reached out a hand of kindness to families devastated by tragedy.

Our community of Iowa is a lot like those quilts. At first, a quilt is nothing more than many different pieces of fabric of different shapes, sizes, and colors. But by bringing all the pieces together, you create a thing of beauty that will protect you even through the coldest Iowa winter.

Like those quilts, America is at its strongest only when you bring all of the pieces together in a fabric of unity. And just as we have come together to bring down the forces of terrorism, so too must we come together to build a stronger, brighter future for Iowa and America.

Because we want an economy that provides a good paying job for every Iowan….because we want a stronger, safer, more tolerant community….because we want every senior to have a secure retirement….because we want every child to have the opportunity for the best education….because we want an Iowa with clean air and clean water….and because together, we can build a stronger, brighter future that’s rooted in the rock solid values of our great state, I announce today my candidacy to be your voice and your vote in the United States Senate.

Building a brighter future begins with creating good jobs and building a 21st century economy in Iowa. That’s why, when I became the first Iowan to chair Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly a century, I worked to pass a bipartisan farm bill that will raise farm incomes, protect our environment, and invest in our rural communities.

And that’s just the start of strengthening Iowa’s new economy. We must build on our strength by making Iowa’s world class universities and community colleges the launching pads for the new high tech businesses that generate the higher paying jobs of the future. Together, we can build an economy that supports the hopes and dreams of every Iowan. Iowa must be the place to come for the best schools and stay for the best jobs.

But as we move into the new economy must never leave behind Iowans who are struggling to make ends meet and move up the ladder of opportunity. That’s why we must increase the minimum wage.

Also, no one in Iowa, no one anywhere in America, should earn less because she’s a woman. It is time we had equal pay for equal work.

Whether blue collar or white collar, working man or working woman, a hard day’s work should mean not only a healthy paycheck, but health care that truly protects the family. Yet for too long, too many families have been left in the waiting room while HMOs refuse to provide the health care services that families need and deserve. That’s why I am working for Iowa to pass a real Patients’ Bill of Rights.

And for all Americans and all Iowans, we must invest more in medical research to speed new treatments for diseases like breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, AIDS and diabetes. As chairman of the Senate committee that funds medical research, I’m been proud to lead a successful, bipartisan effort to double our investment in medical research. I lead that effort because I know what it means to Iowa’s families, what it means to lose someone you love. And I want to see a day – and I know we can get there – when the best of our science can defeat the worst killers of our people. We can do that by working together and investing in medical research.

Building a stronger, brighter future for Iowa also means building stronger communities. Cumming has always been a place where you can walk the streets at night and feel safe. Well, every city and town and community can and must be that way.

That’s why I’ve been proud to work alongside our sheriffs and our police to keep our homes and our children safe. It’s why I worked for a crime bill that’s put 702 more police officers in our communities and put more criminals behind bars. And it’s why we’re still working to crack down on gangs and drugs and violence – especially when it comes to the terrible menace of meth across our state.

One of the greatest tests of our values is how we treat Iowans who have spent their lives building our community. That’s why building a stronger, brighter future for Iowa must also mean retirement and health security for today’s seniors and tomorrow’s retirees.

If we’ve learned anything from Enron, it’s that retirement security shouldn’t be a gamble – especially when people like Ken Lay are stacking the deck and dealing the cards. It’s time to say that your pension is not a corporate executive’s private piggy bank. For every working Iowan, it’s time to pass real pension reform now.

And another thing we should have learned from Enron is that your Social Security shouldn’t be left in the hands of Wall Street. Just ask Sheri Heiland. Her 77-year old mother saw her retirement savings wiped out by the decline and fall of Enron. That’s what Social Security privatization could mean for Iowa’s women.

Women are 60 percent of Social Security recipients — and 74 percent of unmarried elderly women depend on Social Security for one-half of their income. They deserve the promise of Social Security, not the lie of privatization. Privatization is wrong for Iowa’s women, it’s wrong for Iowa’s future, and it’s time to tell Wall Street, ‘hands off our Social Security.’

We should also strengthen health security in retirement by investing in Medicare. That’s why I’m working to raise Medicare payments to Iowa so our seniors get the health care they deserve. And I’ve talked with older Iowans who skip their medication, cut their pills in half, or cutback on food to afford life-saving drugs. That’s wrong – that’s a violation of our values – and it’s long past time we modernized Medicare by passing a real prescription drug benefit for all of America’s seniors.

More than anything else, Iowa’s future depends on our vision and plan for education. Building a stronger, brighter future for Iowa demands investing in the opportunity that only a quality education can provide.

Education is at the heart of the American dream. It’s the reason this son of a coal miner and an immigrant mother can work to become a United States Senator. I want every child to realize that dream – that’s why I was proud to work with President Bush to pass a bipartisan education reform bill. And it’s why I’ve worked very hard to secure $87 million to help build and modernize Iowa’s schools.

We have to invest in our teachers by improving training and paying them like the professionals they are. In the next ten years, 40 percent of Iowa’s teachers will retire. We also face a serious nursing shortage. That’s why I’ve proposed a plan to forgive up to $17,500 of student loans for Iowans who accept the challenge of teaching or nursing. That’s a common sense plan invests in Iowa’s students, Iowa’s economy, and Iowa’s future.

In all this work, we can and must put aside narrow partisanship. Those old politics aren’t Iowa’s values and they have no place in Iowa’s future.

Our future demands leadership, courage, hard work, and vision. You know where I stand; you know I stand up for what I believe; you know I’m on your side. I have always worked hard for Iowans and I care deeply about our Iowa values.

So I ask you to join with me, not just in this campaign, but in our cause to build a stronger, brighter future for Iowa. Together, we can build a future where all of Iowa and all of rural America is truly prosperous again; where all our seniors have a Medicare prescription drug benefit; where our health system puts patients first; where every child attends an excellent school; where our pensions and Social Security are secure; and where we have a new culture of responsibility – from each of us and for each other.

So I say to anyone who shares our vision — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents: Let us go forward together. This is your campaign. I ask for your help and your votes – and I pledge that I’ll keep working for you in the United States Senate – for our values, and for a stronger, brighter future for Iowa. - Click to return to homepage
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