Obama Returns to Iowa

by Michael O. Allen on May 21, 2008

What he said:

BARACK OBAMA: How’s it going, Iowa? (APPLAUSE)

It is good to be back in Iowa.


I love you back, Iowa.


First of all, let me say thank you to Candy Smeeter (ph) for the wonderful introduction and the unbelievable work that she did on behalf of our campaign, and still does.

There are too many good friends and people who work tirelessly on my behalf to thank. You know who you are individually.

I just want to say, first of all, thank you, to all of you, for the great work that you did in helping to kick off this campaign.

And I do want to take a point of personal privilege and just say that I sure have a nice-looking wife and kids.


You know, there is a spirit that brought us here tonight, a spirit of change, and hope, and possibility. And there are few people in this country who embody that spirit more than our friend and our champion, Senator Edward Kennedy.


He has spent his life in service to this country, not for the sake of glory or recognition, but because he cares, deeply in his gut, about the causes of justice, and equality, and opportunity.

So many of us here have benefited in some way or another because of the battles he’s waged and some of us are here because of them. And we know he’s not well right now, but we also know that he’s a fighter.

And as he takes on this fight, let us lift his spirits tonight by letting Ted Kennedy know that we are thinking of him, that we are praying for him, that we are standing with him and Vicky, and that we will be fighting with him every step of the way.


You know, 15 months ago, in the depths of winter, it was in this great state where we took the first steps of an unlikely journey to change America.

The skeptics predicted we wouldn’t get very far. The cynics dismissed us as a lot of hype and a little too much hope. And by the fall, the pundits in Washington had all but counted us out.

But the people of Iowa had a different idea.


From the very beginning, you knew that this journey wasn’t about me or any of the other candidates in this race. It was about whether this country, at this defining moment, will continue down the same road that has failed us for so long or whether we will seize this opportunity to take a different path, to forge a different future for this country that we love.

That’s the question that sent thousands upon thousands of you to high school gyms and VFW halls, to backyards and front porches, to steak fries and J.J. dinners, where you spoke about what the future would look like.

You spoke of an America where working families don’t have to file for bankruptcy just because a child gets sick, where they don’t lose their home because some predatory lender tricks them out of it, where they don’t have to sit on the sidelines of the global economy because they couldn’t afford the cost of a college education.

You spoke of an America where our parents and our grandparents don’t spend their retirement in poverty because some CEO dumped their pension, an America where we don’t just value wealth, but we value work and the workers who create it, as well.


You spoke of an America where we don’t send our sons and daughters on tour after tour of duty to a war that has cost us thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, but has not made us safer.


You spoke of an America where we matched the might of our military with the strength of our diplomacy and the power of our ideals, a nation that is still the beacon of all that is good and all that is possible for humankind.

You spoke of a future where the politics we have in Washington finally reflects the values we hold as Americans, the values you live by here in Iowa: common sense and honesty, generosity and compassion, decency and responsibility.

These values don’t belong to one class or one region or even one party. They are the values that bind us together as one country.

That is the country…


That’s the country I saw in the faces of crowds that would stretch far into the horizon of our heartland, faces of every color, of every age, faces I see here tonight.


You’re Democrats who are tired of being divided, but you’re also Republicans who no longer recognize the party that runs Washington, and independents who are hungry for change.


You’re the young people who’ve been inspired for the very first time…


… and those not-so-young folks who’ve been inspired for the first time in a long time.


You’re veterans and churchgoers, sportsman and students, farmers and factory workers, teachers and business owners, who have varied backgrounds and different traditions, but the same simple dreams for your children’s future.

Many of you have been disappointed by politics and politicians more times than you can count. You’ve seen promises broken, good ideas drowned in the sea of influence and point-scoring and petty bickering that’s consumed Washington.

And you’ve been told over and over and over again to be cynical, and doubtful, and even fearful about the possibility that things can ever be different, can ever be better.

And yet, in spite of all the doubt and disappointment, or perhaps because of it, you came out on a cold winter’s night in January, in numbers that this country has never seen, and you stood for change.


You stood for change. And because you did, a few more stood up, and then a few thousand stood up, and then a few million stood up.


And tonight, Iowa, in the fullness of spring, with the help of those who stood up from Portland to Louisville, we have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people…


… and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States of America.


AUDIENCE: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!

OBAMA: You know, the road here has been long. There have been some bumps along the way. I’ve made some mistakes.

But also it’s partly because we’ve traveled this road with one of the most formidable candidates to ever run for this office.

You know, in her 35 years of public service, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has never given up on her fight for the American people. And tonight I congratulate her on her victory in Kentucky.

You know, we’ve had our disagreements during this campaign, but we all admire her courage, and her commitment, and her perseverance. And no matter how this primary ends, Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age, and for that we are grateful to her.


Now, some may see the millions upon millions of votes cast for each of us as evidence that our party is divided. But I see it as proof that we have never been more energized and united in our desire to take this country in a new direction.


More than anything, we need this unity and this energy in the months to come, because, while our primary has been long and hard- fought, the hardest and most important part of our journey still lies ahead.

We face an opponent, John McCain, who arrived in Washington nearly three decades ago as a Vietnam War hero and earned an admirable reputation for straight talk and occasional independence from his party.

But this year’s Republican primary was a contest to see which candidate could out-Bush the other, and that’s a contest that John McCain won.

The Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans that once bothered John McCain’s conscience are now his only economic policy.

The Bush health care plan that only helps those who are already healthy and wealthy is now John McCain’s answer to the 47 million Americans without insurance and the millions more who can’t pay their medical bills.

The Bush Iraq policy that asks everything from our troops and nothing of Iraqi politicians is John McCain’s policy, too. And so is the fear of tough and aggressive diplomacy that has left this country more isolated and less secure than at any time in recent history.


The lobbyists who ruled George Bush’s Washington are now running John McCain’s campaign. And they actually had the nerve the other day to say that the American people won’t care about this.

Talk about out of touch. I think the American people care plenty about that.


Now, I will leave it up to Senator McCain to explain to the American people whether his policies and positions represent long-held convictions or Washington calculations, but the one thing they don’t represent is change.

Change is a tax code that rewards work instead of wealth, by cutting taxes for middle-class families, and senior citizens, and struggling homeowners, a tax code that rewards businesses that create good jobs here in America, instead of the corporations that ship them overseas. That’s what change is.


AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

OBAMA: Change is a health care plan that guarantees insurance to every American who wants it, that brings down premiums for every family who needs it, that stops insurance companies from discriminating and denying coverage to those who need it most. That’s what change is.


Change is an energy policy that doesn’t rely on buddying up to the Saudi royal family and then begging them for oil, an energy policy…


Change is an energy policy that puts a price on pollution and makes the oil companies invest their record profits in clean, renewable sources of energy that will create millions of new jobs and leave our children a safer planet. That’s what change is, Iowa.


Change is giving every child a world-class education by recruiting an army of new teachers with better pay and more support, by promising four years of tuition to any American willing to serve their community and their country, by realizing that the best education starts with parents who turn off the TV, and take away the video games, and read to their children once in a while. That’s what change is.


Change is ending a war that we never should have started.


Change is finishing a war against Al Qaida in Afghanistan that we never should have ignored.


Change is facing the threats of the 21st century, not with bluster or fear-mongering or tough talk or suspending due process, but with tough diplomacy and strong alliances and confidence in the ideals that have made this nation the last best hope on Earth.

That is the legacy of Roosevelt and Truman and Kennedy. That, Iowa, is what change is. That is the choice in this election.


The same question that first led us to Iowa 15 months ago is the one that’s brought us back here tonight. It’s the one we will debate from Washington to Florida, from New Hampshire to New Mexico, the question of whether this country, at this moment, will keep doing what we’ve been doing for four more years or whether we will take that different path.

It’s more of the same versus change. It’s the past versus the future. It has been asked and answered by generations before us. And now it is our turn to choose.

We will face our share of difficult and uncertain days in the journey ahead. The other side knows they have embraced yesterday’s policies, so they will also embrace yesterday’s tactics to try and change the subject.

They’ll play on our fears and our doubts. They’ll try to sow discord and division to distract us from what matters to you and your future.

Well, they can take the low road if they want, but it will not lead this country to a better place. It will not work in this election. It won’t work because you will not let it work, not this time, not this year.


AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

OBAMA: My faith in the decency and honesty and generosity of the American people is not based on false hope or blind optimism, but on what I’ve lived and what I’ve seen in this very state.

For in the darkest days of this campaign, when we were dismissed by all the polls and all the pundits, I would come to Iowa and see that there was something happening here that the world did not yet understand.


It’s what led high school and college students to give up their vacations to stuff envelopes and knock on doors.


It’s why grandparents have spent all their afternoons making phone calls to perfect strangers. It’s what led men and women who can barely pay their bills to dig into their savings and write $5 checks and $10 checks and why young people from all over this country have left their friends and their families for a job that offers little pay and less sleep.

Iowa, change is coming to America.


Change is coming.

It’s the spirit that sent the first patriots to Lexington and Concord and led the defenders of freedom to light the way north on an Underground Railroad.

It’s what sent my grandfather’s generation to beachheads in Normandy, and women to Seneca Falls, and workers to picket lines and factory fences.

It’s what led all those young men and women who saw beatings and billy-clubs on their television screens to leave the safety of their homes and get on buses and march through the streets of Selma and Montgomery, black and white, rich and poor.


Change is coming to America, Iowa.


It’s what I saw all those years ago on the streets of Chicago when I worked as an organizer, that in the face of joblessness and hopelessness and despair, a better day is still possible, if there are people who are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it.

That’s what I’ve seen here in Iowa. That’s what is happening in America.

Our journey may be long. Our work will be great. But we know in our hearts we are ready for change. We are ready to come together. And in this election, we are ready to believe again.

Thank you, Iowa. And God bless you. God bless America. Thank you.

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