Former Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA)
Democratic National Committee Winter Meeting
Washington, DC
February 3, 2007

Introduction (read by Lottie Shackleford)

Hello Democrats!  It is my honor today to introduce Gov. Tom Vilsack.  Gov. Vilsack was twice elected Governor of Iowa, first in 1998, overcoming a 25 point deficit to become Iowa's first Democratic elected Governor in 32 years.  [applause].  Tom Vilsack is a lawyer.  He's also a former Mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and he's a former state Senator.  By the end of his eight years as Governor of Iowa, his state underwent a dramatic change.  Tom led Democrats to the majority in both houses of the Iowa legislature, turning a red state into a blue state.  [applause].  For the first time in more than a decade, more Democrats are registered than Republicans in Iowa.  [applause].  During that time Tom also served as chair of the Democratic Governors, and he led Democrats to statehouse victories all across this country.  Despite the Republican-controlled legislature in Iowa, Gov. Vilsack expanded health care coverage to more than 90,000 uninsured children.  He expanded access to early childhood education, and he made Iowa a national leader in renewable energy.  All of this while balancing the budget and providing targeted tax relief to working families.  Tom Vilsack also inspired Iowans to have the courage to create change, and to envision that change for all Americans.  He built a solid foundation of progress in Iowa that ensures countless opportunities for people of all ages.  As president, Tom will lead America in a new direction.  He will strengthen our schools, improve our health care systems, achieve energy security, and he will change the course in Iraq by bringing our troops home.  It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you today someone who's not only changed the landscape in Iowa, but someone who is genuinely committed to changing the landscape in America.  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Gov. Tom Vilsack.
[Applause.  Music]

VILSACK:  Thank you very much.  Mayor, thank you very much for that kind introduction, something you and I share, and it's a great privilege to have been a mayor.  I appreciate the kind introduction.

And first of all let me say how privileged I am to be here this morning among so many Democrats who care so deeply about our party and about our nation.  And I want to take this opportunity specifically to acknowledge the chair of our party and DNC members for the support and confidence that you had in all 50 states of the United States.  [applause].

You know I think our chair recognized that our Democratic values are welcome in all parts of our great country.  Mr. Chair, thank you very much for your service.  [applause].

Good morning to all of you.  I'm Tom Vilsack.  That's a name that my adoptive [adopted?] parents gave to me.  I didn't know my birth mother and I didn't know my birth father.  The fact is I know very little about the circumstances of my birth other than that I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania [cheers].  Shortly after I was born, my birth mother handed me over to nuns in a Catholic orphanage where I stayed until I was adopted.   You know in this city they talk a lot about No Child Left Behind.  Well the fact is I was a child left behind.

I was born an outsider.  I've always understood the importance of being an outsider and I've always understood what it feels like not to belong.

You know I've dedicated my life to those who work hard, those on the outside looking in, those who struggle every day to make sure that their lives and their childrens' lives are better.  For me, those are the people that I respect and admire the most in this great country.  [applause].

My adoptive [adopted?] mom was one of the great and most amazing people in my life, along with my wife Christie, who's here today, she was an inspiration for me.  She was an alcoholic and she was addicted to prescription drugs, but she overcame those addictions and she taught me a great, valuable life lesson, and she also allowed our family, that had been separated by addiction, to be united again.

The lesson she taught me was simple, and that is that each of us has great capacity to overcome fear, that indeed before hope there is courage, the courage to create change.  And that's why I'm here today as a candidate for president and as a Democrat asking for your support.  Because I believe our country, now more than ever, needs that courage to create change in Iraq and across this great country.  [applause].

We long to be the United States of America, united in common purpose and shared purpose.  Sadly today in this city, our nation's capital, so much of what takes place is motivated by fear.  Iraq policy, our foreign policy, our energy policy, even our health care policy, all motivated and arising out of fear.

You know I was in Seattle not too long ago and I had the opportunity to speak to a group of young women.  And one of the young women brought her 5-year old son to the event.  And after I was finished speaking this little fellow came up to me, and he asked me very seriously would a hundred more troops in Iraq make a difference?  Fellow is five years old.  And I said no, I don't think so.  He said would a thousand more troops make a difference?  I said no, I don't think so.  And then he looked at me and he said, and I quote, I'm frightened every day.  I'm frightened every day.

You know my fellow Democrats, I'm tired of being in a country where 5-year old children are frightened.  It's time for change. [applause].

I am tired of a government that reminds me every day to be afraid, and I am tired of a government that focuses only on preventing evil and never talking about promoting goodness.  [applause].

We've been motivated by fear, our policies have been directed by fear, fear of special interests, fear of foreign governments, fear of the unknown.  Well let me say this very clearly.  No family can live in fear, no government can be run in fear, and the American Dream can never be revived by fear.  [applause].

This party has many great legacies, but the greatest legacy of all is its ability to inspire people to overcome their fears and to embrace change.  And the time has come for us in this country to replace fear with courage, the courage to create change.

We are at our best as Democrats when we stand up and are inspired by those values that rule us and never stand down to those who wish to scare us.  We are at our best and do our best when we're motivated by a desire to effect real, positive change, not change that results simply from political pressure.

Let me be clear.  I'm not talking about small change; I'm not talking about incremental change.  I'm talking about bold and courageous change.  

Let me give you a few examples.

Adding a few dollars and tweaking a reauthorized No Child Left Behind is not real change.  [applause].  Ending No Child Left Behind as we know it is real change and replacing it with a real, true commitment to the children of this country.  [applause continues].

In this competitive world we live in, we cannot afford to be a nation of great standardized test-takers, we must be a nation of creative and innovative thinkers and that's why...  [applause, inaud.]

Identifying earmarks--excuse me I see the time.  Mr. Chairman take [Dean: You'd be first to adopt the limit, Tom...]  Take 'em off the next speech I give.  [laughter, applause].

Identifying earmarks, identifying earmarks and passing budget resolutions is not real change.  Balancing budgets, making the tough choices to eliminate what I call the birth tax is real change.  Think about it.  That's what the deficit is, it's a tax on our children, and we need to eliminate that tax.  [applause].

As a governor I know something about balan--I balanced eight budgets, I left my successor with a surplus, and I can tell you that we had to make tough choices, but I'm proud of that record as a governor.

Giving lip service to renewable fuel production and climate control and climate change is not real change.  That's not real change.

Building a renewable fuel industry, creating opportunities for us to be the best nation in the world in conservation, that's real change.  That's what we did in Iowa.  We built a renewable fuel industry, we expanded access to renewable fuel and to wind energy and we created new jobs and better paying jobs, and I'm proud of that record.  That's real change.  [applause].

Promising, promising access to health care coverage is not real change.  Doing the tough work of actually reducing the number of uninsured, making sure that coverage is universally available, and lowering the cost of health care, that's real change and that's what we did in Iowa.  We were one of only two states last year to reduce the number of uninsured.  It can be done, but it requires the courage to create real change in this country.  [applause].

Now let me speak about Iraq.  The reality of capping troops or reducing the number of troops at some point in time in the future, that's not real change.

Real change is saying we want our troops out of harm's way now.  [applause].  Real change is saying to the Iraqis, it is your responsibility, you must assume responsibility now for your country, you must put yourself at risk, not our young men and women.  That's real change.  [applause].

We cannot wait for the president or the Congress to make a political calculation as to when and how this is happening.  Look around here today.  I'm not sure how many people are in this hall, but let us assume for the sake of conversation that there are roughly five or six hundred people.  Look to your right and to your left.  Understand that delay will mean that the person to your right and to your left, representing one soldier who will likely die, will occur over the next year.  A thousand soldiers will die, five thousand more will be hurt.  It is time for us to clearly say the war must end and our troops must be brought home now.  [applause].

Let me say that I think Congress has a constitutional responsibility and a moral obligation to do it now.  Not a cap--an end.  Not eventually--immediately.  [applause].

Those who voted for the war, those who voted to continue to support the war, those who voted to continue funding the war can surely vote to stop the war.  [applause].

I said I was born an outsider, and I am.  But I think that's a good thing if you want to effect change.  As an insider it's difficult to effect change.  Staying the course is a bit easier.  Basically doing what you've always done is the way things most often happen.  As an outsider we can change things, and we are a party of outsiders.  We represent outsiders, and need I remind you we win as outsiders.  [applause].  The last two times we have won election it has been with an outsider who is a governor.  That is the message.

It is important for us to also reflect on how we turn red states to blue.  That's something I know a little something about.  The first Democratic governor in 32 years in my state, the first to be re-elected in 36 years, the first to be succeeded by a Democrat in 72 years.  We gave that [applause]--we gave that Democratic governor a Democratic legislature for the first time in 42 years.  [applause].

If we have the courage to create change, we can change red to blue and this is the America we can have.  We can have an America that respects rights and choices.  We can have an America that understands and appreciates all people regardless of race or creed or color or religion or sexual orientation.  We can have an America that can build an economy that works for all, an America that's energy secure, an America that can reclaim foreign leadership on the issue of climate change, an America that can lead the world, an America that can be part of an effort to end world hunger, to promote literacy, an America that shows the goodness of our heart, and most importantly of all, with the courage to create change, we can be an America that is no longer at war and is at peace.  [applause].

I'm proud to be a Democrat, and you are too.  I'm proud of what we did in 2006, in taking the Congress back.  Now our goal, our challenge is to take the White House back in 2008.  [applause].  We know what we have to do, all we need is the courage to get it done.

Thank you and God bless.

[Applause.  Music: "I'll Be There"].

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