Martin O'Malley photo

Remarks at the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Des Moines

October 24, 2015


Thank you, Dr. Maguire. It is a great honor to stand on this stage before you along with Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders—two people for whom I have enormous respect.

My name is Martin O'Malley.

Former Mayor of Baltimore, former Governor of Maryland. I am a life-long Democrat. I am running for President of the United States. I intend to win, and I need your help!

It's great to be here with all of you.

As I was driving down to Des Moines from Osage today, I couldn't help but think about my first visit to Iowa. I was 20 years old. Four or five of us drove out in a little Subaru from Maryland.

It was a long drive and my friends dropped me off in Davenport at 6 in the morning at the Greyhound bus station. All I had was my guitar and a duffle bag of winter clothes.

I was here to work on a fledgling, underdog presidential campaign, and over the next several months I fell in love with the State of Iowa and her people.

The best part of running for President is meeting young people who share this same idealism and belief in all things possible.

I know it is is easy to become discouraged by the gridlock in Congress. The division and polarization of our national politics.

So I urge you to do as I do.

If you want to know where our country is headed, talk to young Americans under 30.

You will rarely find among them anyone who denies that climate change is real, or thinks their government shouldn't be doing something about it.

You'll rarely find among them people who want to bash New American Immigrants, or people that want to deny rights to gay couples or their children.

All of this tells me that we are moving to a more connected, more compassionate, and more generous place as a country.


On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden spoke eloquently about the values we share: our belief in the dignity of every person, respect for one another, a commitment to advance the common good we share...

He spoke about the growing income inequality in our country — a growing injustice that threatens to tear our country apart.

He called on us, as Democrats, as Americans, not to run away from the Obama-Biden record of progress, but to build upon what we have achieved.

To be fearless about our progressive values... our ability to solve this problem...and our ability to make our economy work again for all of us.

All of us here tonight agree that we cannot allow Donald Trump or any of the Trump wannabes in this year's Republican field to take over the White House.

But we differ on who is best prepared to lead America forward — especially in these new times.

Who gives us our best chance as a Party to win in November?

In three months, the people of Iowa will make a critical decision.

It's not about yesterday. It's not just about today.

It's about our country — it is about the future our children will share.


While all of the candidates here tonight share progressive values, not all of us have a record of actually getting things done.

I do.

With fifteen years of executive experience — as Mayor and as a Governor —I have learned how to be a very effective leader. I have learned how to get things done. I am clear about my principles.

Passing a living wage and raising the minimum wage. Freezing college tuition for four years in row.

Actions, not words!

As Governor, I made it easier — not harder — for workers to bargain collectively for better wages for all of us.

Actions, not words!

Instead of cutting public education funding, as Governor, I increased funding for public education by 37% and — memo to Governor Branstad — ...

We made our public schools the best public schools in America for five years in a row!

Actions, not words!

I brought people together to pass the Dream Act, to pass Marriage Equality, and to pass the most comprehensive gun safety legislation in the nation with background checks and a ban on the sale of combat assault weapons!

Actions, not words!


My wife Katie and I have four great kids, Grace and Tara, William and Jack — like you — there is nothing we wouldn't do to give them better, fully lives with more opportunity than we've had.

(Grace story)

Our country has come a long way since the Wall Street crash of 2008 when millions of families lost their jobs and their homes.

Thanks to President Obama's leadership, we are creating jobs again — 67 months in a row of positive job creation! —

There is no progress without jobs!

Our country is clearly doing better.

But we elected a president not a magician.

There is urgent work to be done.

For there is in our country today a growing economic injustice.

Our middle class is shrinking. Our poorest families are becoming poorer.

And seventy percent of us today are earning the same or less than we were twelve years ago.

This is not how our economy is supposed to work. This is not how country is supposed to work.

Injustice does not solve itself.

We must solve it — with new leadership, and with action.

Actions to make wages go up again for all Americans.

Actions to invest again in our own country's potential. To make college a gateway to opportunity, not a trap-door to a lifetime of crushing debt.

Actions that square our shoulders to the great challenge of climate change — and makes this challenge our opportunity!


As Americans, we make our own future.

We must return to our true selves, and remember:

Our economy is not money, our economy is people - all our people.

A stronger middle class is not the consequence of economic growth - a stronger middle class is the cause of economic growth.

No American family who works hard and plays by the rules should have to raise their children in poverty!

Therefore we must take action, together, to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour — wherever and however we can!

We must advance the cause of paid family leave so that all women can participate more fully in the economic life of our nation — because "when women succeed, America succeeds!"

Over the summer, I put forward my 15 Goals to Rebuild the American Dream:

Making the option of debt-free college a reality within 5 years.

Instead of cutting Social Security — like all of the Republican candidates want to do — we must expand Social Security!

I am the first candidate — but let us hope not the last — to put forth a plan to move America forward to a 100% clean electric energy grid by 2050, and create 5 million new jobs along the way!

Do we want wages to go up and not down?

Bringing 11 million our neighbors out of the off-the-books, shadow economy by passing comprehensive immigration reform!

Kenia Alejandra Calderon, an Iowa DREAMer is here with us tonight.

Kenia was born in El Salvador and is now a student at Drake. Along the way she's become a fearless advocate for citizenship rights for herself and millions of Americans like her.

To that immigrant bashing, carnival barker, Donald Trump —

Let us stand up together, and say, the enduring symbol of our nation is not the barbed wire fence,... it is the Statue of Liberty!


Nothing we care about can be accomplished by words alone.

We must take action.

As Democrats, we must cast aside the worn out politics of the past.

We must find our backbone again to stand up for what is best for our country and best for all Americans!

We must stop giving a free pass to the bullies of Wall Street.

I have never represented Wall Street and, I sure as hell won't be taking economic orders from the big banks of Wall Street when I'm in your White House!

As your President, I will have the independence and the backbone to fight for you: if a bank is too big to fail, too big to jail, and too big to manage, then it's too damn big, and it needs to be broken up before it breaks our national economy once again!

Tell me how it is, that not a single Wall Street CEO was ever convicted of a single crime related to the 2008 economic meltdown. Not. A. Single. One.

What have we come to as a nation when you can get pulled over for a broken tail light in our country, but if you wreck the nation's economy you are untouchable?

Presidential leadership is about the good of the many — not the greed of the few!


That is also why I say we must stop sending American jobs and profits overseas with bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Many of us remember NAFTA. We traded away good manufacturing jobs like Maytag's in towns like Newton, and in return, we got back empty promises and empty pockets.

I am fundamentally and adamantly opposed — as an American — to secret trade deals that our Congress is forced to vote on before the rest of us are even allowed to read them!

It's not what other countries are doing to us. It is what we are not doing for ourselves!

We need to build up our own American economy!

Gun Violence

And finally, we must have the courage to put our children's safety—each and every day— ahead of the craven and morally bankrupt interests of the National Rifle Association.

The NRA has one goal—and one goal only—selling as many guns as possible, no matter the cost in lives.

Well that might be their interest — but that is not what is best for America!

For forty years, they've dictated what laws should be written.

It's high time we find our backbone again as Democrats and stand up and say no to the NRA.

As President Obama said, if terrorists had killed 400,000 Americans with guns over the last 15 years, we'd move heaven and earth to stop them.

But Americans have killed 400,000 Americans with guns. And we cower to the political lobbying power of the National Rifle Association!

Enough is enough.

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips lost their daughter Jessie in the mass murder that occurred in that theater in Aurora, Colorado. They are here with us tonight.

What they have endured is unfathomable. But so too is their courage and resolve.

For they set out to transform their grief into action. They went to court to hold accountable those who recklessly armed a mass murderer with 4,000 rounds of ammunition.

They sued the man who sold the ammunition used in the attack. That man didn't ask what those bullets were for. He didn't care.

And not only did the Phillips' case get thrown out of court, they were slapped with $200,000 of court fees because of special immunity to lawsuits that the NRA managed to muscle out of our own Congress. It doesn't have to be this way.

To save lives we must require universal background checks;

To save lives we must ban the sale of combat assault weapons;

To save lives we must use the buying power of our federal government — the biggest customer gun companies have — and refuse to buy guns from any company that doesn't use the latest and best safety technology;

And to save lives we must stop giving immunity to gun manufacturers and gun dealers who sell weapons of mass murder to criminals and psychopaths!

Senator Sanders join me now. Secretary Clinton join me now and together we can forge a new consensus for change —

Because one American life is worth more than all the gun sales in America.


In 100 days, the people of Iowa will decide.

New leadership, or the same old battles?

Actions, or words?

Do we want to get things done or just shout at each other?

It's not about polls and pundits. It's about you. You decide whether we move forward or back.

Thomas Jefferson once said, "in matters of fashion, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock."

In these fast changing times, America needs a President who will stand like a rock.

A weather vane shifts its position every time the winds change.

Effective leaders do not.

I know who I am, I know what I believe, and I am willing to fight for it.

We cannot move beyond today's gridlocked politics by returning to the divisions of our past.

I'm not about that.

I believe we are all in this together.

I believe that to solve our problems we must face tomorrow.

We need new leadership. New ideas. Someone with the courage to stand up for what's right — even when it's not always popular!

None of us has the answers to all of the problems we face, none of us can predict the future.

But I promise you this: I can govern. I can lead, and I can do so with heart and skill.

A lot of people tell me that I face a tough fight in this race.

And there are also a lot of people who would look you in the eye and tell you that you've got a tough fight giving your children and grandchildren a better life than you've enjoyed...

Well you know what? — I kind of like the tough fights. I've always been drawn to the tough fights.

Perhaps the toughness of the fight is the way the hidden God has of telling us we are fighting for something worth saving!

The American Dream is worth saving.

Our children's future is worth saving.

Our country is worth saving

Our planet is worth saving.

It's time to join the fight.

I am in this to win this.

I need your help.

Together, you and I can and will rebuild the American Dream.

Thank you.

May God bless Iowa, and may God bless America in our journey together!

Related Images

NOTE: As prepared for delivery.

Martin O'Malley, Remarks at the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Des Moines Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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