Photo of Michael Bennet

Remarks at the Iowa Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration in Des Moines, Iowa

November 01, 2019

You are a patient group of people. I didn't know how patient. And I want to thank you for allowing all of us to impose on you. I particularly want to thank you for the kindness you've shown me and my family as we've traveled the state of Iowa. And I want to thank my friend Tom Harkin, my chairman, who is right here. Tom, thank you for your leadership and thank you for your friendship. I've been in the Senate, as Tom knows, for 10 years, it's hard for me to believe it's been a decade. We served on two committees together.

But tonight I want to talk to you not as a Senator, but as the only Superintendent of schools who has ever run for President of the United States. I worked for the kids of the Denver Public Schools before I went to the Senate. It's a school district that's got about a billion dollar budget. For reference, that's about three times the size of a certain municipality in the state of Indiana. I'm just saying. It has 95,000 children in it, most of whom live in poverty, most of whom are kids of color. And if their parents were here tonight, what they would tell you is that they are killing themselves at work. And no matter what they do, they can't get their kids out of poverty.

And it reminds me a lot of the town hall meetings I've had for the last 10 years in Colorado, and in Iowa, and in New Hampshire. Where people come and they say, Michael, we are working really hard, but we can't afford housing. We can't afford health care. We can't afford higher education. We can't afford early childhood education. And Iowa, that's why I'm running for President. To restore opportunity to the American people. That's what we have to do.

When I was deciding to run for President, I am not as much of a celebrity as some other people and I'm not as well known, but I went home to talk to my kids and my wife, Susan, and I asked them, "What do you think? Should I run for president?" My fifteen year old, of course, said yes, because she saw it as a way of keeping me away from her and out of the house. I don't know what's going on there tonight. My twenty year old daughter said to me "You should run, Dad. Because if you run, and you tell the truth, and you lose, no one can fault you for it." And I said, "That's good, Caroline, because there's no other reason for me to run, but to tell the truth. I don't think there's any other way for me to win." And so I was so happy about a month or two ago when I was able to take the headline at the Des Moines Register and show it to Caroline. That headline on the editorial said, "Michael Bennet pounds truth into this campaign." And, Iowa, that's what I'm trying to do because this time is too important. It's too important.

And that's why I want to tell you tonight, Iowa: our kids do not have the time for us to spend the next 10 years fighting a losing battle for Medicare for All. And that's not because it's a big idea. That's because there are better ideas. And here are some from the perspective of the kids that I used to work.

We could make sure that everybody in this country that works hard, 40 hours a week, can actually raise a family in this country cause they're paid a decent wage.

From the standpoint of the kids I used to work for in the Denver Public Schools, we could end childhood poverty in America. That would help! I have a plan, I have a plan with Sherrod Brown from Ohio that would reverse the Trump tax cut, that would reduce childhood poverty in one year by 40%, and end $2 day poverty for kids living in Iowa and in Colorado, and in America. For 3% of the cost of Medicare for All, we could cut childhood poverty by 40%. That sounds like a big idea to me.

Iowa, Iowa, here's another idea. We could make our schools engines of opportunity again in the United States of America. And we could do that, not by promising free college, but by delivering free preschool to every kid in America who needs it. And let me tell you something, that's every kid in America.

And what about the 70% of kids who graduate from high school and don't go to college? We can fix high school so that when they leave, they can earn a living wage, not just a minimum wage. That would transform the lives of millions of Americans, and our economy.

We could create universal health care in three years with a public option I've been fighting for since we passed the Affordable Care Act. It's called Medicare-X, and it'd give everybody in the country the choice of a public option or private insurance if they want it. Reduce health costs by getting drug costs down. And we could do it, as I said, in three years.

And we need to address climate change, Iowa. But it's not enough to be urgent about it. That's not enough. We need a solution that will last a generation. And that's why you can't accept the politics in Washington where Michael Bennet puts his climate plan in for two years, and the climate deniers rip it out. And then we put it in for two years, and they rip it out. That's how politics in Washington works today. That's not good enough for the American people. And trying isn't enough, having good intentions is not enough. We have to win. And we have to win again, and again, and again. So our kids inherit a planet that can be sustained.

And to do that, Iowa. To do that, we have to fix our broken politics. We have to take the money out of politics and put people back into politics. And I'm telling you, if you elect me president, I will lead an effort in every one of the 50 states to overturn Citizens United. And engage the next generation of Americans in our democracy. Which is what we need to do.

This might sound really hard. But it's no harder than anything any other Americans have done.

I tell kids when they come to Washington DC, they have a tendency to think, Tom, they have a tendency to think it was all just there. The Capitol was there. The White House was there. The Supreme Court was there. None of it was just there. 230 years ago, it was just an idea. That's all it was. And the founders of this country did two incredible things in their generation. They led a successful revolution against a colonial power. That had never happened before. They wrote a Constitution that was ratified by the people that would live under that Constitution. That had never happened before.

But they did something terrible as well. They perpetrated human slavery. And we will be with that for the rest of our days.

What's important to remember is it took other Americans to end slavery in this country. Frederick Douglass, I tell them about him. Born a slave in the United States of America. And because of his leadership and what he did, he saw human slavery end in this country in his generation. And you know what? I think that Frederick Douglass is as much a founder as the people who wrote the Constitution, that's what I believe. That's what I believe, Iowa. And I believe the women that fought for my daughters to have the right to vote are founders, just like the people who wrote the Constitution. That's what I believe, Iowa. And that's what I think of all of you. That's your job as citizens in this republic, you are founders of the republic. It is that elevated a sense of what your responsibility is.

And when you have a President who doesn't believe in the rule of law. Who doesn't believe in the separation of powers. Who doesn't believe in the independence of the judiciary. Who doesn't believe in the freedom of the press. Who does not believe in our democracy, you have a job to do. You may not have asked for it. But you know what your job is, it is to save this democracy for the next generation of Americans. That is what you are being asked to do, Iowa. That is what you are being asked to do. And I know you won't shirk that responsibility. We can't and live up to the example that our parents and grandparents left for us.

I'm not scared of Donald Trump, Iowa, and I don't think you are either. I've already had the hardest job you can have in America, being a school superintendent, other than being a school teacher. And, by the way, we should pay them what they deserve as professionals. But, I know what to do with a schoolyard bully like Donald Trump, and I need your help. I need your help, Iowa. To help you, I need you to help put me in a position to be able to win this race because I know I have the experience and temperament and agenda to beat Donald Trump. I know it's an agenda that Cindy and Abby can run on. I'm the only person in this race who's won two national races in a swing state. And I know how to do it. I know how to win Colorado, and Iowa, and Maine, and Arizona to get us a majority in the Senate and to get us the White House as well.

But I can't do it without you. So I'm asking for your help tonight. If you want a President who gives a damn about your kids, join my campaign. If you want somebody who is going to fight for an economy that works for every American, join my campaign. If you want somebody who is going to fight for our democracy and to reestablish our alliances around the world, join my campaign. Iowa, if you want somebody who will tell you the truth, even when it's hard to do it, join my campaign.

I want to thank all of you again for the opportunity to be here tonight, for the kindness you've shown Susan, Caroline, Halina, and Anne, and we look forward to seeing you on caucus night because more surprising things have happened than this, Iowa. I can assure you of that.

Let's go do our work as founders. Thanks for having me today. It's great to see all of you. Thank you, Iowa.

Michael Bennet, Remarks at the Iowa Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration in Des Moines, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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