This past weekend, as I drove up to my house, there on the radio was Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack being interviewed on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. I put the car into park and didn’t move for the next five minutes. Vilsack is the first Democrat to announce his candidacy for U.S. president. His voice is refreshing – and needed. Listen to him and you hear someone who is not so polished and practiced that you’re wondering what he just told you or whether he believes it. Nor does he pretend to be the “anti-politician” from outside Washington, D.C. – with all the usual blustery rhetoric, finger-pointing, and tough talk.
Instead, look at his announcement speech and you will find phrases and words such as “let us face the facts” and “let us speak truth” and “that is why I am here today.” He is plainspoken, but not offering up simple solutions.
Nor is he simply interested in tilting at windmills. Acknowledging his standing in what will be a crowded Democratic field, he stated: “I have always been the underdog and long shot. And I have always been inspired by stories of ordinary people who struggled, but ultimately succeeded.”
Look again at his words and sentiments which I just quoted. Nowhere in this speech does Vilsack tell the typical story of the man who overcomes all adversity to become a hero; or, the story of the ordinary person doing extraordinary things, as we so often hear from politicians, pundits, and media-types. Rather, Vilsack understands that it is in everyday life that we must step up and engage and do everyday tasks.
He knows this because of his own story. As he said in his speech, “I began life in an orphanage in the arms of a stranger” and then, as an infant, he was adopted into a home with parents riddled with addictions and strife; but it was there that he found the ability – from his own parents – to struggle and adapt and find redemption.
In Iowa, where so many people may think of a homogenous Midwestern society, Vilsack said in his announcement speech, “You do not have to be raised behind a white picket fence to understand the power of community. Some of America’s strongest communities do not have any white picket fences or even yards for that matter.” Amen.
In his second to last paragraph he stated: “Most of all, I am running for President to replace the anxiety of today with the hope of tomorrow and to guarantee every Americans their birthright: Opportunity.”
Well, Governor Vilsack, only time will tell how your continuing story unfolds. But I sure am glad your voice is in the mix. I hope more and more people can hear it.