Good morning, Mr. Speaker and ladies and gentlemen of the Iowa House.  I want to give a special welcome to the new legislators and their families.  I hope you find your time here rewarding as you serve the people of Iowa. Congratulations on your election.

We are living in tumultuous times and the pandemic has added to the challenges we already faced in Iowa from a shortage of good paying jobs, inadequate access to health care, low public school funding, and ignored environmental issues.

The first priority this session must be working to get the pandemic under control. A failure of leadership at both the federal and state level has already left over 4,000 Iowans dead and our state’s response has been greatly inadequate.   

Next, we need a robust COVID package focused on long-term recovery efforts to help our economy. We need aggressive plans to help families recover, get kids back in school safely, reopen small businesses, and support our dedicated health care workers who are the front line of this pandemic. 

If you look at history, we are not in uncharted waters. Similar cycles have been met by our country in the past. We can COMPETENTLY address the pandemic. We can BUILD our economy, FIX our healthcare system, and PROTECT civil rights. We have the ABILITY and the RESOURCES to solve environmental problems and address climate change. Solutions are within reach. What is needed is leadership. We in this chamber need to acknowledge and address the difficulties that Iowans are facing.

Like many of you, I am deeply disturbed by the riots at our nation’s capital and around the country. It epitomizes a lack of respect for our democratic institutions, traditions, and rule of law. Rioters have been motivated by lies contrived for political purposes. Those responsible for the riots, have crossed a line that no American, Democrat or Republican, should ever cross. This breech insults and threatens the very fabric of our democracy.  

The riot in DC reminded me of El Salvador after their civil war. Early in my army career, I was stationed there. I witnessed a country torn apart by hate, violence, and mis-trust.  Their society was broken and crime was rampant. There were two competing police forces, one loyal to the former regime and one dominated by former rebels.  What I remember most vividly are the stories of the atrocities, and the pain from years of war and loss.  It is up to us, the newly sworn leaders, to protect our country from a fate of further division.   

As a 25 year army veteran, I was outraged by the contempt shown for the ideals I have spent my adult life trying to protect. I spent a tour in Iraq, and I know an insurgency when I see one.  On Wednesday, a Confederate flag, a BANNER OF OPPRESSION and TREASON, was paraded through our nation’s Capitol. Explosive devices were placed at both the Democratic and Republican Party headquarters. People were killed, needlessly, including a police officer.  

As an elected leader, I am disgusted at the reaction, or rather, the inaction, of many of my Republican colleagues in Iowa. For too long, politicians have not only enabled, but served as a willing partner, in the spread of misinformation about election fraud. 

Silence is deafening. If you can’t condemn this violence against our democracy, what will you condemn?  Until you have committed yourself to truth and democratic ideals, you lose any moral high ground that you may try to claim.

I believe that truth and justice are the pillars of our democracy.  As leaders in this great state and nation, I also believe it’s a fundamental responsibility to strengthen, not weaken, those pillars.

But the insurrection has exposed deep cracks in those pillars that can’t be fixed without change from our leaders.  

  • When the QAnon conspiracy is held out as truth and leaders claim that Covid-19 hasn’t killed anyone, truth is the victim and more Iowans die.
  • When the Governor defends those who question the legitimacy of our elections, a crack develops in the pillar of TRUTH. 
  • When a member of this chamber peddles election fraud conspiracy theories, and has written that Republicans will prevail because, in his words, “our side has the guns,” there is another crack to the pillar of TRUTH.

This behavior threatens our democracy and our society. It must stop.

Now, in a new year and a new term, it is time to mend the wounds of a  fractured country.  We are the leaders who must work together to restore faith and hope in our future.  We can do this together.  We must for the sake of our democracy heal this country. 

I challenge each one of us in this chamber to be the leader the moment requires.  Put country and state before party politics, be true patriots.  Be honest to constituents.  Deal in truth, not the politics of fear and internet conspiracies.  Help turn the tide. Do your part to strengthen our democracy. I look forward to serving with you.