A self-described underdog launches his campaign for the White House from his adopted hometown of Mount Pleasant Thursday morning.
Governor Tom Vilsack and his wife, Christie ? a Mount Pleasant native ? met with about 200 friends, family and supporters Wednesday night for a potluck at the Mount Pleasant junior high school cafeteria. ?This is really an extraordinary event for me. As I look out in this crowd, I see people whose lives I?ve intersected either as a lawyer, as a coach, in Sunday School, in all of the things that you do when you live in a small community and I want to really express my appreciate for all those who were responsible for putting on this potluck,? Vilsack told the crowd. ?It is traditional. It really is something about community and it really does reflect something that?s really significant about us.”
Cindy Jones of Mount Pleasant, a member of the governor?s staff, was the designated food marshal. ?The key to a good potluck is organization, and a little bit of luck and then if you do it right, you don?t end up with all baked beans,? Jones says. ?I always say you don?t want to orchestrate it down to the last noodle.?
There were salads, pies, casseroles, and ? as promised — Christie Vilsack?s award-winning cheesy corn casserole, which had a little ?zip? to it. ?Actually, when I won a ribbon at the Iowa State Fair with it, the judges suggested that in this day and age you?d probably want to scoop it with a corn chip,? Mrs. Vilsack told Radio Iowa. ?It?s got celery and green peppers and onions and corn and tomatoes in a double-boiler, and then you put tapioca in there and lots of Velveeta Cheese, and then you mix it up.? Mrs. Vilsack kept some home for her husband to eat later in the evening.
Mary Elgar of Mount Pleasant has known Christie Vilsack since the two were in grade school, and she made 20 pounds of meat loaf for last night?s event. ?We?re just sorry that the weather didn?t cooperate,? Elgar said as the temperature outside continued to sink and ice began to form.
Despite the weather, 91-year-old Robert Stafford, a Democrat who?s lived in Mount Pleasant for over 30 years, was there to wish Vilsack well. ?He?s a leader. That?s what we need badly. That?s number one, I think,? Stafford says. ?He?s smart and he learns as he goes along. We all do, you know, young or old.?
Henry County Democratic Party chairman Dave Helman says it?s Vilsack personal story ? starting out life as an orphan and winding up as a governor ? that makes Vilsack a viable choice for president. ?I like to see a guy who makes his own way in life,? Helman says. ?I think this is the way we ought to select our presidents, from towns like ours?so I think it can work. I hope I?m not too idealist and if we all believe in it, it can work.?
Father Nick Adam, the priest at Vilsack?s home church in Mount Pleasant, gave the blessing before last night?s meal. A reporter asked the priest about the pundits who?ve suggested Vilsack doesn?t have a prayer of becoming president. ?What God are you praying to?? Father Adam replied, laughing with the reporter who asked the question. ?What God is the media talking about??
Vilsack himself was asked by a reporter about being a little-known candidate from a small state. ?I?ve never started out a race in any other position than being the underdog,? Vilsack said. ?I?m used to it. I?m comfortable with it. It?s an opportunity for us to talk about issues from the heartland that will resonate because what we?re really talking about is making America more secure, more competitive…We?re going to basically challenge people to embrace change.?
You can hear Vilsack?s remarks at the potluck by clicking on the link below. His speech at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning in Mount Pleasant is to last about 10 minutes, according to Vilsack communications director Jeff Link.