Governor Tom Vilsack says he’s running for president to bring "even bolder change and build an even stronger future" for the nation and bring an end to the "empty talk" and "endless debates" that plague the U.S. political system.
Just after 10 o’clock Thursday morning, Vilsack and his family entered a Mount Pleasant gymnasium as the local high school band played a song titled "The Final Countdown," by Europe. A crowd of about 700 chanted "Go Tom, go" and he replied "Thank you, Thank you," as he started his speech.
Vilsack’s first "Condition of the State" message after his first year as governor lasted over 90 minutes. Now, eight years later, the speech Vilsack delivered this morning in his adopted hometown of Mount Pleasant lasted only 19 minutes, by comparison, but it launched his long-shot campaign for the White House.
Vilsack opened by reviewing the results of the 2006 election. "Three weeks ago, Americans courageously voted to create change. We sent a clear message that we wanted our country led in a new and better direction, "Vilsack said. "But our job is not done. In fact, our work is just beginning."
Vilsack said Republican President George W. Bush had taken the country down the wrong path, and Vilsack, a Democrat, promised he has the "courage" to change things.
"Today we have in the White House a president whose first reflex is to divide and conquer, who preys on insecurities and fears for partisan gain, who has robbed us of the assets that has made this country great: our collective sense of community, optimism and the can-do spirit that has built tomorrow’s hopes and dreams," Vilsack said.
The out-going governor said Americans hadn’t been fooled in the last election by political tricks or gimmicks because the voters, in Vilsack’s words, believe tomorrow matters. "That is why I am here today — to challenge all of you and all of us to bring even bolder change and greater innovation to the nation that we love so much," Vilsack said.
Vilsack said it was time for the country to "face facts" and deal with "real threats and real problems" which Vilsack said were not only terrorism, but the economic struggles here at home. "Our way of life, our quality of life and our national security has been compromised and put at risk by a national government that’s been fiscal irresponsibility and by a country that has grown far too dependent on foreign oil," Vilsack said. "By any measure or standard we are less safe today as a nation than we were six years ago. Our country needs bold leadership guided by the right values and the right experience to change America."
Vilsack told a crowd of about 700 supporters that he wears the mantle of "underdog" and "long-shot" candidate. Vilsack recounted his childhood, his start in an orphanage, his adoption, and his mother’s alcoholism. His mother’s battle for sobriety taught him "the courage to create change can overcome anything," according to Vilsack. Vilsack also gave a brief recitation of his political resume and claimed credit for helping "change the landscape" of Iowa economically and environmentally during his eight years as governor.
"That is why I am here today…to help bring the same change to America," Vilsack said.
Vilsack made his formal declaration near the end, rather than at the beginning of his speech: "So today, in front of the family and friends I love and here in the community I call home, I announce my candidacy to be the next President of the United States."
Vilsack promised the hometown crowd he would "replace the anxiety of today with the hope of tomorrow." He and his wife left the stage as the Four Tops song "Reach Out, I’ll Be There" played. Aides said the couple heard the song on their first date when they were both attending colleges on the east coast.
In the next 72 hours, Vilsack plans stops in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada as well as a return to his hometown of Pttsburgh. He’ll hold a campaign fundraiser in Des Moines on Saturday.