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ICYMI: Allred Keynotes Iowa Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration


May 2, 2022


ICYMI: Allred Keynotes Iowa Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration

Des Moines, IA — We know there was another big dinner this weekend, so in case you missed it, Congressman Colin Allred gave the keynote address at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Liberty and Justice Celebration Saturday night. Allred spoke about how President Biden and Congressional Democrats have delivered for hardworking families similar to his own growing up, and how everyone who still believes in our democracy must come together to protect it.

“We can never lose hope,” Allred told Iowa Democrats. “It's the hope of a 25 year old John Lewis crossing the Edmund Pettis bridge… It's the hope of a young woman sitting in one of your Iowa public schools right now, who maybe spoke her first word of English in kindergarten but who believes there is a place for her in this state and in this country. It’s the hope of a young man in a small town in Indiana, whose last name no one can pronounce, and who won the last Iowa Caucuses. It’s the hope of a biracial son being raised by a single mother in Dallas, dreaming that one day he might be able to serve in the United States Congress.”

Read more about Allred’s speech in the Des Moines Register, where he discussed why Democrats up and down the ballot can’t give up hope and why they can overcome the odds to win in November.

Read Allred’s remarks as prepared below.

Thank you and good evening! Thank y’all so much for having me and for allowing me to be here with you as we are finally back in person for your Liberty and Justice Celebration. I really want to thank my good friend, your Congresswoman, Cindy Axne, for that introduction. Y’all are so lucky to have her fighting in your corner in Washington. So thank you Congresswoman Axne.

Thank you also to your excellent Chair, Representative Ross Wilburn for inviting me, and the great speakers we have had tonight and to everyone here in Des Moines for all of your hard work in putting together tonight’s event.

Let’s also give a big thank you to the excellent staff of the Iowa Events Center. Thank y’all for your service this evening.

I know some of y’all may be wondering just who your “keynote” speaker is this evening. I took the usual route to coming to Congress. I was raised in Dallas by a single mother, played in the NFL, and then became a civil rights attorney.

But seriously, it’s a route that I am sure my good friend Dave Loebsack will agree is a little bit different. But there are some similarities between playing linebacker in the NFL and serving in Congress. You have to be able to deliver and take a hit. You have to be able to get along with folks from every walk of life. But I have to admit that until January 6th, I never thought that serving in Congress would be the more violent of the two jobs. At least in the NFL it would’ve been a fair fight. [laugh] My wife doesn’t like that joke.

Y’all may not know this but Dave and I became fast friends in his last and my first term in Congress. Dave was the guy who I would sit next to in the Democratic Cloakroom and hear from about how much Congress had changed, how Iowa was changing, all delivered in his unique Iowa-blunt, charmingly curmudgeonly style. We were definitely an odd couple, but we were and are friends. Thank you, Dave, for your years of service to Iowa and to our country, you are missed.

I also came in with the Congressional Class of 2018 with my good friend, and your former Congresswoman and State Representative, Abby Finkenauer. I first met Abby in 2018 during the campaign and we’ve been friends ever since. I’ll never forget how after meeting my infant son, Jordan, Abby told him to call her Aunt Abby, and she meant it. Thank you Abby for your friendship and your service as well.

I’ve been fortunate enough to come to Iowa a few times. I’ve both lost to and beaten your Iowa State Cyclones, up in Ames when I was playing at Baylor University in Big XII games. I also had the distinct pleasure of campaigning here for our President, Joe Biden, weeks before the Caucuses. I had a great time driving past your frozen fields and making everyone in the car with me listen to Willie Nelson, just to bring a little bit of Texas into Iowa. Y’all were very welcoming to me then, as I laid out why I thought Joe Biden should be our nominee and President, not many of you listened to me and actually caucused for Joe Biden. [laugh] All’s well that ends well I guess.

Every time I come to Iowa I get this nostalgic feeling, from the movies like Field of Dreams, and the books and stories about the campaigns waged in living rooms and VFW Halls. It’s a feeling that the beating heart of our democracy doesn’t exist in negative television ads or even big rallies, but in individual conversations. In relationships and in personal scrutiny. It’s clear to me that Iowa Democrats take our democracy and your special role in it, very seriously, and I want to thank you for that.

This is a time of real danger for our democracy. My focus as a civil rights attorney was voting rights. In my home state of Texas, many of the attacks we see now on the right to vote nationally have been going on for years. Texas has one of the nation’s strictest voter ID laws, has extremely restrictive voter registration and vote by mail laws, and has never met a gerrymander it didn’t like.

But what is new in Texas, here in Iowa, and across the country is this idea that if one Party doesn’t win an election, or maybe doesn’t win by enough, then the election itself must’ve been fraudulent.

It’s an idea that is so toxic to our democracy, so corrosive to our process that it led thousands of our fellow citizens to attack the Capitol in an effort to invalidate an American Presidential Election.

I was there, when the mob came, on the House floor, doing my job. My wife, Aly, who is here this evening, was at home with our 22 month old son and with another on the way in just two months. As they barricaded the decorative doors to the House Floor with furniture that we normally use to hold paper, and the banging and the noises grew louder, I texted me wife “Whatever happens, I love you,” I took off my suit coat and in my mind, I prepared to have to protect my colleagues.

Thanks to the bravery of the Capitol Police and DC Metropolitan Police, an exit route was secured, and we were able to evacuate the House Floor just seconds ahead of the mob. As I was leaving the Floor, I saw the glass breaking on the windows. I saw the officers who guard the Floor staying behind with their guns drawn, and I knew then and I will always say that they saved my life. Their bravery saved my life.

So, if anyone wants to know how I feel about law enforcement, about the brave men and women who put on a uniform or a badge every day not knowing if they will come home that night, I say that we owe them our gratitude, support, and the tools they need to do their jobs safely and in a way that builds trust with their communities. So to anyone here this evening who has served in law enforcement, as a first responder, or in our military, thank you for your service.

January 6 is a constant reminder of how close we came to losing our democracy. The plans that we have learned about since then for how Trump and his cronies tried to pull off what in any other country we would call a coup, cannot be forgotten. We have to remember every day that we are still not out of the woods, that the actions we take will either move us closer or further away from saving our democracy.

But bemoaning the state of our democracy won’t win us elections. As I said earlier, I was raised by a single mother, but that’s not the whole story. My mom was a public school teacher in Dallas, and we don’t pay our teachers nearly enough, so growing up times were tough. Money was tight. In fact when I was a rookie in the NFL, tasked with buying snacks for the other linebackers, I took a lot of grief for coming back with budget snacks instead of buying the name-brand Oreos and Skittles they were expecting. But that’s how I grew up, making every cent count.

I understand those tough conversations happening around the kitchen table today.

For ordinary Iowans and for Texans it's been a rough few years, especially for families. Schools and daycares have been open and closed, whole categories of work disappeared for months, and even now as vaccines and treatments have allowed us to move into an endemic phase of this fight with COVID, inflation caused by global supply chain issues and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, have raised the costs of everything from a gallon of milk to a tank of gas.

It’s a reality that we Democrats can’t be afraid to acknowledge and to empathize with. But it’s also a reality that we are the only Party with plans to actually address the pain ordinary folks are feeling by lowering costs in every area possible from prescription drugs, to childcare, to transportation.

I mean, does anyone seriously believe that Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump - one who brags about cutting taxes for the richest Americans and another who literally owns a golden toilet - that these guys care about the day to day costs of ordinary Americans? Does anyone believe that Chuck Grassley cares about helping families like mine growing up save a few bucks?

I mean it’s laughable that these guys think they can go around and pretend like we didn’t see what they did the last time they had power in Washington. They cut taxes to the bone for the very richest Americans and the biggest corporations, they tried and were one thumbs down by John McCain away from taking health care away from millions of Americans with no plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, and they turned the other way as Donald Trump pursued a pointless trade war with China that hit Texas and Iowa farmers and ranchers hard.

These are not serious people when they say they will do anything about inflation. Heck, their irresponsibility about this pandemic is part of why it has taken us so long to get out of it.

And we don’t just have to look at what they did, we can talk about what they are doing now. In the states where Republicans have full control, like Texas and Florida, and sadly here in Iowa, these state governments aren’t passing laws to help working folks. They are too busy supporting the Big Lie and making it harder to vote, passing draconian restrictions on the right for a woman to choose what to do with her own body. They are too busy engaging in culture wars against Disney, or banning books written by people of color or LGBTQ+ folks. And, as always, they are still trying to cut even more taxes for the ultra rich who fund their campaigns and gutting public education.

So when Republicans say they are the Party of working people, we have to tell folks, don’t listen to what they are saying, watch what they are doing.

So the question for us as Democrats then, is what do we do? Because as President Kennedy said, we’re not here to curse the darkness, we are here to light a candle.

I know we are all proud to be part of the true big tent party, where all should be welcome.

Understand this, I am a Black civil rights lawyer and I’m here to tell you that some of the same former Republicans who a younger me would have disagreed with, are now some of my supporters. When they look at this version of the Republican Party, they don’t see their values reflected. And so they are free agents, looking for a political home. We need these people too, who we may not agree with on every issue, but who agree with us on protecting American democracy.

And we need to be proud of the work we’ve done because the truth is that Democrats have delivered two historic pieces of legislation this Congress because of President Biden and because y’all sent Cindy back to Congress. These policies have and will continue to affect countless American lives for the better.

The Democrats delivered the American Rescue Plan which cut child poverty by a third last year. Saved families an average of $2400 a year by lowering costs through the Affordable Care Act and sent checks directly to Iowans and your hardest hit small businesses. We are the reason you can go to your local pharmacy and get a vaccine or a booster shot for free. We saved the American economy.

For years, Presidents of both parties tried and failed to get a bipartisan infrastructure deal to repair our nation’s crumbling infrastructure but last year President Biden and Congressional Democrats got it done, and to paraphrase him that’s a big freaking deal.

Since President Biden took office we have created the most rapid economic growth in my lifetime. We have created almost 8 million jobs and we have historically low unemployment rates.

What I am saying is that we have a lot of accomplishments to run on because we used our majorities to deliver, not to go after Mickey Mouse.

As President Biden would say we gotta tell voters not to judge us against the almighty, but to judge us against the alternative. This is a party of extremists. A party of conspiracy theorists and insurrectionists.

And that’s why it is so important Cindy Axne gets re-elected this November. See Cindy, you thought I was gonna forget. Cindy and I both flipped seats in 2018 from red to blue. We were both top targets of the Republicans in 2020, and we both fought off well funded challengers to get re-elected. But Cindy is now, arguably, the Republicans top target in the entire country. They want to beat her so badly they are making up all kinds of lies to see what sticks.

But I see Cindy every day. Cindy takes the fight to the Republicans, and she does it with a smile. Congress is better because Cindy Axne is in it. It will be better when Liz Mathis and Christina Bohannan are in it too. It will be better when Chuck Grassley is no longer a Senator.

Because Iowa Democrats, y’all know how to win tough races. Y’all know Iowa isn’t a red state, it’s just a state where we gotta put the work in to do what Barack Obama did twice in winning it. The pundits like to say that Iowa and Texas are states we can’t win in, I disagree. I believe we make our own destiny. I believe in people. I believe in the power of ordinary folks doing extraordinary things. I believe in you, Iowa Democrats.

The cynics are saying this is going to be a tough year for us.

But we’ve overcome tough odds before.

We can never lose hope. It's the hope of a 25 year old John Lewis crossing the Edmund Pettis bridge, it’s the hope of a young woman in an Iowa public school right now, who first spoke English in her kindergarten classroom but who believes there is a place for her in this state and in our country.

It’s the hope of a young man in a small town in Indiana, with a last name no one can pronounce, that he might one day win the Iowa Caucuses.

It’s the hope of a bi-racial son of a single mother growing up in Dallas, dreaming of one day being a United States Congressman.

That’s what our party’s built on. We’re the party of Roosevelt and Kennedy of the first Black President and the first woman, African American and South Asian Vice President. We’re the party that saved American democracy in the last election.

And we’ll save it again this November. But the only way we’ll do that, the only way Cindy comes back to Congress, and Chuck Grassley is sent home is if we hang on to that hope and fight together.

We can’t agonize, we have to organize, for the country we love. Let’s get to work!

Thank you. God bless America and God bless our troops.


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