Back in April, I began my journey as a presidential candidate with a visit to Iowa. Today — nearly 10 months and 160,000 miles of travel later — our campaign has come full circle: America’s first voters are about to begin electing our next president.
From the very beginning, I wanted this campaign to be a little different. So instead of kicking things off with a big speech, we headed out to talk directly with people — in coffee shops, at churches, in backyards, at community colleges, and yes, at a Chipotle in Maumee, Ohio.
What I heard in those early days — and every day since — has stuck with me. People have shared their hopes and their worries. But even as they talked about the challenges their families, businesses, schools, and communities are facing, there was a sense of positive possibility.
Those conversations have informed me and helped shape this campaign. They’ve made me a better candidate. And I believe that, thanks to everyone I’ve met, I will be a better president — someone who truly understands what we need to do to give our kids and grandkids a better future.
When I started running for president, I didn’t know that some of the issues I’ve been talking about would end up front and center in my campaign. I knew I’d present my vision for where our economy should be in the 21st century. I knew we’d talk about national security, about how we can build on and improve the Affordable Care Act, and about my proposals to support small businesses, raise wages, and create good-paying jobs.
Then there were the issues that simply came up again and again — like substance abuse, the rising cost of prescription drugs, and the struggle to care for loved ones who are aging or have disabilities.
And of course, some topics have come into even sharper focus over the past few months: the threat of global terror, the need to take action on gun violence, attacks on reproductive health and rights, the epidemic of violence facing the transgender community, the need to take on systemic racism and stand up to bullies, the crisis in Flint. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve learned more about the concerns that keep families up at night — and what we need to do to solve them.
On my very first trip to New Hampshire, the subject of addiction came up — and it kept coming up, wherever I went. I met a grandmother who is raising her grandchild, because her own daughter is struggling with substance abuse and can’t be the parent she should be. I’ve listened to moms and dads who have lost their children to addiction, and I’ve heard from doctors and counselors who are doing everything they can to save lives. As one woman told me at a discussion in Keene, “We’re not bad people trying to get good; we’re sick people that deserve to get well.” Those words have stuck with me.
I’ve heard from people who work full time as caregivers but struggle to afford care for their own children and parents. A woman named Lulu told me that she has spent 42 years doing this backbreaking work, and people constantly ask why she doesn’t just quit. She says she wouldn’t dream of it — she cares too much for her clients, some of whom live alone and have no other help or companionship.
And on one heartbreaking day in Chicago, I sat down with a group of mothers who belong to a club that no parent ever wants to join: All have suffered the loss of a child to gun violence, some at the hands of police, others at the hands of gangs, random shootings, or other senseless violence that stalks too many of our young men and women. As they handed me pictures of their beloved children, they talked about turning their grief into national action that could spare other families the pain they’ve endured. After I left, I learned that as we spoke, a 9-year-old boy was shot and killed just miles away.
I met a woman in Iowa named Bethany, a single mother of three. She is determined to create a better life for her family, and so she’s juggling a job, raising her kids, and finishing a degree at the local community college. She doesn’t expect anything to come easy, but she did ask me what we could do so that things wouldn’t be so hard.
The answer is, there’s a lot we can do — if we work together. I’ve said many times that I’m running for president to deal with the big problems, but also the problems that often go overlooked in politics. That’s why, in addition to a broad economic plan to raise incomes for middle-class Americans, I’ve introduced specific proposals for creating debt-free public college tuition, preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease, supporting families affected by autism, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and curbing the substance abuse epidemic.
The past 10 months have been inspiring and eye opening, to say the least. We have had rallies with thousands of voters and quiet moments of reflection. I’ve laid out my plans on the debate stage and answered more than 500 questions at town halls.
I’ve been proud to get to know the organizers who are building this campaign across the country. And I’m honored by the countless Americans who are lending their creativity and unique talents in support of our campaign.
The conversations I’ve had with people from Manchester, New Hampshire, to Los Angeles, California — and countless communities in between — have left me more convinced of what we have to do to address our challenges as a country.
But first things first. We have a lot of work to do to get our message out to voters across this nation — starting in Iowa.
I got into this race because I want to improve the lives of all Americans — and I’m going to continue to work my heart out. I hope you’ll join me.
Onward to Iowa.