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Christie Vilsack, wife of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, speaks on behalf of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. on Wednesday. Sean Keen/Clinton Herald

The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

CLINTON — Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack spoke to about a dozen Clinton residents at the Clinton County Democratic Party Headquarters on behalf of presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. on Wednesday

Vilsack is co-chairwoman of Clinton’s campaign in Iowa. Her husband, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, campaigns for Clinton across the country, which he began to do after his presidential campaign came to a close in February.

“It was an easy switch for us because Senator Clinton’s been a friend of ours for a long time,” Vilsack explained. “And we’ve learned a lot about loyalty in the last year and a half, and we really think she’s in part responsible for a lot of success that we’ve had in the last eight years (in Iowa).”

Vilsack noted that Clinton helped with her husband’s gubernatorial campaign with a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., and by making an appearance in Iowa during the final days of the campaign.

“All of the good things that we’ve been able to do for education and health care and for changing the economy of this state are in part because she was one of the few people at that time that gave us a chance,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack emphasized the importance of a candidate’s experience in the context of the challenges that the next president will face. She noted similarities between the problems that face the country today and the problems that faced the country in the late 1960s.

She noted the United States is again engaged in an unpopular war. She drew parallels between the civil rights movement and recent rulings by the Sup-reme Court that she views as regressive. Vilsack added the wom-en’s movement thrived in the 1960s, with women seeking equal rights and pay, and she sees the struggle continuing four decades later.

“Now, 40 years later, we’re still dealing with a lot of those same issues,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack said Clinton can repair the country’s image in the international community.

“On the very first day in office, I want my candidate — my president to be able to pick up her phone and call any one of 82 leaders in this world,” Vilsack said.

“She already has a personal relationship with them. Because she, when her husband was president, she was the face of the Clinton administration around the world.”

On the issue of healthcare, Clinton is clearly the most experienced and knowledgeable candidate, Vilsack said. In 1993, she was picked to head the Task Force on National Health Care Reform by President Clinton. Although the universal health care plan would eventually fail, Vilsack said that the experience was beneficial.

“I think its a good thing that she hasn’t been completely successful there,” Vilsack said. “... I know as a teacher, in whatever we do, we learn more from our failures than from our success.”

She said it is important to foster creativity and innovative thinking in students, rather than “creating a bunch of standardized test-takers.”

“I love hearing Senator Clinton talk about using the model that we’ve created in Iowa: universal preschool for 4-year-olds, quality day care, and having a system so that we do that,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack said Clinton also cites Iowa as a model in revitalizing rural economies, through investment in renewable fuels.

Clinton engaging voters in a dialog about issues, essentially using Iowa as a “classroom,” Vilsack said. She cited examples of Clinton seeking teachers’ input on the No Child Left Behind Act, and developing a round table of healthcare professionals to help her craft her healthcare plan.

“And I think ... that’s one of the things we need to look for,” Vilsack said. “Not for the person who’s just telling us how it should be, and thinking we don’t need answers.”

When the topic of her speech transitioned to the war in Iraq, Vilsack said Clinton has an extremely comprehensive plan.

“She sat down and thought about all the people affected by the war,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack said Clinton’s plan considers the well-being of Iraqis, as well as ensuring American troops can leave the country safely. In addition, Clinton wants to help the returning troops reintegrate into their communities by helping them find jobs or continue their education. Vilsack said Clinton also has a plan to ensure that troops returning with physical or mental disabilities receive appropriate treatment and support.

Vilsack turned to the audience after finishing her speech, not for a traditional question--and-answer session, but a more informal conversation with the audience. Topics included Iraq, energy security and education.

Vilsack spoke in very general terms about Clinton’s positions on environmental issues. She did make mention of an “Apollo Project” type effort, where all citizens share a responsibility for improving the environment.

On education, Vilsack said she is unsure whether the No Child Left Behind Act would be reauthorized, reformed or postponed for the next administration to take action. However, she said she believes if the act is reauthorized, it will be in a completely revised form.

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