CLINTON — When Democrat Tulsi Gabbard entered the U.S. House of Representatives as a freshman Congressman in 2012, her leaders in the Democratic party told her not to introduce any bills because Republicans would not consider them, Gabbard told an audience in Clinton on Saturday.

Rather, Gabbard was told to help elect more Democrats, and when the party had a majority, it could pass whatever bills it wanted.

The 2020 presidential candidate refused to play that game, choosing instead to reach out to Republicans in an effort to work together.

“I began... with the universal language of food,” Gabbard said. She asked her mother to make 430 boxes of macadamia nut toffee, one for each member of Congress. She asked for additional boxes of candy for each Congressman’s staff.

“I was starting to hand write notes to every one of my colleagues,” Gabbard said. Eventually she saw Republicans walk from their side of the room to the Democratic side, not only to thank Gabbard for the toffee, but to ask her about her district and how Republicans could work with her.

Reaching out with respect is the way to heal the division in this country, Gabbard said.

A veteran of the Hawaii Army National Guard, Gabbard wants to “bring the values of service to our government,” said told voters. Hawaii is the most diverse state in the nation, Gabbard said, and the people live in harmony because of aloha.

Alo means to share, Gabbard said. Ha is the breath of life. Aloha means “I come to you with respect,” Gabbard said. “I come to you with an open heart.

“We are all children of God,” said the Hindu Congresswoman. “We are all one family.”

Gabbard told listeners Saturday that the nation needs to overcome the wounds caused by the hatred and vitriol surrounding us. “What do we do about it? How do we get past it.” As a soldier, she said, “failure is not an option.”

The country has to get back to its roots, Gabbard said. Our pledge of allegiance says we are indivisible; we need to get back to that.

We can debate the issues and still show respect to one another, Gabbard said. “There are no deplorables, only fellow Americans.”

Gabbard has heard of family members who no longer talk to one another, of friends who are no longer friends. She suggests the country put service before self and reach out with respect. “Let us serve together.”

Establishing relationships has allowed Gabbard to be successful, she said.

Even an issue as divisive as climate change has common ground between two vocal sides, Gabbard said. Between the idea that climate change is imminently dangerous and that it is a hoax is a middle ground.

In the small southern Iowa town of Albia, Gabbard met a man ready for a climate change fight, she said. But when the two delved into details they found that they were both concerned about soil quality and water pollution.

“This is the beginning of the conversation,” Gabbard said. Politicians have to start with the basics and set aside labels.

Respect is needed in foreign as well as domestic policy, Gabbard said. The U.S. has to end the policy of being other country’s police. It has to treat other countries with respect, Gabbard said. Then we “can work together to save the planet.”