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January 10th, 2011

Speaker Pro Tem Kaufmann: “What we all need: an unobstructed view straight home”

Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Kaufmann delivered opening remarks to the Iowa House of Representatives today.  The following are his remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Thank you Representatives Chambers, Grassley, and Swaim.  You are friends and colleagues and I will do my best to not let you down.  And my appreciation to all of my fellow legislators; I have the greatest respect for all of you.

The first President of the United States born west of the Mississippi River was a resident of my District.  Herbert Hoover was born in a tiny home in Cedar County Iowa.  Many of you have probably seen this humble abode.  He is buried within a few hundred yards of the place of his birth.

The most important part of a trip to the graves of President and Mrs. Hoover is the view.  As you stand at the foot of the graves there is an unobstructed view straight to his birth home.  The President wanted it this way.  This great Iowa-born humanitarian never forgot where he came from.  And in his permanent rest, he sends that message each and every day.

I would propose to all of you today that this is what we all need: an unobstructed view straight home–no curves, no barriers, just the simple vision of our Districts and who sent us to work in this beautiful chamber.

If every one of us is reflecting on home, it makes it easier to find common ground. It makes it easier to disagree, sometimes strongly, but in a civil manner. And it makes it easier to listen to that still small voice that urges all of us to try to do the right thing for our communities, our counties, and our state.

I wish the newspaper headlines would announce one time, at the end of session, how many times we worked together and the legislation that passed this chamber unanimously or near unanimously.  Count the bills–they dwarf the major battles we will have. This is not a reflection of watering down our principles, this is a matter of adding an element of communication and long tough discussions to those principles and values we bring with us to this chamber.

Amidst the disagreement we will have this year; I hope we will remember what we all have in common… a precious view back home.  And when we do disagree and we will, often with passion and zeal, we do so from positions of principle.

Speaker Paulsen, one of the reasons I believe in you and your leadership is because I know you will lead us through those battles with a civil and respectful demeanor that will be reflected in this chamber.  The best of you is the integrity you have always possessed.

Leader Upmeyer I have every confidence that your decisions will not just be for the good of our caucus but the good of Iowa.  Your past dedication to health care and fiscal prudence, along with your mental toughness that you have consistently shown in my six years serving with you, is just what this chamber needs.

Leader McCarthy I have every confidence that you will find those many and varied opportunities to work together.  And when we disagree, to do so with passion not rancor.  Our Democratic colleagues have chosen you again as their leader and we respect your leadership.

Thank you former Speaker Murphy for your service.  And certainly on this day, our caucus and this entire chamber send our warm support and friendship to the family of Paul Bell.  And I hope Representative Wendt in Sioux City knows we continue to care.

We all must find our unobstructed view back home.  As we work on creating an environment for our entrepreneurs to flourish and create jobs, my eye will be on Lynch’s Plumbing and Bennett Trucking.  I know all of you have your own hometown businesses that motivate you to make the right decisions.

As we work on the economic climate of this state, my heart will be with the class of 2011 who have the same hopes and dreams we did and do. And to the class of 2022: we will do our best….you started Kindergarten this fall.

And as we work on our priorities for spending I will remember the recently widowed, young mother who left a tearful and grateful message on my voicemail that her daughter had just been accepted at Glenwood and she was off of the mental health waiting list….at last.

And to my friends in Clark County Iowa who are entering their second decade of uncertainty, stress, and the threat of government driving them off their family farms and homes, I hear you and you are also a part of my mental vision of home.

My Bible I used today to take my oath belonged to my older brother who long ago was killed in a traffic accident at age 19. He remains my hero. We are all here due to the inspiration of people — most of them from home — most of them without the full knowledge of how much they motivate us to try to do the right thing.

So, in closing–let us debate with passion, let us advocate with sincere fervor, and let us flourish in this sometimes dog-eat-dog environment.  But also let’s remember what binds us together as a House of Representatives—our shared sacrifice, no more than our Iowa constituents, but certainly a part of our shared experience as we miss our families, debate for hours upon hours, and take those holiday phone calls from citizens in need.

We are the result of the people’s voice.  We are the fruits of democracy.  And as long as we look home we won’t, in fact we can’t, forget that.

Let me end with a quote from President Lincoln: “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” The right place will not be found here in this chamber, but rather in the hearts and minds of our constituents.

Best wishes to all of you.  And may God Bless our work here in the People’s House, the Chamber with the unobstructed view back home.

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The Iowa Republican





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