This week was for the doubters and the naysayers.
This week was for those who continue to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that it makes no difference when women lead.
With her first Condition of the State address, Gov. Kim Reynolds proved to all Iowans why well-rounded states value and embrace the strengths and experiences of all residents. Her remarks were generally inclusionary and conciliatory. They stood in stark contrast to last year’s contentious legislative session, and in defiance of the bungled Statehouse sexual harassment scandal.
“All of us in public office must ensure not only a safe workplace but serve as a model for the public and private sector,” she said.
“What we do here matters. Iowans are watching. We can’t change behavior everywhere, but we have an obligation to lead and, as long as I am Governor, we’re going to.”
Without derailing the GOP initiative to privatize Medicaid, Reynolds admitted that mistakes were made, signaling a willingness to move the process forward in a less unilateral way.
While not completely disavowing Republican hopes for broad tax reforms, Reynolds placed her stamp of approval on one specific aspect. It should come as little surprise that federal deductibility is perhaps the least contentious of all possible reforms, one poised to draw support from lawmakers of varied backgrounds during an election year.
Drawing at times from her own personal experiences as someone who has made mistakes, and someone who has risen above them, Reynolds stood before state lawmakers and residents not as a figurehead of government wrapped in Teflon and only to be viewed from afar, but as a real person. A balance of steadfast passion and relatable vulnerability that Iowans have rarely, if ever, witnessed.
Reynolds’ optimism for what Iowa can be, and how all Iowans have a role to play, was contagious. Women not generally interested in politics, spoke to me about this speech — and they were smiling. Two such women specifically asked about scholarships to continue educational goals they’d set aside to focus on their families.
Iowans will, of course, still need to gauge the veracity and commitment behind Reynolds’ words. There will be significant disagreements on the policies implemented to meet these and other goals. I’m under no illusion that Gov. Reynolds and I — or that Gov. Reynolds and Iowa women more generally — will be on the same page for every issue.
But that’s for next week. This week I am cautiously optimistic that common threads, when found, will be woven into the fabric of state policy. I choose to embrace hope that all Iowans will be afforded an opportunity to reach out and grasp the elusive life preserver of second chances. I’m grateful that the underlying tone of state government has shifted.
This week I’m rooting for young girls in rural Iowa and female cashiers at my local convenience store, and hoping they look upon this Governor and see at least a slight reflection of themselves, standing at a podium before the entire state and confident despite past mistakes that they are meant to be there.
This column by Lynda Waddington was originally published by The Gazette on Jan. 13, 2018. Photo credit: Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette