Branstad boys: We beat Chelsea!

Former Governor Terry Branstad’s sons spoke Sunday at a "My Dad, the Governor" forum in the State Historical Building. The off-spring of former Governors Erbe, Hughes and Ray also spoke (Radio Iowa story). 

Eric and Marcus Branstad told several stories, including one that featured Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill and New York Senator Hillary Clinton.  The story took place when Terry Branstad was Governor of Iowa and Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas.

Eric Branstad:  "Part of how the governor’s conferences work is the governors do their thing, the first ladies do their thing and the kids do their thing…I remember, I’ll tell this quick little story.  We were in Alabama and they have like a room of the hotel or the resort we were staying at for the kids and, you know, filled with games and video games and that kind of stuff so we pulled out the Scrabble board.  Scrabble’s one of our family’s favorite games.  This was Mobile, Alabama, and you know, Chelsea Clinton sits down.  She was, at the time, the Governor of Arkansas’ daughter and so she sits down and we’re having a heated, heated Scrabble match and Chelsea Clinton is pretty smart however we were trained in Scrabble from a young age (the crowd laughed) and we’re more of defensive, you know, in high-point-getting so we had an interesting outcome and Chelsea wasn’t a big fan of losing to the Branstads that day." 

Eric Branstad is worked for the Republican Party of Iowa now.  His younger brother, Marcus, is working for Tennessee Senator Bill Frist’s PAC.  Marcus told a few stories this past Sunday, too.

Marcus Branstad:  "I was born January 22, 1984, which was Super Bowl Sunday.  The Washington Redskins played the Oakland Raiders.  Marcus Allen played for the Raiders at the time.  The Raiders were a huge underdog, were not expected to win that year, but Marcus Allen made the longest Super Bowl touchdown run in Super Bowl history which was only broken last year.  So, coming in with that, a lot of people thought I was named after Marcus Allen.  My actual name is Marcus Andrew Branstad but I would get cards up until I was a teenager addressed to Marcus Allen Bransad." 

Terrace Hill was the only "family" house Marcus knew (his dad was governor for the first 16 years of his life).  Marcus told stories about roaming the grounds, playing tricks ont he tourists as they strolled through the mansion’s first and second floors.  (The family living quarters are on the third floor.)  Marcus said as he has begun traveling the state and meeting with folks who’re active in the Republican Party and had visited the house for a reception or seen his family at a campaign event, it seems everybody has their own "Marcus" story to tell. 

Afterwards, I asked former Governor Terry Branstad if Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter Rod Boshard and I should tell our own Marcus stories.  He laughed, as did Chris Branstad.  The story goes like this:  Marcus was a preschooler and invited on a play day with a preschool friend.  The kids would up at McDonald’s, and as they sat eating their Happy Meals, the kids were overheard by their parents having a conversation about their dads.  "My daddy is a salesman.  What does your daddy do? Marcus Branstad’s young friend asked of him.  "My dad doesn’t do anything.  He’s a statue," is how Marcus replied in the story Terry Branstad told to me and another reporter who were waiting to speak to him after he’d delivered an address to nursing students at Mercy in Des Moines. 

On Sunday, Eric Branstad tempted the crowd but did not tell the story about a family vacation.  Afterwards, his dad — the former governor — told it himself.

Governor Terry Branstad:  "It was a family vacation in my first year as governor, 1983.  This was the hottest year I think since 1936 and I came up with this bright idea that we’d promote tourism — we didn’t have any budget for tourism — but (his family) would promote tourism by going all around the state, visit these different parks and tourist attractions and get some publicity from you folks in the media and then that would help promote tourism in Iowa so we started out at Stone City and then we went, I don’t know, we went to the Hoover Library.  We were at the Old Capitol in Iowa City.  We were visiting all of these museums and late in the afternoon we were at the Seminole Valley Farm on the edge of Cedar Rapids.  It’s an old 1890s farm.  They’re spinning wool into yarns, doing all these interesting crafts.  It’s very hot.  I’m being interviewed by, I think, a Cedar Rapids television station and I was saying how neat it is, all the fun things there are to see and do in Iowa.  Eric is standing right in front of me.  He just turned eight and they lower the microphone and say ‘Well, what do you think?’ He says:  ‘I’m hot and bored.’ (Branstad laughs)  You know, that was one of the classics."

Boshart then asked Governor Branstad a question about having his now-adult sons behind a mincrophone, telling stories about their youth:  "Was it a little unnerving, not knowing what they were going to say up?"

Governor Branstad replied:  "Who knows? They didn’t talk about sneaking when they were teeangers and some of that stuff.  You could ask them about that, you know.  (Branstad laughed.)  I don’t know.  I thought maybe me being in the audience might prevent them from telling some of those stories or maybe they’ve gotten old enough now that they’re a little bit more careful."

Boshart:  "What’s your perspective on their life, growing up in a fishbowl?"

Governor Branstad: "It’s not easy.  I think, you know, you heard from all the different governors’ children and it’s a different thing, especially when you’re a teenager — it’s not so bad when you’re little — but when you’re a teenager, you just want to be your own self.  You want to be an ordinary person and you know, so being the governor’s kid is kind of a burden to carry.  Now, most people think ‘Oh, it’s neat’ and I kept trying to tell them that they get to do all these fun things.  You get to go to all thse governor’s conferences, meet these interesting people and everything but with that goes additional scrutiny and that’s really hard for a teenager to understand.  When they get a little older, I think now they appreciate it a lot more than they did."

Marcus Branstad put it like this a few moments earlier when he was speaking in front of the crowd:  "I’ve experienced a lot of great things that dad has brought to us…Having everybody know your last name is weird, yet, you know, gratifying."

This is what Eric Branstad told the crowd: "At a young age, seven to 17 or so, you don’t really appreciate, you know, everything that we were given and all of the opportunities that we had to do.  I got to go to lots of presidential inaugurations, dinner at the White House…front row tickets to the Davis Cup Tennis Tournament and my picture with McEnroe and Agassi, my heroes growing up in the tennis world and you know, all of these things.  What you don’t appreciate it then but growing up now, being, you know, a 31 year old and a new father and new husband, what I really realize now is how much that I really appreciate everything, you know, all of dad’s hard work and all of what we were given.  It was very powerful and like Marcus said, it is something that we will never, ever forget.  We’re very, very lucky people."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.