Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention (AUDIO)

The Iowa Democratic Party’s convention started earlier this morning.  It’s 11 o’clock and (gasp) they’re on schedule.  Roxanne Conlin, the Democratic Party’s 2010 nominee for the U.S. Senate,  is being introduced to the crowd.  What is below is a live blog of the event, which has a line-up including Conlin, Senator Tom Harkin and Governor Chet Culver.

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In Memoriam: John Ruan (1914-2010)

A man who’s been a prominent fixture in Iowa’s business, political and philanthropic communities has died.  John Ruan was 96.  He gave the “seed” money for the World Food Prize, which has been billed as a Nobel Prize to recognize leaders in the agriculture and food production industries.  One of the buildings in downtown Des Moines bears his name and he built two other multi-story structures downtown, including the Marriott Hotel. One of the state’s largest banks — Bankers Trust — is owned by the Ruan family. 

UPDATE:I had a chance to talk by phone with one of Ruan’s long-time friends — former Des Moines Register executive editor Michael Gartner, the current owner of the Iowa Cubs.  When I asked Gartner to recount his first meeting or to share what may have been his first impressions of Ruan, he told a great story. 

Gartner was in his Register office sometime in the mid-1970s and Ruan came “storming in” with a copy of the newspaper under his arm.  “The Register had written something about him which he didn’t like and he started yelling and screaming at me about it,” Gartner said this morning in our phone conversation. “When (Ruan) finally got through, I said: ‘Are you through John?’ and he said, ‘Yeah!’

“I told him, ‘Well, let me tell you something.  I don’t know anything about the trucking business.  I don’t know anything about the banking business.  I don’t know anything about building big buildings, but you don’t know anything about the newspaper business and I do.’  (Ruan) stopped, looked at me and he kind of smiled and said, ‘I think we’re going to get along just fine.’

“We became great friends.  I had breakfast with him every two or three weeks for the next 20 years, just the two of us, and I found that he was an unbelievably interesting guy.  He cared about the community.  He cared about his family.  He was driven to succeed.”

Read more about what Gartner had to say about Ruan here.  The Register has a story, along with a timeline, and a headline which calls Ruan a “Des Moines titan.”

The following information was provided by Ruan’s family.

John Ruan, founder of Ruan Transportation Management Systems (Ruan), passed away on February 13, 2010. Mr. Ruan was born on February 11, 1914 and died at the age of 96.

The employees of Ruan Transportation Management Systems extend their thoughts and sympathies to the Ruan family during this time.  His wife, Elizabeth Ruan, and his sons John Ruan III and Thomas Ruan, all of Des Moines, Iowa, survive Mr. Ruan.

“Our family is grieving.  We have lost our mentor and dear companion,” said John Ruan’s son, John Ruan III, Chairman and CEO of Ruan Transportation Management Systems. “My father’s influence in the industry and with his employees and customers built the strong foundation for the company that exists today.”

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Borlaug lauded by four Iowa congressmen

The U.S. House passed a resolution earlier this afternoon honoring the late Norman Borlaug, the father of the “Green Revolution” who is credited with saving millions of lives with his work in plant genetics.  Borlaug, a Cresco, Iowa native, died on September 12, 2009 at the age of 95.

Radio Iowa’s story of today’s House action (includes 22 min of audio) features all the comments from four of Iowa’s five congressmen, along with two members of congress from Texas.  Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinan (R-Florida) was one of the resolutions floor managers and, if you listen to her remarks in that 22-minute segment, I can tell you when she said “Noble Prize” she was referring to Borlaug’s “Nobel Peace Prize.”

Congressman Bruce Braley of Waterloo delivered brief remarks without reference to a text. Congressmen Leonard Boswell, Tom Latham and Steve King all read from prepared remarks, but offered some extemporaneous remarks as a prelude.

“Dr. Borlaug was one of the most unusual people I’ve met in my life,” Boswell said to open his remarks.  “He was so impressive in so many ways.”

King joked a bit.  “He did go to school at the University of Minnesota and, for my Minnesota friends, I can’t even imagine what it would have been like if he would have had a full Iowa education.  That’s part of the banter that goes back and forth across the state lines.  And he was also an NCAA wrestler which is something that goes along with, I can’t imagine if he’d wrestled for the Hawkeyes and what that might have been.”

Braley told a story Borlaug had related to the Iowa congressional delegation when Borlaug lunched with them on the day he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in July of 2007. Borlaug recounted his visit with Vice President Henry Wallace when Wallace drove his own car from Iowa to Mexico to represent the U.S. at the inauguration of Mexico’s president.  Wallace, founder of Pioneer Hi-Bred, met up with fellow Iowan Borlaug, who was working in Mexico.

“Together, these two brilliant Americans who happened to be born in Iowa, talked about charting a future for a plant revolution that changed the face of hunger in the world,” Braley said.

Honoring the father of the “Green Revolution”

Ninety-five-year-old Norman Borlaug is still at work, in the research lab and in foreign countries, trying to boost agricultural production and feed the world. Borlaug, an Iowa native, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work. Now, there's a move afoot to make Borlaug's northern Iowa birthplace a National Historic Site

Read the joint news release from Iowa's two U.S. senators below.

WASHINGTON – Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin have introduced legislation to designate the birthplace and childhood home of Dr. Norman Borlaug as a National Historic Site.  The home is located near Cresco.

The legislation says that “upon donation of the Norman Borlaug birthplace and the Norman Borlaug childhood home to the National Park Service, it will become a unit of the National Park System and be designated the ‘Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Birthplace and Home National Historic Site.’”


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Leach honored by U.S. House

The bid to name a building in Davenport in honor of Davenport native Jim Leach is advancing.  Leach, a Republican, was an Iowa Congressman for 32 years before losing his reelection bid in 2006.  He's currently a professor at Princeton, his alma mater.

Two Iowa Congressmen made remarks today on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in favor of the resolution which calls for renaming the federal courthouse in Davenport the "James A. Leach United States Courthouse."  The text of Boswell's statement is below; Boswell called Leach "a good friend."  King's office provided the video of King's remarks; King called Leach a "consummate statesman." Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo) issued the following news release:

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Culver Inaugural

The Culver crew has chosen an unusal look for the stage in Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines where Culver willl appear this morning to take the oath of office and deliver his first speech as governor (Audio of IPTV’s coverage). The reaction most have had: "Oh, Spinal Tap."  Yes, a reference to the movie.  One Culver aide even joked that Culver would be appearing out of one of the huge pillars on the stage.

It’s rather dark in the arena — except for the brilliance of the lights on stage.  I’m told the fellow who was hired to do the lighting for President Ford’s casket in the U.S. Capitol was hired to arrange the lighting for this event.

The dignitaries are now being introduced.  Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd was the first to be named for the crowd, followed by the justices of the Iowa Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.  The justices are wearing their robes.  Dodd appeared to be wearing a dark blue suit. 

The stage set-up is thus:  The stage is on the east side of the arena’s floor, facing west.  There are a number of chairs on the floor and that’s where the legislators and dignitaries like Dodd are being seated.   

Former Governor Robert Ray and his wife, Billie, were just introduced.  Culver will specifically mention Ray during his Inaugural Address (but the advance copy shows no direct mention of Tom Vilsack — hmmm).  Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson and her husband, Jim Autry, were just introduced.  Governor Tom Vilsack is walking in now, holding his wife’s hand with applause and some hoots from the crowd.  Teresa Villmain, a consultant to Vilsack’s presidential campaign, is walking alongside, whispering something in his ear.  Now the whole crowd wants to know what she said. 

As folks file in, the Iowa National Guard’s Band is playing softly as background music.  Their march is precise — bandmaster Karl King would be proud.  Legislators are now filing in.  At this point in 1999, this is when everyone in Veterans Auditorium for Governor Vilsack’s first inaugural noticed Ed Fallon wearing a sweatshirt.  It had a picture of the Iowa stamp on the front. 

The "stinger" note on the end of the march was just played and the crowd applauded.  A hush has fallen over the assembly.  Senator Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg who is Senate President, has just pounded the gavel on the lectern to convene the legislature — this is part of the pomp and circumstance/parliamentary stuff that is required with such an occasion. 

The band has begun playing again.  There appears to be a lull of some kind as the "committee" of legislators appointed to escort Governor-elect Culver into the hall is no where to be seen.  Kibbie has pounded the gavel again.  People are standing up for some reason.  The video screens in the hall are now showing the logo for the Culver/Judge Inaugural.  Another pound of the gavel.  Chief Justice Marcia Ternus is being escorted into the hall.  She will be on the person administering the oath of office to Culver. 

Lieutenant Governor-elect Patty Judge and her husband, former state Senator John Judge, are being escorted into the hall.  John Judge is carrying a Bible — which I’m guessing will be used when Judge takes the oath.

Now, the main focus of today’s event.  Governor-elect Chet Culver, his wife Mari and their twon children are walking into the arena. Culver’s wearing a red tie, light blue shirt and navy suit.  The politician’s uniform.  His young son, John, is wearing a suit and tie, too.  Mrs. Culver just grabbed the son’s hand; Culver is holding daughter Claire’s hand as they climb the stairs to the stage.

Once the Culvers reached the stage, the flags were presented and Culver reached down to son John to place his hand over his heart.  The pledge was led by an Iraq war veteran and his wife.  The National Anthem was sung by two sisters — Carolyn and Emily Nicholas — who made Miss America pageant history by both being crowned Miss Iowa.  Emily is Miss Iowa 2006. Carolyn was Miss Iowa 2004. 

A group of school kids just read a poem, getting great response from the crowd. 

Now, Justice Ternus is administering the oath of office to Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge.   

Now, Patty Judge is behind the microphone.  Now, my on the fly notes from her speech: 

"Thank you.  It’s very humbling to be here…It is such an honor to be here with you this morning and to be sworn in as your lt gov.  I want to extend a special thank you to my friend and partner Chet Culver.  Governor-elect I want to thank you for believing in me…it’s going to be a real pleasure to serve with you….(She acknowledges Vilsack and Pederson)

"I’m an Iowan.  I was born here.  I went to school here.  I married a guy from my home town.  I raised three sons here and they are all raising their families right here in Iowa.  I’ve worked on an Iowa farm.  I’ve been a nurse.  I’ve owned a smalltown business and served as an elected representative.  As your SOA for the last eight years I’ve also traveled thousands of miles…I’ve met the most incredible people.  Iowans who share the pride I feel in our state…As Iowans we share common ideals no matter where we live.  We believe in taking care of our families and educating our children.  We believe hard work leads to success and aren’t afraid to roll-up our sleeves…(reference to the One Iowa theme Culver has chosen) the future is unlimited. 

"I ran for poltiical office for the first time when our state was reeling from a farm crisis…in truth, I made that run because I was really mad and I decided one day that I should go to DM and tell all those peopel just what I thought.  But even in those dark days Iowans saw the future’s light on the horizon…there has never been a time in the history of our state that the future has been so exciting.

"Biobased industry is just beginning.  Who would have dreamed…that we could power our cars and trucks with corn and soybeans…For this Iowa farmer, that is exciting stuff…Iowa is a leader today because a lot of hard-working people believed you could run an engine on corn and soybeans and others said it couldn’t be done. 

"To all of those who made renewable energy a reality I say thank you but I also say ‘What are we going to do next?’  The world is not standing still…(mentions Emmetsburg bio-refinery, wind turbines).  As your Lt. Gov I intend and look forward to advocating for clean, environmentally-friendly fuel.  (applause, and she sniffles a bit — she seemed a tiny bit choked up at the beginning)

"Our soil and water makes us the bread basket and also the fuel center…of our entire world…We must work to protect the soil and impove our water supplies leaving this place even better for

We have faced problems and sharp divisions have been drawn that have pitted neighbor against neighbor…We must work together…as One Iowa.

As we transform not just Iowa’s economy…to one that is based on renewable crops we cannot forget that Iowans first of all must be safe…Events of 9/11…changed forever the way we think about our security and the way we respond to threats.  For the past 5 years I have been closedly involved in emerenciy planning…Governor C has asked me to take an active role in Homeland Security/Emergency Management…We will make certain we are ready to respond to any emergency or threat to the citizens of the state of Iowa.

"Ensuring safe, healthy and productive lives for all Iowans is a very lofty goal but this administratio will be about big dreams.  Iowans made a choice…in turn, I chose to be standing here today rather than home on the farm because I absolutely believe that together with you CC and I can accomplish great things…Let me say clearly.  CC and I are people who do not believe in the concept of the impossible.  What we do believe is that when good people join together for a common cause, the future is unlimited.

"I’m aware the challenge ahead is the largest I’ve ever faced…At times in my life…I have remembered and thought about the words of a favorite Bible verse…Second Corinthians chapter nine verse eight… (she read the verse).Again, thank you very much."

As an interlude, the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus sings.  I would tell you the name of the song if I could read the tiny print on the program, but I cannot read it.   

Culver now takes the oath.  Wife Mari hold the Bible.  Afterwards, the First Lady gives the "big lug" a kiss, then they hug for a long moment.  Culver is now shaking hands with folks up on the stage and waving at the crowd.  Senator Kibbie introduces Culver to the crowd. 

Cuvler begins by thanking people, including "my good friend Tom Arnold."  Then, he segues into thanks to Judge….Culver wishes the Vilsacks god-speed.  Culver thanks Christie Vilsack for her committment to literacy (Culver pronounced this liht-er-uss-lee).  "I want to take this moment on behalf of the people of Iowa to personally thank you for your eight years of public service.  You have done an incredible job and we are grateful.  Thank you governor."  The crowd rises to applaud.

To Sally Pederson and her husband:  "You and your family have brought grace and class….To my staff and family and friends…I can’t thank you enough for your loyalty and friendship.  To my parents.  Thanks for the guidance.  I love you all very much.  My mother, Ann, my stepmother and of course my father, John."

"I would like to thank my father for the example that he has set for me.  Most importantly, I would like to thank my First Lady, Mari.  Mari, thank you for your unconditional love and your suppport and to my wonderful children John and Claire, words cannot express my love for you.  (John applauds this)  Let me just say — Team Culver, this is going to be a very fun journey for all of us." 

Next, Culver thanks the adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard and all the men and women who are on active duty today.  "We thank you for your service to our country and our state."  (Crowd stands and applauds)

"If you haven’t figured it out already, I love Iowa.  (now, Culver turns to his prepared text, which follows — I count 15 exclamation points!)

This "land between two rivers" is blessed with people of strong character; a history that is rich; and as the Native Americans who came before us said, "A Beautiful Land."

My fondest childhood memories are docked along the banks of the Mississippi River near McGregor. As a kid, I remember going out in my fishing boat, “Chet’s Charter,” and enjoying the magnificent surroundings.

Some of my ancestors settled north of there in 1863 and our family lived there for many years.  We had a house on the bluff overlooking the river.  When you look down the valley of the mighty Mississippi you get a real sense of the awesome landscape and vast history of our state.

The constant movement of the river also reminds us that things are changing all the time.  It rises and falls, freezes and thaws, yet emerges strong and powerful, generation after generation!

Right now, Iowa is experiencing much the same change and with it comes the opportunity for a new era of greatness.

As some of you may have heard, once or twice, I was once a high school government and history teacher!
But I am also a student of history.  In my classroom, I would remind my students of the ebbs and flows in our history.

As Iowans, I think we could do much worse than to learn from the lessons provided by those who have come before us.      

Our state has always been a state of explorers and pioneers.  Chief Black Hawk and the Native Americans taught us how to live off the land. Marquette and Jolliet were the first Europeans to navigate the Mississippi River in 1673.  (Henderson INSERT:  Culver pronounced Jolliet as JOO-lee-et — Was Marquette & Juliet that Shakespeare play about star-crossed lovers?)

Following the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark made their famous expedition up the Missouri River along our state’s western border.

These explorers were fearless!  They faced many obstacles, but showed great courage in their pursuit.

Today, we should challenge ourselves to emulate their commitment to pushing the limits of discovery.

These visionaries were undaunted by the practical challenges of the day.

They were guided by:  Their faith.  Their hopes.  And their dreams.  Even when no one gave them a map!

One of my heroes, President John F. Kennedy, also believed in the importance of exploration and in the relentless pursuit of a new frontier.

He challenged us to win the race to space, saying, “We choose to go to the moon and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills; because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win."

Well, my fellow Iowans, this is our time!

It’s our time to accept the challenge, to explore and discover Iowa’s unlimited potential. 

It’s our time to win the race to become the energy capital of the world. 
Let us invoke the lessons previous generations of explorers and leaders have taught us.

Let us all come together as one and lead our own “21st Century Iowa Expedition.”

There is an energy frontier open before us, and we must explore it immediately!  America and the world are counting on us.
Simply put, we can’t afford to duck this responsibility!

It’s time for Iowa to become the Silicon Valley of the Midwest.
It’s time to create the jobs of the future that will keep your children and my children here at home, where they belong.
It’s time to make the entire state of Iowa a laboratory so we remain on the cutting edge of all forms of renewable energy. 

We will protect our precious environment: the land, lakes, rivers and streams we all love.  However, with the right balance, we can harvest rewards beyond even our wildest imagination. 

Our value-added opportunities allow us to take from the earth more than once because we are blessed with the best soil and the most productive farmers in the world.

In addition, we have a tradition of great scientists like Henry Wallace and Norman Borlaug, and a world-class education system that nurtures our homegrown talent.

We have already led the nation with ethanol and biodiesel.  Now we must maintain that leadership.  With the eyes of the world upon us, we must prepare for the next generation energy economy.

We will create an Iowa Power Fund to invest in and attract cutting edge research and development.  This will ensure we can lead the way not only in alternative fuels but also in biomass, geothermal, wind and solar energy.

It’s time for Iowa to become the first state in the nation to declare energy independence! 

We are already on our way!

Whether it’s the production of soy lubricant in Waverly, the development of a biorefinery in Emmetsburg, the manufacturing of corn-based plastics in Clinton, the wind storage project in Dallas County, or the new biomass option of burning oat hulls in place of coal in Cedar Falls — Iowa is on the frontier!

Our dreams of an amazing future, one of energy independence, prosperity and a quality of life second to none, are within our reach.  I know we can turn our dreams into reality!
There is another important lesson we must take from those daring souls who have come before us.  They understood the importance of working together to get the job done!
So, to the 150 dedicated Iowans who will serve in the 82nd General Assembly, I say this: may our inevitable disagreements reflect deep conviction but not contempt, honest difference but not divisiveness.

Let us work together in a sincere and inclusive way, to create One Iowa.  After all, we serve the same Iowans, they are counting on us, and this state’s future belongs to all of us.

And, I want every Iowan to know, we need you! 

It doesn’t matter whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent.   Whether you live in rural Iowa or urban Iowa.  Whether you are a native Iowan or a new arrival.  Young or old.  What does matter is that we lock arms for the common good and tap our gold mine of potential.
Together, we will continue to move this great state forward!  However, to achieve this, we who serve must remember to respect the will of Iowans.  They have spoken, and they expect results.

Iowans expect us to achieve our amazing potential in renewable energy.

They expect us to renew our commitment to educational excellence by expanding early childhood education; getting teacher pay to the national average; and making college more affordable.
They expect us to find a way to insure that every child has health care; to save lives by increasing the tobacco tax; and to give hope to the sick by lifting the ban on stem cell research. 

They expect us to pay tribute to our seniors and veterans by showing them the dignity and respect they have earned. 

Iowans expect us to find a way to honor and reward hard work by raising the minimum wage.

They expect us to find ways to support and encourage entrepreneurs and small business owners, the dreamers who create jobs across our state. 
Iowans also deserve a government that reflects their values! They are right to expect us to be smart with a buck, and to balance our checkbook the same way they do. 

And they are right to demand ethical, accountable and open government.

Iowans expect us to encourage, not shy away from, the diversity that has made us a better state.  Governor Ray taught us that.

We should never tolerate hate, especially in the form of bullying and threats in the workplace or in our schools.

We have an obligation to make the most of this important moment in Iowa history to explore and harness every bit of potential we have.      

But a Governor can’t do it alone.  That’s why today, I am asking for your help.  Especially, the next generation of Iowans.  Everyone has a role to play in our “21st Century Expedition.”

On Monday, we will honor a great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, who led Americans into action when he said, "Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.  You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love."

Well, Dr. King was right!  Every single one of us can play an important role in this new expedition.

I care deeply about the challenges we face, but I have an even greater faith in Iowa’s promise. 
So, as we go from here, let us always remember:

This is our time!

Much is expected of us,

And, our future is unlimited.

Let us work together to build One Iowa and in doing so, we will achieve the greatness we all know is possible.

(Speech over)