An invitation to Tim Kaine

By ART CULLEN

Tim Kaine needs to visit Storm Lake. We listened to Hillary Clinton’s running mate deliver his introductory speech in Miami on Saturday, speaking alternately in Spanish and English. We were wowed. This guy has the gift. If you don’t like Hillary, you just might love Tim Kaine. Standing behind him, she smiled a genuine smile. You could become endeared if you listened to Kaine describe her.

That’s why Kaine needs to come to Storm Lake.

When he pledged in Spanish to take up comprehensive immigration reform — with a path to citizenship for decent, hard-working undocumented immigrants — in the first 100 days of a Clinton presidency the roof about blew off the Florida fieldhouse. She has been talking about it since at least February, drowned out by the thunder of Trump, but when Kaine talks his politics of joy people listen.

Kaine is no Johnny-come-lately to the cause. He took a year off from Harvard Law School to spend a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Honduras. He taught young men the welding skills he picked up in his father’s Kansas City machine shop. They taught him Spanish, and the pain of living in a corrupted society that has become a prison for so many. That’s why he committed his life to advocating for civil rights.

That’s why he needs to come to Storm Lake.

Our immigrant friends are afraid. They fear being ripped from their families and adopted communities. They fear no chance at a college education. They fear being denied their lifelong dream of becoming an American citizen. They fear going back to a country that they know all too well for its violence and corruption, or to a country they do not know at all by having fled when just an infant.

That should make our community nervous. We depend on these new friends and neighbors to build Storm Lake and Buena Vista County for an even stronger future. And yes, they are our future. They are studying at Iowa Central Community College and Buena Vista University. They want to be teachers and accountants and welders in Storm Lake. They love America. And America needs them for their new enthusiasm and ideas. We need them for their youth and vitality.

Tim Kaine needs to come to Storm Lake.

He must tell them not to fear.

He must tell them to vote.

Kaine must tell them that there is a New American Dream taking shape in Iowa and Kansas and Minnesota built around proud Latino, African and Asian labor. Justice for them can only come when their rights to be free to live in the land of the free are secured.

They fled poverty and oppression for the chance at a job and a home and a school where their children can learn more than they did.

And to become citizens in the greatest experiment in democracy the world has ever known.

Kaine must come and tell them to stand up to the bigotry of Donald Trump and Steve King. Kaine should stand with congressional candidate Kim Weaver, who is staging a quixotic bid to unseat King. He should say “Yes, we can!” “Si, se puede.”

He could see the wind turbines and talk about how Iowa is moving America forward by trying to rebuild rural places through renewable energy. He could see the biofuels plants. He could talk about how Virginia agriculture and environmental interests have come together to clean up Chesapeake Bay amid prosperity for food producers, thanks in part to his earlier tenure as governor.

He could take his wife, Ann, the Virginia education secretary, to see how the Storm Lake schools teach children from Honduras how to succeed amid the cornfields of Iowa. He could tell us that he will fight for Pell Grants that help independent private colleges and universities like Buena Vista. He could talk about how a vo-tech education can build whole new industries in isolated places, like wind installations that offer handsome royalties to fallow ground and high-paying jobs to tech graduates.

We need to hear a discussion about agriculture and a safety net for producers that enhances natural resource conservation. That conversation never happened during the Iowa caucus campaign.

If Hillary Clinton must win Iowa, first Tim Kaine needs to win Buena Vista County.

It’s all downhill from there.

Kaine knows how to speak to rural voters from winning statewide gubernatorial and US Senate races.

Mainly, we need him to come and reassure us that our futures are secure. That we will not deport that 30-something Latina with a degree in human resources from Buena Vista who was taken from Mexico as a little girl. That the senior at Storm Lake High School can go to college and get at least some financial aid, so that he might become a teacher and coach here someday. Tim Kaine could do that. We need to hear it.