Team Hawks has finally processed and posted the video of the rousing speech Democratic candidate for U.S. House State Rep. Paula Hawks made at McGovern Day in Sioux Falls on April 30.
The April 30 speech is the strongest public performance I’ve seen Rep. Hawks deliver. She gets better every time she takes the stage. Rep. Hawks struck all sorts of high notes in this address to the party faithful. Most encouragingly, Rep. Hawks made clear that she ready to challenge our incumbent Republican Congresswoman Kristi Noem on numerous fronts, such as Noem’s support for shutting down the government right before the October 2013 blizzard, Noem’s abdication of her House Ag committee seat, and Noem’s inaction on Indian health care.
I noted a handful of key lines:
On reëngaging discouraged Democrats, Rep. Hawks told the audience to stop waiting for a savior and realize that winning back Congress and the Legislature is everybody’s job:
[1:49] The hard truth: George McGovern is not going to walk through that door. Jim, Tom Tim—they are not going to run for office again. And Stephanie—well, let’s just say we’re going to keep working on her. The point is George taught us the work is hard. The work is long, and sometimes it feels like there is no light at the end end of the tunnel, but we cannot get discouraged.
Rep. Hawks said Democrats do have to work harder than Republicans to win in South Dakota, but that makes us better leaders:
[3:55] This level of commitment and investment, the hard work required, the necessity of being able to see both sides of an issue if you hope to win as a Democrat in South Dakota, ultimately, it isn’t just how we win elections, it’s why we are effective leaders.
Seeing both sides of issues helps us get past partisan disagreements to build the coalitions necessary for practical government:
[5:45] We need someone who can form working relationships with those on the other side of the aisle and understand that just because you don’t agree on all of the issues doesn’t mean you can’t work together on the ones that you do.
On one of her signature campaign issues, student debt, Rep. Hawks challenged the notion that today’s Bernie Sanders-loving youth are freeloaders:
[8:00] Young people aren’t looking for a free ride, just the same opportunity that generations before them had…. In 1975, it took just six weeks working full time at the minimum wage to pay for a year of public college tuition in South Dakota. Today it would take 27 weeks working full-time at more than the minimum wage without any other expenses. When I get to the U.S. House, I will be a leader. it is time to give future generations a helping hand, not an insurmountable burden.
Rep. Hawks called the crisis in Indian health care our Flint Michigan, our Hurricane Katrina. She then challenged Kristi Noem’s Congresswoman-come-lately schtick:
[11:58] [Rep. Noem] is correct when she states that Indian Health Service has been facing unresolved problems for over ten years. And she has been an elected official for every one of them. How many years do you have to serve in Washington before you own the dysfunction? How many years can you tout your own obstruction before you yourself become the problem. Omission is Commission. The things we don’t do are just as important as the things we do. Priorities matter. Leadership matters. And that’s what Kristi Noem isn’t providing in Washington D.C. We need to remove and replace politicians who say one thing and do the other, and I am running for the U.S. House to solve problems. We need results, not excuses, and results are what I intend to deliver.
The only downside I saw in the entire speech (and here the speech coach may be nitpicking) was her regular retreat during applause from fiery orator to shy, smiling farm gal. Some might read that pausing smile as a comfy aw shucks grin, but that smile hinted that Rep. Hawks is still a little surprised to hear such strong words come from her mouth and to hear people stand up and cheer for those words.
She shouldn’t be surprised at her ability to talk tough: she’s a teacher and mom.
And if she’s surprised at the applause, well, Paula, get used to it. Say the things you said April 30, and South Dakotans will stand up and cheer, more loudly every time you take the stage.