Gore speaks about education, health care issues in Iowa

Erin Ghere

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Vice President Al Gore touted his health care and education plans Tuesday morning as the best in the presidential campaign during an appearance at Simpson College, a private university 12 miles south of Des Moines, Iowa.
As ’80s music played in the background, Gore was welcomed to the school in Indianola with cheers from about 250 supporters, including school children and retirees.
Gore made his appearance with only six days left before the Jan. 24 Iowa caucuses. In a recent Des Moines Register poll, Gore led former Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., in Iowa, 54 percent to 33 percent. Both are stumping throughout the state this week in anticipation of caucus day.
Speaking in an old basketball arena, Gore emphasized his pride in the Clinton administration’s achievements, a striking change from recent speeches where he has distanced himself from Clinton.
“I’m proud to be part of an administration that has made so much progress” in economic and racial issues, Gore said.
He emphasized the need to use the Clinton administration’s achievements as a stepping stone for future progress in education, health care, the environment and crime. Speaking directly to Iowa farmers, Gore also said changes are needed to bring everyone into the economic prosperity the rest of the country is experiencing.
Gore told stories of his parents and how his priorities, specifically the importance of both civil and women’s rights, stem from his upbringing. Gore’s father was a senator from Tennessee for most of Gore’s youth, and his mother was a lawyer — among the first women to graduate from Vanderbilt Law School, he said.
“The progress we’ve made for women’s rights in the 20th century is only the start of the progress we’re going to make in the 21st century,” he said.
Gore spoke without notes as he described his family and the powerful impact they had on his life. His daughter, Kristin, accompanied him on stage and sat behind him with a group of 80 Simpson College Democrats clad with striking blue “Gore 2000” stickers and signs.
Gore spoke to the college-age students, a group of voters often disillusioned about the political process, telling them what he could do for them if elected. But Gore also reached out to his older audience by talking about his oldest daughter, Karenna, and his newborn grandson.
He asked how many audience members had grandchildren.
“I have one,” he started. “How many people have 10? 11? 12? 13? 19? 20?” he prodded. Gore and his wife, Tipper, have four children.
Gore has announced plans to help both groups, including prescription drug benefits for seniors and a National Tuition Savings Program, which would allow parents to save for their children’s education starting at birth, as well as increase the amount of Pell Grants for students.
Tiffany Berkenes, a Simpson College sophomore, said Gore’s plan to make higher education more accessible is one of the most impressive parts of his platform. She said his National Savings Account plan would have helped her out and she hopes, if implemented, it would help other students who otherwise would not have access to higher education.
Stacy Orton, also a sophomore, agreed.
“It’s beneficial for the country as a whole to make higher education more accessible,” Orton said. “It will allow for better jobs and a growing economy.”
Gore said he supports affirmative action and expanding “access to the American dream.” He proposed a plan to balance the budget every year he is in office, in turn lowering interest rates and heightening the economy.
The most important future investment the country can make is in education, Gore said. He has outlined a plan to save failing schools, attract more qualified educators and implement universal preschool.
Gore said health care will also be a top priority in his administration. He plans to institute universal health care for children during his first term, without getting rid of the Medicare program. Bradley’s plan would get rid of Medicare and substitute a voucher system to allow people greater health care options.
Rather than abolishing Medicare, Gore said he would put $374 billion of a projected federal government surplus into strengthening the Medicare program.
Gore said a good leader will put up a “day-by-day fight for real people.”
“The presidency is the only position in our Constitution that is filled by a person who is assigned the job of accepting and discharging the responsibility of fighting for all of our people, especially those who need it,” he said.
The crowd responded to Gore’s speech, cheering intermittently throughout, including the students from Simpson College.
“I thought (his speech) was excellent,” Berkenes said. “He brought up good issues.”
It was Gore’s fourth trip to Simpson College. He visited there last November, when he first began his campaign for the presidency.

Erin Ghere welcomes comments at [email protected]