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During her remarks, the governor urged the graduates not to let their time in prison define them, and to use their education to make better decisions when they return to society. At one point, though, she seemed to veer off script. The governor turned to look the women in the eyes, and told them of her own struggles. She spoke of overcoming an addiction to alcohol, of finally earning her degree at the age of 57, all while raising three children. Her story was not so different from many of theirs.

And yet here she stood, the first woman governor of Iowa.

The message was clear: If she could do it, so could they. You could feel the hope emanating from the graduates. You could see the pride shining in the faces of their parents, and hear the excitement in the squeals of their children.

—More from the Des Moines Register