Madam President, Mr. Speaker, Lt. Governor, legislative leaders and members, justices and judges, distinguished guests, family, friends, my fellow Iowans:  

I’m so honored to be here. I want to start by saying “Thank you.” 

“Thank you, Iowans, for the trust you’ve placed in me; for giving me the indescribable honor of serving as the governor of this great state. Everything we’ve accomplished over the last four years, and everything to come, begins and ends with your unwavering support. I would not be here without you.  

The heart of Iowa is my passion, and the people are my compass. I believe in Iowa; more importantly I believe in Iowans. Our families, our small communities and neighborhoods, our quality of life—all that make this such a special place.  

I’m humbled and honored to embark on a second term.  

Thank you to my entire family—who have surrounded me with love, grace, encouragement, reassurance, and a lot of patience. You bring out the best in me.  

Mom and Dad, thanks for instilling in me a sense of responsibility to leave things better for the next generation and to serve our neighbors with honor.  The past few years, I know you’ve faced ups and downs, health scares and difficult decisions, and through it all I’ve witnessed your courage and faith. Thank you for leading by example. I am so blessed to have your love and support. 

Kevin, nothing I have done or achieved would be possible without your love and support. You continue to be my source of strength; I’m a better person because of you. You are an incredible husband, father, and grandpa to our eleven grandchildren, and this state is lucky to have you as their first gentleman. Your service to Iowans, including your work honoring disabled veterans, is appreciated by all. 

Nicole, Jennifer, and Jess: You were my first constituents, even though you never got to vote and couldn’t have replaced me if you tried. But together with you, I learned about setting boundaries, meeting budgets, and having faith in the process of negotiation. You are amazing moms and it’s fun watching life come full circle as you go through some of your own negotiations now.  I’m so proud of each of you.

Ryan, Jason, and Scott: Dealing with a mother-in-law can be difficult at the best of times. Throw in my current job and it’s a whole new ballgame. Thank you for making time for our family’s special role in service to the people of Iowa. But most of all, thank you for the unconditional love you show my daughters and grandchildren.  

To my grandkids: you warm my heart and bring such joy to grandpa and me.  I know I don’t get to as many activities as I would like, which is why I cheer so loud when I’m there. (Maybe sometimes maybe too loud, right Gavin?)  But I love spending time with you; being your grandma is the best job in the world.  It’s your faces I see in the decisions I make and the optimism I feel for our future.  I love you. 

Lieutenant Governor: Thank you for being a loyal and vital member of my team. I know first-hand what it’s like to sit in your seat, and I know your service may sometimes seem thankless. But I also know, and Iowans know, how hard you work to bring visibility and new ideas to help empower rural Iowa, and by serving as a voice for rural issues in our office. Thank you for your service and inspiring words this morning. 

And to my incredible team and cabinet, your dedication to public service is unparalleled. You are a small but mighty force and I am so proud to serve alongside you every day. 

When we gathered here four years ago, I closed my speech by saying that: 

The world is constantly changing—sometimes for the better and sometimes not. We must be prepared to embrace the change that enriches our lives and lets us focus on what’s important.

But when it comes to the qualities that define our great State, let’s not let the world change us. Let’s change the world.  

When I said that, we didn’t know how important it would be; we didn't know how much change was ahead and how fast it would come. But together we persevered through the lowest lows and the highest highs. And in the midst of the chaos, we stayed true to who we are, and we earned the respect of the nation. 

Calvin Coolidge once said, “The real heart of the American Government depends upon the heart of the people.” What do I see when I look at the heart of Iowans? 

I see kindness and self-reliance; I see grace and humility. It’s every self-deprecating joke we tell about ourselves and every effort to share the credit for our accomplishments. It’s the way Iowans are more likely to brag about getting a great deal than making an expensive purchase. 

I see love of family and community, of state and country.  

I see compassion—even for their governor. During the pandemic, because things were changing so fast, I thought it was important for the people of Iowa to hear directly from me with a daily press conference. In the middle of one of those briefings, right on camera, I choked up as I thanked Iowans and acknowledged the anxiety and despair that all of us were feeling. 

Immediately I was filled with regret.  I was disappointed in myself, because I had shown weakness at a time when I believed Iowans needed to see unwavering strength from their governor.  It felt like I had let Iowans down. But I was wrong.  Many of you were feeling the same way; Iowans flooded my office with messages of support, thanking me for caring so deeply.  They saw their emotions in mine and themselves in me.  

The response of Iowans that day reassured me that many of you saw I wasn’t trying to make decisions for you, but as one of you, using the best judgment and deepest empathy I could summon in those trying times. 

That connection to my fellow Iowans is one of the reasons I decided to run again for this office. Because over the last four years, what we’ve seen from too many elected leaders—in other states and in our nation’s capital—was the exact opposite. The disconnect between these leaders and the people who have to live with their decisions was both irrational and inexcusable. 

What else can we conclude when states shut down schools, closed businesses and restricted their citizens’ for two years, then characterized it as just “following the science?” When our government fired our men and women in uniform for their medical decisions but paid others to stay home?  

Because states like Iowa had the courage and sense to swim against the current, today we rarely see public officials make the case for such policies; in fact, we often hear denials they did.   

As scary as it sounds, it would have been easy to completely shut down our economy during the pandemic. It would have been easy to keep kids out of the classroom.  

But easy was not right. And let me tell you, right was not always easy.  

But I learned a long time ago not to fear what I cannot control and to focus on what really matters. 

Two decades ago, I began living by the motto “one day at a time,” because I had a problem and had hit bottom.  

Thankfully, through my faith and with the help of my family, I found the courage to get back up.  

I found the courage to become the mom my girls needed me to be and the wife Kevin deserved. 

Hardest of all, I found the courage to forgive myself. To let go.  

“Trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Psalm 32:8 

Having that perspective has given me freedom. A freedom to be bold and not beholden. 

Not beholden to others, to elections, or even to what’s popular. Instead, I have the freedom to do what I believe is right. Right for our state, right for our citizens, and, most of all, right for our children—regardless of the personal consequences to me.  

Over the last four years, we’ve all reached that place together. We struggled through difficult and scary times, but we’ve come out stronger. We have been forged in the fire, and it shows in the strength of our resolve. A resolve to be decisive and bold; to stand for freedom and to respect those we serve; to lead the nation. 

And when that next unexpected challenge arrives—and it will— we will once again be ready to tune out the noise and do what’s right. We'll know from experience that the easiest decisions are often the ones that need extra scrutiny; that what almost everyone believes they know to be true is the same thing they will soon regret.  

Over the last four years, we’ve built a strong foundation upon which Iowa can continue to rise. A place where children and parents come before special interests, where life is protected, and work is rewarded. A place where families thrive, businesses grow, and government is responsive to the people.  

And this is the work we will continue to do. Because Iowans want results, not excuses. And results are what we delivered —a national reputation as the #1 state for fiscal responsibility and opportunity, a top ten state for living and raising children. A strong economy with low taxes, thriving communities, and flourishing families.  

In short, a vibrant present and an even brighter future.  

In states across the country, fame, wealth, and good connections are required to really get ahead. But here, in Iowa, hard work, fairness and understanding are what matters.  

That’s why I’m so glad that Republicans will be holding the first presidential caucus in Iowa, and why I’m so disappointed that Democrats are not.  

As a Republican, it benefits my party for Democrats to turn away from Iowa. As an American, it pains me to see. 

Early in her career, Margaret Thatcher said “in politics, if you want anything said, ask a man; if you want anything done, ask a woman.” Now I don’t generally subscribe to that theory; I mean, men have come a long way since 1965 when Margaret Thatcher said that.  

But if we were to refresh that quote for today, I think it would go something like this: “If you want something done right, ask an Iowan.” 

That’s true for just about anything—and it’s definitely true for a presidential selection.  You see, Iowans look beyond the flash, beyond credentials. They peek behind the curtains and consultants to see the real person.  

You can’t buy a victory in Iowa; and you can’t fake it either. You have to sit down with the people of this great state and tell them what makes you tick. They need to see that you have the moral conviction to do what’s right, not what’s politically expedient. Because anyone can have a 10-point plan to save America; not everyone has the moral compass to do it.  

So to the national Democrats, to President Biden, I say this: Reconsider. Come back to Iowa, and you won’t regret it.  

And to my fellow Republicans: Welcome back! Iowans look forward to hosting you over the next year; to having you in their living rooms and to having real conversations. We take this opportunity—and we know it is an opportunity—very seriously. We hope you do too.  

I know that the world is changing, faster than at any point in my lifetime. I know people are turning away from their faith, turning away from our shared American values, and often turning away from hard work.  

It worries me, and I know it worries many of you. But here in Iowa, it’s different. In Iowa, America still works; it’s where real life still lives.   

In a world increasingly marked by uncertainty, Iowa’s strength and stability stand out as a beacon of hope. 

So, as the world descends upon Iowa over this next year, let’s show them who we are; let’s show them why we’re first. Because what America wants right now, what it needs more than anything else, is exactly what we’ve always valued. Real people, connected  and safe communities, and the freedom to flourish. The road to national renewal really does run through Iowa. 

That’s why I truly believe Iowa has never been more important than it is today. And it’s why I’m so proud of this state and its people, and it’s why I’m so proud to be your governor.  

Thank you, once again, for this great honor. Thank you for standing strong through it all.  

God bless you, and God bless the great state of Iowa.