It's time to celebrate Iowa's diversity

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It doesn't seem possible that it was over a year ago that Governor Chet Culver and I took office.

Yet, so much has happened since January 2007. I want to use this letter to report on some of those challenges facing our state and to share with you the steps the Culver/Judge Administration is taking to move Iowa forward.

I also want to share with you some of the exciting places I am visiting here in our beautiful state and some of the people I meet along the way.

Over the next few months, I hope to also get to know all of you better, and hear from you about your thoughts and ideas.

So, let's get started with an event held here in Des Moines last week.

We all know our country and our state are made up of immigrants. Very few of us did not have an ancestor who left everything they knew and traveled to a new home and a new life. For some the path was much easier, of course. For others, it involved great hardship, even slavery.

Today, each of the immigrant groups who have settled in Iowa add to our rich history of diversity.

Yet, unfortunately we do have serious problems, such as the over-representation of African-Americans in our prisons, and the achievement gap between white and minority students in our schools.

These problems deserve our attention, and the Governor and I have made a commitment to address these challenges.

We believe the only way we can is by bringing all Iowans together as one.

Making this a reality will require the hard work and participation of every Iowan - regardless of race, age, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation.

There are some who say this goal is unattainable, but that does not have to be the case.

So, in an attempt to recognize these efforts (and to encourage others to follow the examples) I created the "One Iowa Award."

This new award celebrates the achievements of individuals and groups who are helping to make our vision for a unified Iowa a reality.

It was a true honor to join with our sponsors - Rockwell Collins and Bankers Trust - to present the first "One Iowa Award" to the Zeta Kappa Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity in a special ceremony on February 7th.

Through mentoring and scholarship programs, this group has been instrumental in helping African American high school students in Des Moines and throughout central Iowa break down the barriers in our society.

The celebration was just great, and featured singers and poets who demonstrated the deep talents of Iowa's African-American community.

We all enjoyed recognizing an outstanding group of men who are making our state a better place. We also enjoyed the warm fellowship that was present in the room that night.

We know there are many great stories like this out there - of people who are helping Iowans overcome the challenges they face - and I want to hear about them.

I encourage you to nominate anyone you think is deserving of this award. All you need to do is visit our website - www.governor.iowa.gov - or call our office at 515.281.5211 and we can mail you an application.