When former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack saw the front page of the New York Times Monday he was surprised.
There was a picture of people mourning the lives lost during a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. His childhood home stood directly behind them.
When Vilsack saw the picture, he cried. “I shed a tear for my neighborhood,” he said.
The former Iowa governor who grew up in Pittsburgh told Democratic volunteers gathered in Waukee, Iowa early Saturday morning he believes President Donald Trump's divisive attitude is infectious.
“Leadership is not about appealing to the worst of our sentiment,” Vilsack said. “Leadership is designed to inspire us to do better. To be better. And the president – by celebrating violence, by encouraging violence, by suggesting as he did a couple of days ago that maybe it would be OK for the military to shoot children in this caravan that's coming up from the south – he's not providing the kind of moral leadership that I think we need – we desperately need – at this point.”
Vilsack is adopted and said he didn't know what nationality he was for a long time. He recently took aDNA test and he found out he's Irish.
“Maybe I am, maybe I'm not,” Vilsack said about the test results. “But I know this: My people at some point in time got on a boat and they came over here. And they came over here because they were getting away from something they didn't like and they wanted to start a new life.
“And they and the guts and courage to do it,” Vilsack said. “I know that my people, whoever they are, believed in education, believed in hard work and believed that if they came here to America and dreamt big dreams, you could accomplish almost anything you put your mind to. And we cannot let that notion, in my view, die.
“We can't let that notion basically wither because we have leadership telling us to build a wall,” he continued. “...We have a broken immigration system and everybody knows it. We don't have the courage or conviction to fix it because we don't have the leaders with courage or conviction.”
Christie Vilsack, Iowa's former first lady, said she's hopeful Democrats will do well Nov. 6.
She said oftentimes people at the top of the ballot support the party all the way down the ticket. But this year, she said, Iowa Democrats have a lot of name recognition at the bottom of the ballot as well.
“If you're a Democrat this year and you can't find somebody at every level to support, then there's something wrong with you because we've got diversity of all kinds,” Christie Vilsack said.
Although Tom Vilsack predicted the Des Moines Register poll, released Saturday evening, will show how close the election is.
“You're going to know where we stand in the governor's race, whether it's one point up or one point down, because it's close,” Tom Vilsack said. “It's close in every single election up and down the ballot.”