Janice Weiner is a city council member in Iowa City and a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer. -promoted by Laura Belin
I’m someone who makes decisions with a combination of head and heart. I learned during my Foreign Service career that I needed both, and I applied that when considering the impressive field of Democratic presidential candidates. Do they speak to me personally? Do their policies make sense? We in Iowa are so fortunate to have this opportunity – not just to see candidates at a rally and read their platforms and policies – but to get to know them as people. And they us, as well.
Like so many others, I trekked to events for countless candidates. Last May, as a part of that process, I attended the Klobuchar campaign’s mental health/addiction panel in Iowa City, screwed up my courage, and told the senator my story. I’m a retired Foreign Service Officer, and I’m raising my granddaughter because my daughter cannot, because of her struggles with dual diagnosis – mental health and addiction, rolled into one. We are not unique – how I wish we were.
The human toll of dual diagnosis is devastating. It is about never fully grasping the scope of the challenge, scrambling for answers; it is about institutions that have failed us. I told our story as the cameras rolled. The campaign could have used the footage publicly (it ran in on-line editions of papers). Instead, they used it to inform her policy. And Amy didn’t just hug me that day – she heard me. Then she kept in touch, both in person and via her staff.
Another of her policies that speaks to me is housing. It is closely intertwined with mental health and addiction, since so many who suffer from addiction and mental health challenges also experience homelessness. Bound together, they can help untold numbers. The Klobuchar campaign organized a second roundtable, on housing, at a flagship project in Iowa City that has provided supportive housing to people who likely would never otherwise have been housed. I attended that, too.
Please allow me to shift gears. After 26 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, I consider myself something of a foreign policy wonk. It’s boring to many…until it isn’t, and one or two presidential decisions later, we find ourselves on the brink of war, as we were just weeks ago. It’s next to impossible to jump-start expertise in this area. One person cannot possess all the on-the-ground expertise that professionals take years to amass.
I want someone who has thought this through carefully, knows what she doesn’t know and will encourage, value, and learn from a robust interagency policy-making process. If the Klobuchar campaign’s willingness to gather information and advice is any indication, we’d be well served.
Amy is one of just a handful candidates who has given a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, where she outlined her framework of five “Rs”: restoring American leadership, including rebuilding and restoring our diplomatic corps; repairing our alliances; rejoining international agreements; responding appropriately to threats and challenges; and reasserting American values. That includes the time-consuming work of straightening our backs and cleaning up our own act when it comes to freedom of the press, rooting out corruption, and renewing our soft power.
I also want someone who will walk the talk, as Amy did in December 2016 when she traveled with John McCain to Ukraine and went to the front, together with Ambassador Yovanovitch – standing up to Russian military aggression. And her answer to the New York Times on what the most important thing foreign leaders should know about her spoke loudly: “That I am a person of trust, that I keep my threats and keep my promises.”
Finally, to me, doing the hard work, every day, to build relationships, learn the issues and get bills passed illustrates her work ethic. She talks – and then delivers. She has authored and passed 34 bills. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get even one bill through Congress? And she has co-sponsored and worked on many others – more than 100 in all. That inspires me.
Back to the beginning – mental health. When one person is ill, it doesn’t just impact that person. It engulfs an entire family and can take that family down. I thank Amy Klobuchar for her ear, her shoulder, and her proposal, which would fund prevention, treatment and ongoing recovery. As a foreign policy professional, I’m equally grateful to see her framework for renewal and her commitment to rebuilding our foreign policy, including especially our diplomats – our eyes and ears on the ground. And her grit and work ethic – legion.
Heart and head. I’m supporting Amy Klobuchar for president, and I hope you will, too.
Top image: Janice Weiner (center, carrying her granddaughter in a backpack) speaks with Amy Klobuchar in May 2019 at a mental health/addiction panel in Iowa City. Photo provided by the author and published with permission.
Editor’s note: Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts related to the Iowa caucuses, including candidate endorsements. Please read these guidelines and contact Laura Belin if you are interested in writing.