Monday, September 8, 2008

Narrowing My Focus

For ten years I’ve been up close and personal with big-picture issues: renewable fuels, peace in the Middle East, No Child Left Behind, health care for children. Bigger than life people: Madeline Albright, Jon Bon Jovi, Hillary Clinton, Lance Armstrong. Big changes for Iowa: transforming the economy with wind energy, universal preschool, Vision Iowa recreation and tourism grants, economic opportunities in India and China. Big events: the Kentucky Derby, national political conventions, the Super Bowl, White House galas. Big restaurants in every major city with big civic and political donors. Big disasters: Iowa tornadoes and flooding, terrorist attacks, the aftermath of Katrina. Big decisions: endorsing John Kerry, vice-presidential vetting, my husband’s decision to run for President. Treasured memories all.

My tenure as Iowa’s First Lady is behind me, and I have charted a new course for the next part of my life. Tom and I have new jobs in Des Moines, which means we can’t return to the small-town life we led for twenty years while we raised our children, while Tom worked as a small town lawyer and mayor, and I worked as a teacher and reporter. I could not be more proud of the work we did as parents, community leaders, as policy leaders for our state and as representatives of our Party on the national stage.

For now, however, I’ve turned my lens from wide-angle to close-up and I’m focusing more deeply on one issue, an issue born of my life-long commitment to teen and young adult women and most recently my work to elect a woman president, a politician who provided a role model for women world-wide and who had the experience to tackle health policy issues generally and women’s health issues specifically.

At the Iowa Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies I am part of a collaboration of people committed to offering quality reproductive health services to every Iowa woman. We are working together to build a national model to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies among adult women. This will require networking, educating, finding a common message, providing women access to long-acting reversible contraceptives, researching, and reporting our discoveries. As I travel around the state and the country encouraging community conversations about issues connected to our mission, I’ll use this blog as a place to reflect. Putting this larger issue into perspective requires that I also turn my attention to small-world experiences in my family, my neighborhood, and my community.

So expect to find here the real-life stories of community conversations and unintended pregnancy I collect as I travel the state, the global perspective of a trip to Africa to visit family planning clinics and discuss mother-to-child transmission of HIV-AIDS, as well as reflections on our decision to spay our six year-old Labrador, Rosie.