Opening Day Remarks of Senate President Jake Chapman

Below are the opening day remarks of Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, as prepared for delivery:

Friends, family, colleagues, returning and newly-elected members, – It is my humble honor and privilege to welcome you to the 89th General Assembly. As we prepare to tackle the issues and challenges of today may we take a quick moment to reflect on our past. This year, we will celebrate 175 years of Iowa’s statehood.

In 1844 Iowa Territory voters approved Governor Lucas and a governing body to request official statehood status. The State Constitution was then drafted and submitted to Congress for their approval. Included in the Constitution were the proposed state boundaries; Congress approved all of the request but suggested a western border roughly 80 miles east of the Missouri River. Had that requested been agreed to, many western Iowans would now be Nebraskans. Wisely, Iowa voters knew better than Congress, they submitted a second request, and the borders we now know today were approved. May we always remember and maintain our rights as a state against an ever increasingly centralization of power exerted by the federal government.

In our early days, Iowa welcomed well over 70,000 pioneers who trekked through our rolling prairies with an eye set on the west. While many of the pioneers and early settlers continued westward, others ultimately and quite unexpectedly decided to stay in Iowa. One such individual was Edwin Guiberson. Like those in whose wagon trails followed, he had his sights on the gold rush in California. However, upon finding the beauty of Madison County he planted his roots, raised a large family, served in community and government positions, and eventually served in the Iowa House of Representatives in the 3rd and 7th General Assembly. I am proud to be a descendent of this great man and his family; Edwin’s brother, Nathaniel, is my 3rd great-grandfather. I am honored to continue the legacy of our family working towards a greater state.

Iowans have always been willing to sacrifice for current and future generations to have the opportunity to embody our state motto: our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.

When the US entered World War 1, Martin Treptow was an everyday Iowan and a barber from Cherokee. Martin enlisted in the army and by December 1917, his regiment was sent to France to fight in the trenches of the western front.

In July of 1918, a message needed to be delivered during an intense battle against the Germans. Treptow took the message and delivered it to his platoon leader. Exposing himself to enemy fire, he was killed by a German machine gun.  His diary was discovered with his personal belongings. On the fly leaf were the words he had written just months earlier as his New Year’s Resolution, titled, My Pledge, he wrote, “America must win this war.  Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.” Martin like so many others, willingly made the ultimate sacrifice for the preservation of freedom, may his memory and his pledge always endure. 

Another Iowan worth highlighting is Alexander Clark. Clark came to Iowa as a teenager and resided in Muscatine. As he entered his adult years, Alexander became an activist for the black suffrage movement. As part of his efforts to support the Civil War, Clark recruited blacks for the First Iowa Volunteers of African descent, which was later designated the 60th Regiment Infantry. Following the Civil War, Clarke took on the fight for suffrage and rightfully proclaimed, “He who is worthy to be trusted with the musket can and ought to be trusted with the ballot.” The record reads as follows; Following Clarke’s call for full citizenship rights of blacks, the Iowa Republicans responded with a provision in their platform to enfranchise black males. Democrats firmly opposed black suffrage. In 1868 voters considered a referendum to strike the word “white” from the voting clause of Iowa’s constitution. The amendment passed. Clarke’s unyielding stand for equality helped Iowa become the first Northern state to extend suffrage to black men after the Civil War in a referendum where voters knew exactly what they were voting for or against.

The truth remains that while these moments of history and these Iowans deserve our admiration and respect, our state isn’t great because of a singular act of bravery, steadfastness, or service. Iowa is great because behind every Martin Treptow, or Edwin Guiberson, or Alexander Clarke, there are Iowans who also selflessly sacrifice for the next generation. They are every day Iowans you see working hard to provide for their families. They are the men and women who over this past year have been at the frontlines fighting a global viral enemy.

“Back to normal” has been the finish line frequently proclaimed in the midst of our universal disruption. But today we have a choice; today we can choose to go back to life as normal, or we can choose to work, sacrifice, and endure for a better life, a better tomorrow, a better Iowa. My hope is that this chamber does not wish for life to return to normal, but that we set our sights on the brighter tomorrow.

Let that brighter tomorrow include a renewed effort to tear down the barriers that prevent parents from choosing where to send their children for education. Let us recognize that sound fiscal policies of budgetary restraint have insulated Iowa in our weathering of Covid, and that continued conservatism will prepare us for the inevitable trials of the future. Now is the time for us to take bold, unwavering measures to reduce and perhaps even eliminate some of the tax burdens many Iowans are facing.

And let us remember the quote found near the USS Iowa on the first floor of this magnificent building by Daniel Oconnell, a great abolitionist, when he said, “nothing is politically right that is morally wrong.” Today there is little that can be argued as more horrendous, more objectionable, and more morally wrong than to take innocent life. The assault on the defenseless has silenced over 60 million Americans since 1973 and that number mounts every day. This legislative body has stood courageously for the life of the unborn. Regrettably, 5 unelected judges, with the stroke of a pen fabricated a constitutional right to an abortion under Iowa’s constitution. This egregious usurpation of power will not be left unchecked. It is our responsibility, it is our oath-bound duty, to rightfully propose to the people of Iowa a constitutional amendment to correct this judicial over-reach. 

Just as the founders of this great state called upon our supreme being for protection and blessings, may we renew our devotion in seeking those blessings. I echo the words of Iowa’s United State Senator James Harlan, who in 1863 in his proposed resolution to the United States Congress stated the following: “Let us strive to deserve, as far as mortals may, the continued care of Divine Providence, trusting that, in future national emergencies, He will not fail to provide us the instruments of safety and security.”

God bless each and everyone of you and may he continue to bless this great state and her people. Thank you.