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Iowa Voices: Iowans had different reasons for attending the D.C. Women’s March

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Nearly half a million marchers gathered in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. -- photo by Jordan Sellergren
Nearly half a million marchers gathered in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. — photo by Jordan Sellergren

The Women’s March on Washington took place Jan. 21, drawing nearly half a million people to the national capital, including a number of Iowans — some currently living in the Hawkeye State, and some who have moved but still claim their Iowa roots. Little Village asked Iowa marchers to share their thoughts. This is what they had to say.

(Responses have been edited for clarity and length.)

Kathy Johnson -- photo by Eleanore Taft
Kathy Johnson — photo by Eleanore Taft
Kathy Johnson, Dayton

Why are you here today?

Because we’re all waking up that we have to do more.

Do you plan to do anything after today to work toward the ideals that brought you here?

I’ll be more involved with the Democratic committee, and just be more out there than I was before and not so complacent. Because this takes work, and I appreciate everybody here.

What does America need most right now?

Just to listen to each other without reacting, and to keep the conversation going no matter who’s talking.

Therese Kiser -- photo by Eleanore Taft
Therese Kiser — photo by Eleanore Taft
Therese Kiser, from Davenport, now living in Minneapolis

Why are you here today?

I’ve always wanted to participate in a march on the National Mall, and I’m very very upset that Trump was inaugurated yesterday.

Do you plan to do anything after today to work toward the ideals that brought you here?

Run for office. City council.

What does America need most right now?

We need for people to not normalize this. This is not normal. This is not who we are as a country, and we need to remind each other, remind ourselves, remind the rest of the world that this is not normal. We can’t pretend it is.

Drew Lakin -- photo by Eleanore Taft
Drew Lakin — photo by Eleanore Taft
Drew Lakin, from Clinton, now living in Washington, D.C.

Why are you here today?

I’m here because I wanted to be a part of the movement that showed that even though Trump won the election, there’s still this group of people who support these marginalized groups. And I think this is a good demonstration to show that these types of groups still exist, still need to be heard throughout the next four years. The issues that we care about aren’t going to go away in the next four years.

Do you plan to do anything after today to work toward the ideals that brought you here?

Move back to Iowa and get to work.

What does America need most right now?

I think what we need to do is understand people who disagree with us, and I even mean Trump supporters, people who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. I think what’s necessary is that no matter where you fall in the political spectrum, we need to be more open and we need to be more understanding. That goes for the other side to listen to us, and that means for us to listen to the other side.

Peter Johnson -- photo by Eleanore Taft
Peter Johnson — photo by Eleanore Taft
Peter Johnson, Sidney

Why are you here today?

I actually came this weekend to work on a documentary film about the inauguration, so we were out filming yesterday. I think it’s very important to document historical moments. This event seems to have a particular significance in the moment, and I suspect it will have a significance as far as American history. So I think it’s important to get out here and talk to people and see what’s happening firsthand.

Do you plan to do anything after today to work toward the ideals that brought you here?

I feel like today, this inauguration, this election cycle in general, has really energized me to get more involved with the issues, because we’ve seen what complacency can do. We have policies that we’re confident it but it’s not reaching [certain voters]. We don’t package them in the right package. I’m from a small town of 1,000 people, so I grew up around a lot of these Trump supporters, these disaffected people. Something I’m passionate about is going back and repackaging these policies so people will vote more in their self-interest and they can elect people who will help them out.

What does America need most right now?

I think it isn’t a simple answer. On one hand, I want to say take a step back and reflect on what’s going on and see; but on the other hand, it is urgent. The fight for our rights is always urgent and the time is always now. So on one hand you do have the urgency of now, versus a kind of a longer-term strategic and reevaluating how we approach certain issues. I would say it’s kind of a balance, and the more information you can get, the more people you can talk to, especially face-to-face when we like to all be keyboard warriors. If we can get people face-to-face and find some common ground and get some things done, that will be progress.

Sue, Ann and Caroline Dvorsky -- photo by Eleanore Taft
Sue, Ann and Caroline Dvorsky — photo by Eleanore Taft
Sue Dvorsky, Coralville

Why are you here today?

To stand with my sisters, my daughters, for my mother and our allied brothers. Just to stand and bear witness and then begin the resistance.

Do you plan to do anything after today to work toward the ideals that brought you here?

What I’ve always done. In Iowa, we’re in a different position than some of these states. We just slipped out of battleground status and became virtually a deep red, conservative state. I do not believe that’s who we are. I will never believe that’s who we are. I will fight to get us back to be more representative of who all Iowans are and what we believe in.

What does America need most right now?

What our country needs most right now, I think, is to reinvigorate the basic principles of the Constitution. I know that the other side likes to wrap themselves in the Constitution, like they often like to wrap themselves in the flag, and in symbols of Christianity. But in fact the Constitution demands our activism; it demands our resistance and it gives us protection to do it. So I’m extremely interested in re-embracing the five freedoms in the First Amendment.

Ann Dvorsky, from Coralville, lives in Des Moines

Why are you here today?

The things that this president now has said and done, I think, are unacceptable. This isn’t about politics; it’s not because he ran as a Republican. We’ve had Republican presidents before and it’s been fine; it’s been within the realm of normal policy and politics. This is something different. This is not the American values that I know. And this march is about the American values that I believe in.

Do you plan to do anything after today to work toward the ideals that brought you here?

I’ve been politically involved and been volunteering since I was a kid, my entire life, so I plan on continuing to do that. I think I will do it in different ways. There are ways you can help, like volunteer for non-profits that are going to have to really step up if we don’t have good public policy to protect people. They’re going to need a lot of help; they’re going to need money. Giving money to Planned Parenthood and organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and environmental groups that are going to have to fight against this. And also coming out in the midterms. If we can take back Congress, that’s going to go a long way towards taking away a lot of the president’s power, just to not have the entire government in the hands of one party.

What does America need most right now?

There’s been a lot of talk about coming together. I don’t know. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. I think we need, as we always do, more empathy. We need to be empathetic towards others. There’s so much of a divide, and I think one of the things that we’ve done is we demonize the other side. We don’t even want to hear them. We block them on our social media feeds. We don’t watch any news that we disagree with. We don’t have any friends that we disagree with. We live in these bubbles where everyone around us agrees with us and they all have similar life experiences. It becomes hard to identify with other people’s life experiences and what they’re going through. I think we need more empathy and we need to try and work towards that.

Jake Varn -- photo by Eleanore Taft
Jake Varn — photo by Eleanore Taft
Jake Varn, from Des Moines, now living in Washington, D.C.

Why are you here today?

The feeling that you had to do something, that feeling of moral outrage that someone who has said so many horrible things, even while recorded, in the past was elected president. And all of the social and political issues that he is promising that I oppose.

Do you plan to do anything after today to work toward the ideals that brought you here?

Spreading awareness and when possible contacting congressmen, and then showing up to vote in midterm elections.

What does America need most right now?

I think we need a robust and trusted news source, or news operation, a variety of news outlets. I think there’s a bubble issue of creating distrust of news and the ability to disregard facts as opinions. I don’t know where that starts, but that would be nice to have.

Bekah Mulder (right) -- photo by Eleanore Taft
Bekah Mulder (right) — photo by Eleanore Taft
Bekah Mulder, from the Iowa City/West Liberty area, now living in Arizona

Why are you here today?

Representing. Human rights, women’s rights, Mother Earth. I’m very much a Pagan spiritual kind of person, Celtic, Native American bent. So that aspect of choice and having the freedoms and not having them taken away.

Do you plan to do anything after today to work toward the ideals that brought you here?

Donate more. Time, money, resources, whatever I have got to continue to make steps forward.

What does America need most right now?

More love.

Jane Hagen -- photo by Eleanore Taft
Jane Hagen — photo by Eleanore Taft
Jane Hagen, from Bettendorf, now living in Washington, D.C.

Why are you here today?

This is in my front yard. I’ve got to participate.

Do you plan to do anything after today to work toward the ideals that brought you here?

I’m still trying to figure that out because, for right now, I just think people are here because they’re upset and they don’t know what to do. And exactly what that looks like in your personal life is something everyone’s trying to grapple with. So I’m not really sure, but it’s definitely motivating me to get involved.

What does America need most right now?

Mutual respect.

Claire Sauder -- photo by Eleanore Taft
Claire Sauder — photo by Eleanore Taft
Claire Sauder, Iowa City

Why are you here today?

Because I want to stand up for women’s rights in the face of this election season.

Do you plan to do anything after today to work toward the ideals that brought you here?

Just be friends and help spread the love.

What does America need most right now?

We need strength and peace and love for each other and for others.

Jean Littlejohn -- photo by Eleanore Taft
Jean Littlejohn — photo by Eleanore Taft
Jean Littlejohn, Iowa City

Why are you here today?

It’s kind of a way to gather in strength through this massive crowd, and feeling that there are a lot of people who can come together and feel the same way, that we need to pay attention and not just sit around and observe what’s going on.

Do you plan to do anything after today to work toward the ideals that brought you here?

My work in Iowa City has to do with teaching people songs. Our current political and social situation helps to shape that work. But also I think what’s kind of most important right now is encouraging people. This is the time when you need to say stuff and do stuff and not just wait and see or be passive.

What does America need most right now?

Just that sense of engagement. The kids that I work with are very interested in the musical Hamilton, and what I think is really good about that is that it’s really easy for them to relate all the dynamics and tension that are present in that drama to our current political life. This whole idea that democracy’s always contested and that it’s never been perfect and it’s always something that people need to actively work on or else it could completely fall apart.

Georgia Millward -- photo by Eleanore Taft
Georgia Millward — photo by Eleanore Taft
Georgia Millward, from Blairstown

Why are you here today?

Just supporting women’s rights and diversity and being nice to people. The Iowa way, right?

Do you plan to do anything after today to work toward the ideals that brought you here?

Definitely. I’m going to do a lot better job of calling Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst’s offices. I did a lot of volunteering in Iowa when Obama ran in 2008, and in 2012 I was living in Baltimore so I volunteered more in Virginia and Pennsylvania. But I didn’t do as much for Hillary. I don’t know why. Now I feel really guilty, so I’m here.

What does America need most right now?

Supporting agriculture, supporting farmers, supporting food for everyone, making sure everyone’s fed. That’s a big topic I’m always interested in. But also supporting education. The Iowa Legislature’s trying to get rid of tenure in the public universities, and they’ve always been such a treasure for Iowa; it’s just such a shame to not support that.

Megan McCoy -- photo by Eleanore Taft
Megan McCoy — photo by Eleanore Taft
Megan McCoy, from West Branch, now living in Washington, D.C.

Why are you here today?

FCNL [The Friends Committee on National Legislation]. Being a Friend, I wanted to support as a volunteer the efforts to get the word out of positive messaging, such as “Love thy neighbor,” which is the message today from FCNL. I have an electric scooter. I am penetrating the march, strategically passing out banners of “Love thy neighbor.”

Do you plan to do anything after today to work toward the ideals that brought you here?

Continue my volunteerism with organizations that are working for the change that our country, that we really need, desperately.

What does America need most right now?

People need to come together. We need bridge builders on these streets. I call us rainbow bridge builders. The kind of people people want to be around, just because of who we are. And we need to interact and engage and connect and support one another’s efforts on a broader scale than we do currently.


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