Westkirk Presbyterian Church
1:03 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Pastor Mike. Thank you so much for the hospitality today. I must tell you this is the first time I’ve been back in church (inaudible) for some time. And I’ve never felt more strongly. And it is good to be in the House of the Lord.
I want to thank you, Westkirk Presbyterian, for the hospitality today. And I want to thank you and the pastors, rabbis, priests that are here for the way your ministry has never stopped. It’s one of the things that the President and I have been more inspired by is the way that people of faith have not only carried our nation in prayer during these challenging days, but the way communities of faith have never relented in their ministry, reaching out to the vulnerable.
Even though your pews have been empty, your work has been full. And I couldn’t be more grateful to you, Pastor Mike, to all of the ministries represented here. And it truly is an honor to be with all of you.
I bring greetings from the President of the United States, who loves the state of Iowa and has been a great champion of religious liberty, of people of faith, throughout the history of our administration. And I know he would want to convey his great respect and appreciation to each and one of you.
He’s also a great fan of your governor. And to Governor Reynolds, we were pleased to welcome you to the White House earlier this week. And we’re so grateful for your leadership.
You know, when the President tapped me to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force in late February, he said, “I want a whole-of-government approach.” And it was very clear to me early on that, by that, he meant a whole of government at every level, not just mobilizing the resources of our administration so well represented here with the Secretary of Agriculture and USDA, and every agency of government brought to bear; not just mobilizing the extraordinary resources of the American people to come alongside families impacted, businesses impacted, to make sure our healthcare workers had the resources and the support, our hospitals had the support. And I’m so grateful for the steadfast support of Senator Chuck Grassley and Senator Joni Ernst in that effort.
Whether it’s Paycheck Protection that we recently just expanded that’s allowed small businesses across Iowa to literally keep people on the payroll for two months, to keep businesses together during this great time of national testing, or whether it be the direct payments of the average family of four receiving $3,400 to help through this difficult time, I want to tell you that your senators from here in Iowa and your representatives in the House of Representatives have been great partners in our efforts to meet this moment with the full resources of the federal government.
And so I want to express my appreciation to both of the senators, as well.
But that whole-of-government approach also meant working with states across the country. And I have to tell you — I would say this if I wasn’t in a place of worship: The people of Iowa have been blessed by the leadership of Governor Kim Reynolds. (Applause.)
I know — I know her heart, and the President and I greatly admire the strength and leadership she’s brought to this. Our hearts, of course, are with the more than 200 families that have lost loved ones in Iowa and more than 10,000 families that have been impacted directly by the coronavirus.
It’s been communities of faith who have been praying for the consolation of loved ones in Iowa and across the country. And I want to express my appreciation for your ongoing prayers, for everyone is impacted by this disease. Many Americans — thousands of Americans are, as we speak, in the hospital today, struggling with the serious consequences of the coronavirus. And I know they’re in your hearts and your governor’s heart and your prayers.
But it’s also been this partnership that the President has forged with states around the country that has allowed us to mobilize America’s resources almost as never before. Certainly never before in my lifetime.
And, Governor Reynolds, your efforts here to partner with our administration, first in implementing strong mitigation efforts that the people of Iowa have taken to heart. Despite the heartbreaking losses in your state, the reality is that, in so many places across this state and because of what the people of Iowa have been willing to do, Iowa has found a way to (inaudible) country. And we commend the people of Iowa for the sacrifices that you made.
You know, it’s a remarkable thing to think about social distancing and of people making a choice to use a drive-through at a restaurant or avoid gatherings of more than 10, isn’t it, Governor? Because the fact is that, for most healthy Americans, the risks that the coronavirus poses remains very low. But all of us learned early on that there are those among us — seniors with underlying health conditions or those with immunodeficiencies that are at serious risk.
And to see the people of this state, the people of this country to be willing to put others first, to put the health and wellbeing not just of family members, but neighbors, friends, even strangers, by embracing these practices, it’s really been inspiring. And I know how inspired you’ve been, Governor, as well.
I’m also grateful for the Governor’s partnership in making sure our healthcare community has the support that they need. We’ve worked through our Air Bridge program at FEMA to make sure that Iowa had the resources and support.
But let me say, in particular, I think the people of Iowa are truly fortunate. The Test Iowa program has really been in the forefront of testing, innovation, and expansion. I think, Governor, not long ago, you were testing 300 people a day in Iowa. And very soon, you’ll be testing 3,000 people a day. And I know other states around the country have followed Iowa’s lead. And it’s been a privilege to be able to partner with — with you on that. And we’ll continue to scale testing around the country.
We believe, by early next week, we’ll have gone from, when I started this job, 8,000 tests that have been done and now, thanks to the President’s leadership and the great partnership of governors like Governor Reynolds, now, early next week, we expect to reach 8 million tests having been done around the country. And we’ll continue to expand.
And all of those resources are what makes it possible for us to move for what we all long to do. And I’m anxious to hear today about — about — from all of these faith leaders, about how you’re taking — going to take advantage of the new guidance from the Governor and from the State of Iowa about being able to return to worship safely and responsibly. I know the Governor has made that available, and I know churches and synagogues and other places of worship are now developing plans.
I know, Pastor Mike, you have a plan here, I think, for the end of this month. And I’m anxious to hear about — about that and to be able to carry some of those best practices back to our White House Coronavirus Task Force.
But it’s so important that, as we reopen America, that we — that we help to strengthen the foundation of this country as well. You know, I think of that verse that says, don’t absent yourself from the assembly, as some are in the habit of doing. Well, we’ve all been required, because of social distancing, to absent ourselves of being able to gather — whether it be on Saturday or on Sunday or on a Wednesday night. And that’s been a burden. It’s been a source of heartache for people across the country.
And Karen and I have been watching our home church in Indiana online every week. And they, like you’ve done here, Pastor Mike, put pictures of members of the church in the pews just so the ministry staff would be reminded of who wasn’t there.
But the importance of now being able to reopen America, a priority that the President has put forward two weeks ago when we laid a plan to open up America again includes the importance of opening up the institutions that strengthen the heart and soul of the American people.
And so I want to thank you for the steps, Governor, you’re taking here, and that have taken to begin to allow people to return safety and responsibly not just to work, but to worship. And today, the day after the National Day of Prayer, where we gathered in the Rose Garden at the White House, I just want to — I want to finish by just simply saying — saying thank you. Thank you to these great public servants for the role that they provided of partnering with the President and myself to bring us to this point in the midst of this unprecedented epidemic in the life of our nation.
But also, I want to thank all of you because, as I said at the beginning, I’ll say as I close: I know you never stopped. I know that’s what’s been most inspiring. You — you kept being there for the people of your church, of your synagogue. You kept reaching out. You kept encouraging people of faith to come alongside neighbors, family members, coworkers, and strangers. And it’s made an incalculable difference in our nation, seeing our way through these troubled times.
And I truly do believe — I truly do believe that, by God’s grace, the faith of the American people, the strong leadership that you have here in Iowa, and the support under President Trump’s leadership, that we’ll get through this. And sooner rather than later, we’ll get America working again. We’ll get America worshipping again. And we’ll bring America back and Iowa back stronger than ever before.
So thank you very much. It’s a great honor to be with you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)
(The discussion commences.)
(The discussion concludes.)
PASTOR MUDLAFF: I think you can tell, Mr. Vice President, that our time is running short. I have a prayer. I’d like to close this in prayer, but would you like the final word?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, just to say “thank you.” My pastor told me many years ago — he said, “Everybody is under-encouraged.” And I have to tell you that, being here with your governor, being with these outstanding leaders — but I don’t think they’d mind me saying, mostly from being with you has just been a great encouragement to my heart and to see your faith, to see your compassion, to see your resolve, to hear the concern that you have for the members of your communities, and to hear of your prayers.
You know, I often — often tell people that the sweetest words we ever hear are when people say, “I’m praying for you.” And you can always tell when people mean it. And we hear it a lot. The President hears it all the time. I hear it all the time. I try and read a little bit of my mail every day before I get out the door in the morning, and almost every letter will say that, “I’m praying for you and your family, and for the President and the First Family.”
And I just — I hope, if you took nothing back today to the people of your communities of faith, that you would just tell them we feel those prayers every day. We really — we’re sustained by them. And I know your governor feels the same way and your senators feel the same way. So I just want to say thank you for your prayers.
I also want to say thank you for your — thank you for the way that you’ve lived out liberty. And I — and I — and I appreciate the acknowledgement of the steps that the President has taken and the governor has taken.
Attorney General William Barr, at the end of April, actually issued guidance to all federal prosecutors to ensure the constitutional rights are all being upheld. Not an issue here in Iowa, but it’s emerged as an issue in some places around the country. As he said, and I can’t say it any better, the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis, and I promise you we are going to continue to stand by the religious liberty of every American of every faith until this is over and then beyond. I promise you. (Applause.)
And lastly, I just want to — I want to thank you for your optimism. I’m not surprised by it. This is a strong state. Sometimes when I’m in Iowa, I think I’m back in Indiana. (Laughter.) People said to me, “It’s the Midwest, isn’t it?” People have strong hearts and strong opinions. And it’s all about strength. I sense it hear. I really do. And — and I’ll carry that back with me.
I’m grateful for your resolve. I’m grateful for your determination to thoughtfully and carefully step forward, back into the exercise of your faith and being able to minister these communities of faith on the basis of faith, not fear. And so thank you for that.
And lastly, I just — I want to thank Pastor Brad. That verse, Jeremiah 29:11, has appeared over our fireplace in our home now for 20 years. And I glanced at it last night. My wife gave it to me on the first election we were elected to. For — it says, “For I know the plans I have for you — plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And I think it’s a great place for us to land.
And I hope any Iowan looking on, any American that might read about this encounter might just know that because of the leadership of this President, of your governor, of the bipartisan support that’s been there for the American people all across this nation, and because of the faith of the American people, I know that we’ll get through this sooner rather than later. We’ll get through this together. We’ll be stronger. And there will be a hope and a future built on everything that’s always made America strong.
So thank you very much, and God bless you all. This has really, really been a blessing to me. Thank you. (Applause.)
2:18 P.M. CDT