tv Sen. Joni Ernst R-IA Daughter of the Heartland CSPAN July 18, 2020 12:05pm-12:41pm EDT
find these titles this coming week wherever books are sold and watch for many authors in the near future in booktv on c-span2. >> joining us now on booktv is senator joni ernst, republican from iowa. she's written a new memoir called daughter of the heartland. what prompted you to write this book at this time? >> guest: thank you so much. this is been a journey of love for me. i grew up in southwest iowa in a rural part of the state and the perseverance, dedication, the hard work my parents taught
me really has carried me through so many challenges in my lifetime. opportunities in my lifetime and i wanted to tell a story that could be uplifting. people will face challenges throughout their lifetime but we should understand those challenges don't necessarily have to define us. i'm blessed to live in the greatest nation, the united states of america and that is what i hope to share in this story with other people. >> host: the book is relatively revealing and we will go through those things but was that tough to expose yourself like that? >> guest: it was very hard. i've been through a number of significant challenges in my lifetime. i was raised when i was a young woman, with my first boyfriend and i really suffered that. going through an episode of
domestic violence and difficult time in my marriage and those were all things i did not want to share publicly but i was going through a very public divorce a couple years ago and that information came out through that process. and i had so many other women and a few men who reached out to me and said you have gone through these challenges, went on to be a battalion commander and now united states senator and it is good for other people to hear that you can go through these life altering events but still overcome them and move on to better days and so that is what i hope i can share with some of the readers, that you do have challenges in your lifetime but there are opportunities. the next day is a new day and you can find joy in your lifetime.
>> host: in your book "daughter of the heartland: my ode to the country that raised me" you write that people tend an inordinate amount of attention to women legislators private lives. >> guest: absolutely they do. you are scrutinized from everything that you wear, the style of your hair, the color of your hair, all of that, and maybe certainly if you are a mother how are you raising your children, when you should be at home. those are situations i don't hear men talked about in that way but certainly the women receive a lot of attention with their personal lives and that is holy unfair especially when we are serving in the same chamber, the same body as our male counterparts but to be looked upon differently i don't
think is justified and people should be scrutinizing personal lives when they don't do it with the men. >> host: tell us about red oak, iowa. >> guest: a beautiful community. the heart of montgomery county, iowa. it is our county seat, the list of communities i was raised near. i went to school in stanton, iowa adjacent to red oaks, i was raised on a farm northeast of red oak and it was just such a tremendous experience and there is such a sense of community in rural iowa. we are very proud of where we come from. we call it being iowa night when you are helping a neighbor that might be in need, it is a great place to be raised and i had truly a wonderful childhood growing up on a farm. it was a lot of hard work, there was a lot expected from
us but at the same time, growing and developing in that kind of community was important. >> host: back to your book life on a farm. >> my parents experience that firsthand and many of our neighbors did. i was raised on the farm during the 70s and 80s. they are northeast of red oaks, north of stanton and what they went through was very difficult with the farm economy coming down around them, having to make ends meet in such a constrained environment, my dad started a separate business working with heavy equipment, doing dirt work for other farmers around the area. when my brother was in school my mother took on a job, part-time job in town.
they found other ways to bring income into support the farm and we made it through but those times are challenging, you never know when the next flood is going to destroy your crop. if there's going to be a drought, if there's going to be a tornado, all those natural events that can impact the farm economy so you drive through, be as resilient as you can and the sense of community and helping your neighbors, i share one story in the book where it wasn't a natural disaster but there was a farmer that had been injured by a cow, a freak accident, the cow pushed against him and knocked him into the fence and he was hospitalized and died from his injury and his wife really needed the support so the
radio, they put an announcement on the radio, our local radio station and within hours people converged on that farm with combines, wagons and tractors and brought that harvest in so that his widow wouldn't have to worry about. that is the sense of community we have in iowa. we are proud of that. i know other states have that too but that's how i was raised, help when needed. help when needed. we are blessed to live in such a nation that provides us opportunity to help others. >> when you talk about a constant struggle for survival. after the 2015 state of the union address the republican response, you talk about putting bread bags on your feet and you became notorious for that. >> i did. it was so funny because i look back at my childhood and my mother was thrifty out of necessity.
we had to be thrifty and we only had one good pair of shoes for work or for school and living on the farm anybody raised on a farm in iowa understands when it rains it gets very muddy so waiting for a school bus, going to church, my mother would slip bread bags over our shoes to protect them and when we get on a school bus with her bread bags, all the other kids had bread bags too. it didn't matter to me, but certainly it is something that now that i look around our communities parents aren't as thrifty or utilize things like that. everyone is conscientious about being embarrassed about not having what other schoolkids have but it was a learning point for me to make do with what you have, be proud of what you have and protect what you have.
a dollar back then is something my parents struggle to earn those dollars and didn't want to waste. that is what i carried into the united states, trying to be a federal watchdog but it was amazing that some people would tease me about that, all in good humor but some folks were very mean about it and made fun of me because i grew up that way and i would think folks on the left, they can be tolerant but a republican going to the same hardships as a child then i became the object of scorn, it is unfortunate we have those types of divides in our society. i want all human beings to understand we all go through different challenges, different learning points in our lifetimes and we should respect
each other for our different points of view but always have empathy towards our brothers and sisters. >> host: one of the themes in your book "daughter of the heartland: my ode to the country that raised me" is the cohesiveness of 26 women who served in the united states senate, republicans and democrats. a couple of those friends of yours campaigned against you when you were running for the senate. >> guest: that is the thing about politics. one thing you have to keep in mind when you enter into this bizarre world is that not everybody will agree on everything and you have to have thick skin so even though there are women i would consider friends we obviously have different politics. we have to understand that, not take it personally.
we can share passion and drive on for similar goals when we share the passion but outside of that, let it roll off your back, let it roll off your back and that is what i had to do many times over. it is okay. i still consider those women collaborators, friends when we have the shared passion. >> host: it is a tight sorority among the women senators. >> guest: it really is. our ideology is very wide. all across the spectrum, republicans and democrats, but what we have found is we can come together and we do this in a bipartisan fashion every couple of months, we get together and have a women's dinner hosted by susan collins or diane feinstein.
i hosted one this last fall. there are so many things we can do together and don't talk politics, we talk about our families, we talk about what is going on in our children's lives, things like that. it is something we found brings us together in a cohesive unit and while we may be on opposite sides of one piece of legislation we can find a path forward through friendship and work on other opportunities. >> host: you have one daughter, where is she now? >> guest: libby is on her way to dc and i will be taking her back to the united states military academy this weekend where she will report in for next year's schooling. she's a cadet at west point and will go into the army in the next couple years.
i am very proud of her. she is a hard charger, a smart young woman, but we are trying to raise a daughter who is self-confident, knows her path forward and she has achieved that. i am very proud of her. >> host: i think she would want to do even more. >> host: you wrote is a child your goals were to be a nurse at a farmer's wife. it didn't turn out that way. >> guest: it sure didn't. one of those things was miss america too. >> host: forgot about that one. >> guest: i didn't become a nurse or a farmer's wife or miss america and my friend was like you are such an
underachiever. our paths change, we certainly can look at various career fields through the eyes of a child and i so admire people that are in healthcare and a lot is informed by my mother. she is not college educated but she was the mother to children who had juvenile diabetes. my brother and my sister both had to live on insulin shots and they still do and i always watch my mother give my brother and sister shot in the morning and evening and i just admire that she was caring for my brother and sister and i admire that she was able to do so much with little and hold our family together and i always thought that is really noble. i want to go into health
services. i chose a different career path. i ended up going into counseling, job training, i am working with various populations like those that have been underemployed or long-term unemployed and found my calling in that area but i've had so many experiences through my lifetime. i said those goals as a child and made a significant difference in my state and in my nation by choosing a different career path. >> host: how did the military become part of your life for one or 2 years? >> i had this friends, the gentleman who sold livestock feed to my family was in the national guard and he was a recruiter. he always used to say i will
talk to you about the national guard. i don't think i can do that. the decoy plan, my father served in the national guard many years ago. i don't really remember that period of his life, just stories but what really took me into the military was an agricultural exchange to the soviet union in the late 1980s. i found a group of students, we live on a collective farm in ukraine. they didn't have a car, no refrigerator, no running water, no indoor plumbing. i could go on and on and on about what they didn't have. even though i grew up on a small farm i had a refrigerator telephone, running water, we had tractors. they didn't have those things
and so two world superpowers and i thought they offer their citizens the same level of opportunity and that wasn't true in the soviet union. when we got to gather the iowa students, the collective group of citizens and went to the community hall that first night. the first question they wanted to know was what is it like to be an american? and it just struck me i think at that point that so many people want what we have in this great nation. they desire it, they hunger for it and through the course of that exchange it emphasizes to me how proud i am of the values, freedoms and opportunities this country
gives us and i decided at 19 years old i decided i don't want to take it for granted anymore. i have to get back to that country. when i got to iowa i started exploring that opportunity and joined the rotc program and went on to serve in the army reserves and army national guard, one of the greatest honors of my life. >> host: you are the first female combat veteran to serve in the united states senate. you saw action in iraq. tell us about that. >> guest: we were stationed in kuwait and i was commander a transportation company. we would deliver supplies, take them to warehouses, broken into various packages, we would deliver those supplies through kuwait into iraq.
many other places like that, it was -- the first year of the or, it is very chaotic at that time and that first trip to iraq, the company didn't even have masks. what i did, i knew there was a tennessee national guard unit that already made the trip to baghdad international airport, i went to the company commander and asked about a briefing, to share with us the path to baghdad international airport. he sat down with me, leading
this mission, called out a hand-drawn map and shared it with us and my driver copied that hand-drawn map down, get to the right place. talk about flying by the seat of your pants. here we are navigating at the early parts of the war through iraq, my drivers would write down and annotate different things and we would share that information into kuwait so everybody has a good picture of where we were going. the post exchange, rand mcnally is basic. i bought all of them.
provided by the united states government, rand mcnally would get us where we are ready to go. we may do with what we have. i am very fortunate because there are a number of other iowa national guard units, several of them were transportation units and they were permanently stationed in iraq and i have the advantage, my unit was stationed in kuwait and we ran missions back and forth. i was so blessed because when i redeployed i redeployed with my entire unit and that is something, have to recognize there is sacrifice all around and there are different levels of sacrifice. in losing soldiers it was devastating.
are not all heroes where combat infantry patches. some of them are truck drivers, some are supply sergeants. when we go into combat, god bless them, and i was fortunate to come home to everyone. >> host: you were the first female combat veteran to serve as united states senator, you are the first senator ever to be taped. >> guest: probably. >> host: tell us that story. >> guest: i was hazed. i was a battalion commander, we had an annual training in wisconsin where all my units were together at one time for the 2 week annual training.
my truck units out there and maintenance units out there and one company of military police and this phenomenal e 7 that was getting ready to exit the guard and i was trying to get him to reenlist, a phenomenal young leader and he said i will reenlist if i can tase you. they had to go through taser training. i said that is a deal. we did. we went into the taser training, i went there with a police company and we had a phenomenal company commander. he went first to make sure he was the first to be tased and that i was number 2 in the lineup and it was a horrible experience, don't recommend it
for anyone, but he did retain a brilliant, young in seo. one of the best and the brightest of the iowa national guard. >> host: who is connie magnuson and why do you spend a bit of time in your book writing about her? >> guest: that was my first opponent in an election, a local election and that is when i really understood the significance of running for elected office. we had a county auditor that was not respectful to the public, was not respectful to other elected officials and there was quite a stir over the job in the county courthouse
and after one supervisor's meeting the county auditor served as clerk for the board of supervisors. after one meeting, she struck another supervisor physically, hit the other supervisor. she was arrested, was acquitted but created such an uproar. there was mistrust, there was anger so i was asked, the republican auditor, i did choose to engage in that election and we went through a very difficult campaign cycle. very bizarre. i did win the election, and when we go into the office they quit. they left. i knew they were going to do
that and that was okay because i was able to start fresh and hire my own staff on board, at that time we kept phone numbers of important contexts. they had emptied out all of the rolodexes and replaced them with blank cards, taken all the courthouse fees and dumped them into one drawer, completely unlabeled, there are shenanigans you wouldn't think adults would engage in, when i assumed the position. i made it a point in the courthouse, we open our doors to visitors in the public coming back in and it was really a time of feeling as much about bringing people together and finding a path forward rather than being ugly to people.
we can show respect even when we don't agree. it was a learning experience for me. i enjoy working with people in home county. and share the news of the day, what you can take by being part of a community and is a real lesson and ugliness of politics and wonderful things when pooling in the same direction. >> host: to the united states senate, was your husband at the time supportive of your political career?
>> guest: and didn't know. it was a bone of contention especially once i got into the united states senate and he was very used to being the center of every one's attention, was used to being that person in charge and admired, through the course of being in the senate, the attention shifted, people were focused on what i was working on and not what he was working on. it became more of a jealousy and it was really unfortunate so the issues that already existed just became
exponentially much bigger. in public we put on a smile and have resiliency, that stiff upper lip and the american farmer does, chose a different path, we did divorce and it was heartbreaking for me to spend 26 years with someone that i love and then to be left behind with him taking on a new family immediately and it was tough to deal with as i work on legislation for iowa and preparing for the next campaign season. >> host: when the des moines register broke the news, do you feel violated and what was the reaction you got? >> guest: i felt horribly violated.
when information came out, the episode that happened in my marriage was not something i wanted to explain to my family why i would stay with the person that would abuse me like that. my daughter was young when it happened, it was her fault and i did. i felt violated. i wasn't ready to talk about the hurtful things that happened in my life. i think any survivor should have the opportunity to decide when it is right for him or her to tell their story and i didn't have that opportunity. i felt very bad about that and deeply upset.
i was really nervous about being cornered in the hallways because the press are merciless about following you down the hallway asking all kinds of questions. i was so nervous about it, don't answer any questions, just keep walking. you don't have to listen to them. we got to the bottom of the stairs in brussels and amazingly enough they stepped back, lowering their heads a little bit. a couple of them gave me what i would describe as a shy smile but they let me pass, i was grateful for that. >> host: two reactions you write about in "daughter of the heartland: my ode to the country that raised me". donald trump and bernie sanders. >> guest: two extraordinary
men, two totally different people, reached out to me, donald trump called me, he was always very good to me. he said you are going to do great things. we love you. i'm sorry this happened to you in the same from bernie sanders. he caught me outside the dirksen building and he pulled me aside in private, and he said this never should have happened to you. i'm sorry. in the oddest of places you can find comfort and support. one of the important lessons,
we are all human beings, we have all been through challenges, we had significant hurts and the lifetime and we can be supportive, care for one another as human beings and that is what donald trump and senator sanders exhibited for me. >> host: finally do you still force your staff to march with you at 4:30 in the morning. >> guest: we have bumped back the time, now start at 5 am. it is all volunteer and we still have a lot of people that turn house on the mall and only had two other members of congress go with me. martha make sally and tom tillis and tom tillis made his entire staff go on that early
morning, with my challenge coin. tom tillis told me later in the day he had been grumbling before he started marching in later in the day it is all they could talk about. they had bragging rights, they had all gone out with senator joni ernst to go down on the mall. it is a fun activity and it is not about politics. it is about experiencing the sights of those war memorials, remembering them for your sacrifice in the, robbery and getting to know what is on the hill. >> host: joni ernst's new book is called "daughter of the heartland: my ode to the country that raised me". she's a member of the senate
leadership team, thank you for joining us. >> guest: thanks so much. >> host: next on booktv, john larson puts it how industry put themselves to the detriment of the environment. david or without donald trump can win reelection in 2020. university of illinois of chicago history and latino studies professor and at history of deportation in america over the past 140 years. it all starts now on booktv. find more information about this and other author programs online, booktv.org. >> thank you for joining us. i'm the director of community partnerships for the massachusetts historical society. i would like to welcome anyone who might be