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Christie Vilsack will continue work in Iowa
Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack may be on his way to Washington as President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of Agriculture, but his wife Christie Vilsack plans to continue as the executive director of The Iowa Initiative, a group she founded a year ago with the mission of reducing unplanned pregnancy.
“Gov. Visack’s appointment will not impact Christie’s work as the executive director,” declares an e-mail sent today by Mary Triick, Vilsack’s assistant.
“She loves her job and is looking forward to continuing to work with all of you,” Triick continued. “You all do important work and we are confident that together we will be able to decrease unintended pregnancy here in Iowa.”
The e-mail added that Christie is proud of her husband and that he is excited about the chance to solve problems and “move this country forward.”
The Iowa Initiative, a privately funded program that targets unintended pregnancy among Iowa women between the ages of 18 and 30, was launched in January by Christie Vilsack. The group does not dispense contraceptives but partners with existing groups who do so. Vilsack hopes the partnerships that are being forged with Planned Parenthood, the University of Northern Iowa and other entities will help spark awareness for both the general public and elected officials at all levels of government.
“[Unintended pregnancy] touches an emotional chord,” Christie Vilsack said in an interview with Iowa Independent when the program launched. “I think in every room that I speak in, those listening are going to think of someone they know who’s affected by this issue. I think it is a conversation we need to have, and one that will maybe make some people uncomfortable. But, we need to talk about it because it is impacting individuals, it is impacting communities and it is also impacting taxpayers.”
The Vilsacks are well-versed in the “emotional chord” of unplanned pregnancy. Tom Vilsack was adopted as a child. Shortly after he announced his bid for president in 2006, he received word that nuns from the orphanage that handled his adoption had information about his birth mother, a 23-year-old woman who took the assumed name Gloria when she entered a home for unwed mothers.
“When I held a press conference in January to announce the goals of the [Iowa Initiative] and my association with it, I mentioned Gloria’s story, and said that she would motivate me every day as I travel the state educating people about the high rate of unintended pregnancy among adult women, which most voters and decision-makers know little about.,” Christie Vilsack recalled in a recent blog post.
The organization, nearly a year old, has four more years of funding, primarily from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. The hope is that the research being done here in Iowa — a state where roughly half of all pregnancies are unplanned — will provide a clear path as to what educational and outreach offerings are most effective. When the group’s funding runs out, it plans to present its findings to state and national elected officials.
Another passion for Christie, a former teacher, is literacy. She founded Iowa Stories as first lady of Iowa and then elected to continue her work in that area by launching The Vilsack Foundation. Her decision to stay active in Iowa as her husband moves to Washington will likely strengthen the speculation that she may run for office herself.