Marianne Williamson, a Democratic candidate for president, speaks Friday night at the Carrollton Centre.
Marianne Williamson, a Democratic candidate for president, speaks Friday night at the Carrollton Centre.

March 6, 2019

The solution to this country’s problems — including the dearth of compassion among people who have forgotten what the word means — is children.

That was the message Democrat Marianne Williamson, a high-profile author who has preached an optimistic brand of self-improvement for decades in her best-selling books and on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” brought to Carroll and Jefferson last week.

She spoke at the Carrollton Centre Friday night and at Thomas Jefferson Gardens in Jefferson Saturday, events that drew about 20 and 50 people respectively.

“If you want to see the real genius of America, and the real entrepreneurial spirit of America, go to any kindergarten anywhere in this country,” she said. “But we cap people’s dreams when we don’t educate them. We cap people’s dreams when we make it hard for them economically. We cap people’s dreams when we make it hard for them to go to college. We cap people’s dreams when we keep them in a place where they’re so worried about what’s going to happen if they get sick, or what’s going to happen if one of their kids gets sick. We cap people’s dreams when we make it so hard for the average 70 percent of all young people coming out of college today shackled with $28,000 of college loans. … We cap people’s dreams. And inside those dreams is all the productivity we could ever want, all the creativity we could ever want. That should be the basis of our economy.”

Focusing on children is the answer for guaranteeing a better America in 20 years, she said, noting “hand-in-hand schools” in the Middle East where Palestinian and Israeli kids are taught together — about each other’s languages, customs, holidays, histories and religions. This halts the continuation of a rift that she said comes from mutual trauma — trauma at the hands of Israelis for Palestinians, and trauma at the hands of Nazis for Israelis.

“If you introduce compassion before the age of 8, it becomes infused in their intellectual development,” she said. “That’s the only hope. That is the hope for the world.”

That plays right into her charge that the United States does far more to wage war than peace.

This needs to change, too, said Williamson, who wants to see a Cabinet-level position focusing on children and a U.S. Department of Peace — and the way to do it is through these three steps:

1. Expand economic opportunities for women.

2. Expand educational opportunities for children.

3. Ameliorate unnecessary human suffering wherever possible.

“Large groups of desperate people anywhere in the world should be seen as a national security risk, because desperate people do desperate things,” she said in Carroll Friday. “Desperate people are more vulnerable to ideological capture by genuinely psychotic forces.”

When focus is placed on women and children, peace follows, she said.

“We know that in cities, communities, countries where women are more economically empowered, children are more educationally empowered and there’s less desperation — guess what? There’s greater peace,” she said.

Williamson was joined Friday by J.D. Scholten, who ran against Republican U.S. Congressman Steve King last November. He discussed his recently-launched nonprofit, Working Hero Iowa, which centers around supporting low-income residents eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit — whether a mother who can only afford her child’s headstone because of that credit, or a recently-released inmate trying to figure out his or her taxes and how to assimilate back into a community.

“Your campaign had a big win and shone a bright light,” Williamson told Scholten. “I’m sure I say on behalf of a lot of people, please don’t go away. Please stay, because you are part of a movement of energy in this country. It’s rising up — there’s a great awakening in American consciousness.”

She told the crowd Saturday in Jefferson that an angry, resentment-fueled approach is not the way to defeat President Donald Trump.

“Trump has turned fear into a political force,” Williamson said. “We must turn love into a political force.”

Williamson said she hasn’t lost hope in America. Throughout history, evil has prompted good. Abolition followed slavery; lack of rights for women led to the efforts of the suffragettes; the Civil Rights Movement responded to white supremacy.

“The arc of our history is that ultimately, this country self-corrects,” Williamson said.

Often, when things go terribly wrong, people can become their most noble, their best, she said.

“Then life begins anew,” Williamson said.

That considered, there is plenty to criticize now in the nation, and within the Trump administration, said the 66-year-old candidate, a Houston native with an apartment in New York City (where she can see Trump Tower) who plans to move full time to Des Moines.

“Our government and our economy are in an unholy alliance,” said Williamson.

She contends the government is merely a handmaiden for a “new aristocracy.”

Williamson drew some of her most sustained applause in Jefferson when she said, “That is a sociopathic economic system.”

In the last 15 years, many Americans began to enter a condition of despair that wasn’t there previously, she said.

“I’m talking about people who work hard — people who have professional degrees,” Williamson said.

She added, “Even doctors and lawyers are having a hard time making it.”

Between the country’s economic deficiencies and the “moral rot” Williamson said has infected American government and life, it’s time for the American people to wake up, she said.

“We are often too slow to get it,” she said. “But anybody who knows anything about world history knows that when we do wake up, we slam it like nobody’s business. And that’s what we’re going to do again.

“Let’s not be the first generation to wimp out on doing what it takes to get this country back on track.”

On specific issues, Williamson said she supports a $15-an-hour minimum wage, the cancellation of college loans where possible and universal health care. She doesn’t want foreign trade to take place at the expense of the American worker, and she wants permanent tax cuts for the middle class.

She also supports reparations for African Americans for slavery. Williamson, who is white, doesn’t call for direct payments to descendants of slaves but rather the formation of a panel to distribute funds to economic and educational opportunities and endeavors aimed at lifting the black community with a price tag of $100 billion spread out over 10 years.

“I don’t believe the average American is racist, I don’t,” Williamson said. “But I do think many Americans are uneducated, just under-informed about the history of race in America, the fact that two and half centuries of slavery was followed by another 100 years of the violence of white supremacy, lynchings.”

Patti Naylor, a Churdan farmer, said she likes the spirituality in Williamson’s message.

“It’s something that really is missing from all of our political discussions that we have, and actually the focus on the economic part of our system is very, very important,” she said. “I’d like some more details from her before I decide if I would support her, but I really like what she is saying.”

Evans McWilliam, a retired social worker from Paton, has already made up his mind. He’s supporting Williamson, having followed her for 10 years.

“When she talks to people individually and they ask questions, she answers them,” McWilliam said. “A lot of these are people with deep personal problems.”

It’s important for candidates to have those individualized conversations, he said.

And McWilliam thinks Williamson would handle a debate with Trump well.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a match between wits,” McWilliam said. “It’s a match between love versus hate, you know.”

If Williamson reaches the Oval Office, she said, she’ll be bringing along the difference-makers in the trenches, the people who are working directly with children to teach them to love, the people lifting up women, the people chasing peace.

“I don’t want to go to Washington and fight for you,” she said. “I want to go to Washington and create with you. Because what needs to happen in Washington also needs to happen in Carroll, also needs to happen in Iowa, needs to happen on the state level, needs to happen on the local levels.

A few people like me are real disrupters in this race, and I hope you will elect one of us.”