News Home

Founder Mike Rogers: Three Takeaways from the Iowa State Fair 

There’s nothing quite like a Fair. I grew up in Michigan, where County Fairs heralded the final days of summer vacation, and my childhood resonates with memories of rides, cotton candy, and carnival games. Recently, I traveled to Iowa, where the State Fair is king.  

This year, over 1.1 million people attended the Iowa State Fair. The iconic fairgrounds bustled each day with thousands of folks standing in line for a world-famous pork chop on a stick, fresh squeezed lemonade, and jaw-dropping attractions. Where else would you see a 3,042-pound bull? Or a 1,300-pound boar named Pee Wee?  

The Iowa State Fair is important for many reasons. Iowa is the first-in-the-nation state, a key foreground where conversations are shaped and decisions are made. When my wife, Kristi, and I started LEAD, we wanted to change the tone of discourse in our government, so we’ve gone where the dialogues are happening. Our message is one of purposeful optimism: that America is greater than her problems. We’ve reminded people of the greatness of our nation – a land where no die is cast for anyone no matter where you start. We’re working to make  it ok for Americans in love with America again.  

If there’s one place that resonates the hope and optimism our country should strive toward, it’s the Iowa State Fair. Here are my three takeaways from my most recent trip to the Hawkeye State:   

  1. Iowa is strong.

As I stood with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, I glanced over my shoulder to see a long line forming behind me. They all looked eagerly toward their leader who had done what many leaders could only dream of. Rightfully so. In just five years, Governor Reynolds found a way to energize her base and captivate the middle. Through partnerships with legislative leaders and stakeholders, she has enacted transformational tax reform, re-affirmed parental freedom, and demonstrated a rare brand of optimism – a politics of the possible. I spoke with Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver who are clearly just as enthusiastic about the track Iowa is on and want to do even more. 

In many ways, I believe Iowa is a case study that can, and should, be looked to as a guide of what our country can do. Iowa illustrates the power of foundational principles like limited government, less taxes, empowering parents in education and a putting people’s freedom first. This kind of leadership breeds hope and energy. Imagine what it could do if we applied these principles across our nation?  

  1. People are politically discouraged and exhausted.

Just after I finished an interview with Jeff Angelo on the famous WHO radio (where Ronald Reagan worked as a sports announcer in the 1930s), I ran into an Iowa veterinarian whose large and small animal practice is over on the Mississippi River. We had a delightful conversation where we talked about his business, workforce issues, and the current state of government process. He was mortified at President Biden’s announcement to hire 87,000 more IRS employees. That’s half the size of the U.S. Marine Corps, I remarked, and noted that I’d much rather have 87,000 more Marines. He agreed, and said, “Commonsense isn’t so common anymore, Mike. It’s infuriating and I don’t even know how we get ourselves out of this mess.”  

We have some big problems to tackle. To solve them, we can’t just complain about them. And it does no good to throw up our hands and simply say, “there is nothing we can do.” The answer to darkness isn’t more darkness. We need to bring some light into the situation and put forth common sense solutions. I have no doubt that America is bigger than her problems. 

  1. The next generation is gifted, passionate, and ready to lead.

My friend, Grant Young, ushered us through the 4-H Building as kids of all ages proudly showed off works of art, robotics, and baked goods. Grant has spent the past two decades as a top political organizer in Iowa. Now he is turning his talents to helping young Iowans develop – and show off – their considerable skills through 4-H. Some areas of the building were hushed as students prepared to present poems or speeches on civic engagement. The booths showed off professional-level photography and craftsmanship, experiments, and some tantalizing baked goods. The quality of work in that building would be impressive for any age, let alone school kids.  

America has always been a land of opportunity, and this building is a shining example. I love seeing this. Too often, we focus on the cultural elements that alienate age groups. At the heart of it all, though, the next generation is looking to forge opportunity for themselves. They’re using their innovative gifts and abilities to create and inspire. This is the American spirit at its finest and it must be championed.  

These youth are honing skills today that will carry forward the rest of their lives. Responsibility. Planning. Follow-through. Imagination. Leadership. Competitiveness.  

We must continue fighting for an America that creates opportunities for young people to forge new paths and achieve their American Dream. We must re-empower parents and re-assess our education system. The next generation is worth it. They are the leaders of tomorrow.  

While the food at the Iowa State Fair lived up to the hype, the animals were impressive, and the Grandstand acts were A-listers, the real stars of the show were the people whose great pride in their state is absolutely warranted.  

Join Mike’s effort to change the conversation and make Americans fall in love with America again. LEAD can be found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube