Legendary college football coach Lou Holtz spoke in front of about 300 Iowans on Thursday night at the West Des Moines Marriott. Holtz served as the keynote speaker for the Dallas County GOP’s Tailgate Fundraiser.
Holtz opened by sharing the story of how he ended up at the University of Iowa as a graduate assistant coach. He received his Master’s degree from Iowa. On the airplane back from his final game on an Iowa sideline — a 28-0 win at Notre Dame — he recalled standing on the sideline wearing a Hawkeye hat at Notre Dame thinking it would be the highlight of his career.
Then he went into the political portion of his remarks.
“I know what it’s like to be down,” Holtz said. “I got to the University of South Carolina and inherited the longest losing streak in the country. My first year I contributed to that streak. We lost every football game we played that year, went 0-11 and I had a kicker that said ‘I can’t kick when you’re watching.’ Zero-and-11 that year, but records can be deceiving — we really weren’t as good as our record would indicate.”
Holtz continued with some self-deprecating humor but quickly arrived at his point.
“When you’re down, you’ve got two choices — you stay down or you pick yourself up,” he said. “That’s all. That’s all about an attitude. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I got down on my knees and prayed. But there was no doubt in my mind we were going to persevere because quitting is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. And eight months later we beat Ohio State on Jan. 1. The following year we beat them again on Jan. 1.”
He shared the story about their house being struck by lightning and being burnt to the ground. He used it as another way to interject humor, before talking more about overcoming adversity.
“You’re going to have disappointment,” he said. “You know, everybody wants to play when the band is playing, the crowd is cheering, the TV lights are on and you’re winning. The question I ask, can you live with losing? Because if you can’t live with losing, you will find a way to change the outcome. To me, it’s all about attitude. I have always believed if you believe in something strong enough, if you want to do something bad enough, you’ll find it.”
The goal for everyone in the room is to change things in the federal government — in the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate and the White House.
“We need to ask ourselves some serious questions,” he said. “These are the same questions I’d ask our football team about if we want to win a championship.
“OK, you want to win the presidency, you want to win a championship — answer these questions: What price are you willing to pay to do it? What sacrifices are you willing to make in order to do it? What skills and talents do we have to acquire in order to do that? What bad habits do we have to get rid of in order to accomplish that? And who do I have to work with in order to get that done?
“I also believe this — that we can do anything in this world if enough people care. And we’ve got to convince enough people to care enough about this country, about the future, about the direction it’s going to see that we change that completely.”
He called it “difficult, but not complicated.”
“You realize there are only seven colors in the rainbow? Look what Michaelangelo did with seven colors,” he said. “There are only seven musical notes, look what Beethoven did with seven musical notes. There are only 10 numbers, look what Bernie Madoff did with 10 numbers. I’m not saying it’s always good, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.”
It comes down to convincing voters of three things:
- The Republican Party is the party that can be trusted.
- The Republican Party cares about the country.
- The Republican Party cares about people.
“I do not have any idea how the Democrats can get up and lie day after day after day and never be held accountable, never act like they ever did anything wrong — it’s unbelievable,” he said. “I just can’t believe how we can trust anybody from the Democrat Party.”
Trust is the foundation of any relationship — whether in sports, marriage or life. And there’s only one way to build trust — doing the right thing.
Next, he discussed the importance of convincing people the GOP cares about the country.
“I’m an old man. My birthday candles cost more than the cake,” he quipped. “I remember the time where we didn’t have a problem with Republicans and Democrats and here’s why. Years ago, we had the same objective, which was to make America great and to give people an opportunity to succeed.”
Today, Holtz said, the two parties have different objectives.
He highlighted the fact President Trump was genuinely concerned with making the country great. And, while people may not have liked Trump’s tweets, Holtz said those tweets never changed anything in someone’s life. But Trump’s policies certainly did.
“We lose sight of things,” he said. “He was committed to making this country great and giving you the opportunity to achieve greatness as well.”
People cannot be given respect, they must earn it, Holtz added. And that happens with the opportunity to achieve greatness. It also helps grow self-confidence.
“When you keep telling people they’re being hindered or they have no belief in themselves, I don’t care how much you give somebody, it isn’t going to make them a damn bit better in the long run,” Holtz said.
Finally, Holtz said the GOP has to convince people it genuinely cares about everyone in the country.
“Make sure people would miss you if you didn’t show up,” he said. “If you didn’t go home, who would miss you and why? If you didn’t go to work, who would miss you and why? If your company would cease to exist, who would miss you and why? The only people we miss are those that add value to other people’s lives.”