Monday, November 28, 2016

Vilsack: Journalists can help bridge rural-urban divide, help citizens understand government

Tom Vilsack at the 2013 National Rural Assembly
(Daily Yonder photo by Shawn Poynter)
Tom Vilsack, the unofficial voice of rural America in Washington, D.C., is nearing the end of his term as agriculture secretary. In an interview with Tim Marema of the Daily Yonder, Vilsack said journalists can help bridge the rural-urban gap and ease the mistrust people have of politicians that was evident in this year's election. He also said journalists continuing to push for open government is an important step in the right direction.

Vilsack told Marema, "I don’t think that we do a particularly good job, government-wide, in educating people about that partnership. I think people have a tendency to think that government is all about regulations and taxes, when in fact it is very much also about services, and assistance and help, that is making a big difference in rural areas."

"I think we also need to reach out to our friends and neighbors in cities and suburbs to make sure that they are fully aware of the role that rural Americans play in providing a quality of life second to none for those city and suburban dwellers."

Vilsack has put together a 24-page memo to assist his yet-to-be-named replacement, Marema reports. Vilsack said he hopes for continuation of the White House Rural Council, which he said has led to a significant number of jobs being created. Vilsack also has been instrumental in getting funds for opioid addiction in rural areas and promoting telemedicine and federal health reform in underserved regions.

Since the election, Vilsack has been outspoken about what Democrats need to do in rural America, but he declined to talk politics with the Yonder in what he said was an "official" call urging rural residents to sign up for coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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