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Gable says Medal of Freedom, 'Good for Waterloo, good for the state'

WASHINGTON – Dan Gable was at a granddaughter’s cross country meet Tuesday when his phone rang.

Gable let the call go to voicemail.

When he checked it later, it turned out the White House was trying to reach him.

The White House officially reached him around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night. Around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, President Donald Trump called to officially inform the Waterloo native and Iowa wrestling icon that Trump would award Gable the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor the United States bestows.

A copy the letter Dan Gable received from President Donald Trump announcing he was awarding the Waterloo native the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

“I’m excited,” Gable said. “It’s good for Waterloo. It’s good for the museum. It’s good for the state. It is motivation for me to keep doing what I’m doing for the sport I love, wrestling.”

Gable said he and Trump spoke for roughly 15 minutes in a phone conversation that included U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa. Jordan, himself a former college wrestling coach, was one of the key figures behind the letter to the president in August requesting Gable receive the honor, saying he “defined greatness as an athlete and a coach.”

“He laughed a lot,” Gable said of the president. “His son, Donald Trump Jr., was a wrestler and has a passion for wrestling.”

Gable was aware he had been nominated for the award, but didn’t give it much thought until he received a letter from the president Tuesday in addition to the phone calls.

“I’m not a guy who showed a lot of outward emotion. I might have given a little jump when I won the gold medal, but there is a lot of internal emotion with this award,” Gable said. “Somebody said wouldn’t it have been great if his parents (Mack and Katie) and his sister (Diane) were still alive to see him receive the award. And I told them they are here and that they know.”

Gable is unsure when he will receive the award as the White House wants his family to share in the moment. Gable and his wife, Kathy, have four daughters — Jenni Mitchell (Brian), Annie Gavin (Mike), Molly Olszta (Danny) and Mackenzie McCord (Justin) and 13 grandchildren.

Gable planned to attend Trump’s Rally in Des Moines on Wednesday.

Gable, 71, is a beloved figure in Iowa. After racking up two NCAA national championships at Iowa State University, Gable went on to win the 1971 Pan American Games, two world championships and the gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

Following the string of victories, Gable joined the coaching staff at the University of Iowa, where he posted a record 355 wins — including 15 national team titles — from 1976 to 1997. He served as the head Olympic coach for U.S. wrestlers at the 1980, 1984 and 2000 competitions, leading his athletes to seven gold medals.

Raised in Waterloo and now living in Iowa City, Gable has authored multiple books drawing on his wrestling expertise as well as his personal life story, which was shaped by the murder of his sister as a teenager.

Gable is the first wrestler to receive the honor. Other coaches and athletes of prominence who earned the award include Jesse Owens, Babe Ruth, Paul “Bear” Bryant, Pat Summit and John Wooden.

“Gable has left me a lifetime philosophy that I do not deviate from,” Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands said in a statement released by the school. “My brother and I are keen on the lessons we learned from him. That will never change. This award is awesome because it puts Dan Gable in context and brings him back front and center.

“Gable was a winner. He did not lose. He won nine straight national championships, as many as John Wooden. The stratosphere that those two guys co-exist in is unheard of, and I am reminded every day when I see his statue. Those memories are strong with me. The bedrock of Hawkeye wrestling will always be Dan Gable, and especially when Tom and Terry Brands are running the program, because we cut our teeth right here.”

Iowa’s U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst also offered congratulations.

“Dan Gable demonstrates that through hard work and determination you can accomplish great things. While he’s famous for winning awards both as a wrestler and as a wrestling coach, he’s also well-known and respected for his focus on family and giving back to his community and state. Congratulations on receiving this prestigious and well-deserved award,” Grassley said.

“Dan Gable is an iconic wrestler from my alma mater, Iowa State, a successful Hawkeye wrestling coach, and a USA Wrestling, National Wresting, and U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame inductee. For all of this, and much more, Mr. Gable is so deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Congratulations to Dan on receiving the highest honor for any civilian; keep making Iowa proud!” Ernst said.

Collection of Dan Gable photos


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Trump in Iowa touts ethanol, farm policy

DES MOINES — Campaigning in Iowa on Wednesday night, President Donald Trump touted his administration’s work to boost the ethanol industry and help farmers in Iowa.

Trump’s administration this year issued a rule that allows gas stations to sell a higher ethanol blend year-round.

“They were killing ethanol,” Trump said. “I made it year-round, 15%, and it’s great stuff.”

But when he said “they were killing ethanol,” he could have to be referring to his own administration.

The ethanol industry in Iowa had been pinched in large part because Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency was granting waivers that allowed large oil companies to skirt the federal ethanol mandate.

Trump’s rally at the Des Moines airport was the first Iowa campaign event of 2020 to feature either presidential candidate.

Democrat and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in Iowa regularly during the run-up to the caucuses, but has not returned since earning his party’s nomination; Trump made a visit to Iowa in August to view derecho damage, but did not campaign here before Wednesday.

Trump won Iowa by nearly 10 percentage points in 2016 — not the 11 points he said during Wednesday’s remarks — but polls on this year’s race in Iowa have consistently showed him neck-and-neck with Biden.

Nationally, Biden leads Trump in polling in many of the battleground states that will help determine the election’s outcome.

“You’re a very powerful state, politically. … You have tremendous influence and tremendous power. You’ve never let me down,” said Trump, who addressed the crowd of thousands for roughly 90 minutes. “We have more enthusiasm now than we ever did four years ago, and we have great polling numbers, although you’ll see fake polling numbers.”

Trump made a direct appeal to the state’s farmers, saying he was responsible for $28 billion in aid designed to help offset damage stemming from his trade war with China. “I hope you remember that on Nov. 3,” Trump said.

Trump recalled farmers telling him in a White House meeting that they do not want government subsidies, only fair trade opportunities.

“I never heard that,” Trump said. “Most people, they don’t care. Call it subsidies, call it cash, they say ‘Give me the money.’ … The farmers are unbelievable. They’re the heart of this nation.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds and former Gov. Terry Branstad, who Reynolds succeeded after Branstad was tapped by Trump to serve as U.S. ambassador to China, spoke at the event, heaping praise on Trump.

“If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that leadership matters,” Reynolds said. “It’s why it is critical that we re-elect Donald Trump for four more years.”

Trump acknowledged her warm remarks. “Thank you, honey,” he said.

Trump’s visit came as COVID-19 hospitalizations are at the highest point of the pandemic in Iowa, with deaths increasing as well. On Wednesday, the state reported 473 hospitalizations, up from 463 on Tuesday. The rally was held outdoors. No social distancing measures were in place, and face masks were sparse.

Trump was hospitalized with COVID-19 nearly two weeks ago. His physician has since declared Trump has tested negative for the virus and is no longer at risk of infecting others.

“Iowa has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, with cases surpassing 100,000 this week and COVID-19 hospitalizations hitting a new high. But President Trump isn’t coming to the Hawkeye State to offer words of comfort to those suffering, or a helping hand to the Iowans who are out of a job, or an actual plan to get the virus under control. Instead, he’s here to spread more lies about the pandemic and distract from his record of failure,” Biden said in a statement issued by his campaign.

“That’s not good enough. Iowans whose lives have been thrown into chaos need real leadership — not more division,” Biden added. “I’ve seen our country through dark times before, helping rescue an economy in crisis. And I’ve fought for the health care protections this administration is battling in the U.S. Supreme Court to undo. We’re better than this moment under President Trump — and as president, I will bring this country together so that we can build back better.”

Trump spent most of his early remarks referring to a New York Post story published Wednesday that made allegations about Biden’s son, Hunter. As of Wednesday evening, neither the Associated Press, Washington Post nor New York Times had confirmed the story.

Late in the rally, Trump told the crowd of his plan to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dan Gable, an Iowa wrestling legend as an athlete and coach. Trump recognized Gable, who in turn praised the president.

“This guy’s already a one-time champion,” Gable said of Trump. “But because he’s open for learning, and he’s already very competent, he’s going to be a multi-champion president of the United States of America.”

Early voting in Iowa is already under way. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Also Wednesday, Iowa’s highest court upheld a state directive that was used to invalidate tens of thousands of absentee ballot requests mailed to voters pre-filled with their personal information.

The Iowa Supreme Court issued its ruling in favor of President Donald Trump’s campaign and Republican groups. It court rejected a Democratic challenge that argued the directive issued by Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate was unconstitutional.

Pate instructed county elections commissioners in July that all absentee ballot request forms they mailed to voters must be blank in order to ensure uniformity statewide.

Auditors in three counties defied Pate’s guidance and mailed forms to thousands of voters with their names, addresses, dates of birth and voter pin numbers already filled in. Voters just had to review, sign and return the forms, which the three auditors said were intended to make voting by mail as easy as possible during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Trump campaign and GOP groups filed lawsuits to invalidate those forms, saying auditors overstepped their authority. On Wednesday, the court agreed.

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WATCH NOW: Waterloo school board hears virtual education concerns from parents



WATERLOO — Sending his son to kindergarten during a pandemic worried Dustin Lies.

Enrolling him in Waterloo Community Schools’ online virtual education program seemed like the best answer.

“When this option was announced, I was relieved and thankful about my son’s safety,” he told the Board of Education in a letter read at its meeting this week. “But I envisioned a quasi-classroom setting conducted virtually, suggested activities, virtual reading time, and even just time for kids to see each other and interact virtually.”

He has been disappointed with the reality of his son’s online learning.

“The overarching issue I have is that currently it feels as though virtual students are second-class citizens in a way,” said Lies. “How disheartening it is when that virtual learning consists almost entirely of working through a less-than-user-friendly system and watching videos.”

Lies was one of five parents who voiced concerns Monday during the board’s public comment period about their children’s experiences with online education. All submitted letters or emails that were read by board secretary Pam Arndorfer.

Superintendent Jane Lindaman said she was familiar with the parents’ concerns and had talked to most of them prior to the meeting.

“We are definitely evaluating what’s going on right now,” she noted. Parents of online learners were invited to participate in a survey last week. As of Monday, about 335 people had responded.

Respondents were “actually quite significantly positive” about the program, said Lindaman. “Not quite, but approaching 80% of parents were satisfied with the virtual learning experience, which I think is pretty amazing given the scenario.”

Still, with “a little over 20% of parents who are not satisfied with the virtual instruction,” she said improvements are underway. “We have a team of individuals that is working very hard on this.”

There have been many staffing issues around offering in-person and online instruction as “hundreds and hundreds” of students have moved between the options. Staffing was a concern for the parents.

“There is next-to-no actual instruction provided for virtual students,” said Lies, leaving he and his wife to come up with lessons and activities. “There should be virtual-only teachers with no in-person responsibilities at the same ratio that there are in-person teachers to students. These teachers should be available, if not daily, then multiple times per week to do guided instruction, reading, even just allowing kids to socialize.”


Virtual teachers, who don’t work with in-person students in Waterloo Schools, are assigned 80-120 children and required to contact them through video every two weeks. Parents and students, who work at their own pace through online lessons, can contact teachers at any time.

Mary Wilber called the virtual teacher for her grandchildren — in kindergarten and second grade — “wonderful, especially given the impossible situation.”

“She has 93 students,” said Wilber. “She only meets with her students once every two weeks for 15 minutes. Imagine being a 5-year-old and only seeing a live person every two weeks.”

“Communication is lacking. Teachers are overwhelmed,” said Kit Ming Vierra, who has first- and fourth-grade children in the virtual program. “Basically, the parents are the ones monitoring the student’s performance.”

Matt Gibbon, who has a second-grader in the program, suggested delegating duties to others so virtual teachers can gather with students online for events like book readings. “There must be some way for us to think outside of the box to increase interaction with others for the virtual learning students.”

Lindaman expects there to be more opportunities for student-teacher interaction, with livestream events prerecorded for students who aren’t available at a specific time. “We’re definitely working on that to get more connections,” she said.

The parents also talked about various concerns with the online curriculum, created by the company Edgenuity. Among those were students being tested on concepts not taught in the lessons, not enough practice before testing, poorly planned lessons that sometimes repeat and other glitches with the system.

Testing on concepts not taught was a red flag for board member Lyle Schmitt.

“Why would you put out a product like that?” he asked, adding that the company should be fixing those problems when alerted. “If they’re not working in real time, we need to work with someone else or we need to do it ourselves.”

Parent Leanne Klinkenberg voiced concerns “about the mismanagement, lack of transparency and inconsistencies across grade levels and minimal guidance provided by the district” related to the curriculum requirements, particularly at the high school level. She said “we were more than two weeks into the year” before it became clear students needed to complete seven credits for the semester even though four classes were initially loaded into their accounts.

She also took issue with “the district’s well-publicized attitude that in-person learning is the best educational model, so that’s where the district’s prioritizing its resources.”

Lindaman said officials stand behind the assessment since it is “probably what’s best for most — not all” and in-person classes were what schools were prepared to do. She noted implementation of initiatives takes at least two years and often three to five years or longer.

“We weren’t ready to scale up for this virtual (learning) and we did the best we can,” said Lindaman.

Collection of Dan Gable photos

Collection of Dan Gable photos