Dinans invited to White House

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Dick Dinan and Betty Lord-Dinan, of Elkader, stand in the Presidential Garden at the White House, after attending the Inflation Reduction Act celebration event on Sept. 13. (Submitted photo)

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

 

It’s not every day someone receives an invitation from the president to attend an event at the White House, but such a thing recently happened when Elkader’s Dick Dinan and Betty Lord-Dinan were invited, along with about 6,000 other people, to celebrate the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.  

 

The invitation, which came as a surprise to the Dinans, actually isn’t when one considers the family has been familiar to the Bidens since the 1980s. While Dick joked they aren’t inviting each other over for dinner, his mother, Iva Nelle, served as Joe Biden’s campaign manager in Clayton County during his presidential run in 1988, and the two often talked about their shared Irish heritage.  Biden never missed an opportunity to chat up Iva Nelle when he was passing through the area. Biden makes a similar effort with Dick and Betty, most recently during his visit to Johnson’s in the run up to the 2020 election. 

 

The Dinans also talked directly to Biden during the early months of the Iraq War in 2003, when Biden was chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, on issues of soldier mental health and protection gear. 

 

The invitation underscores the Dinans’ belief that Biden “listens” and “remembers” the people he talks to. 

 

But still, even with the familiarity, when Betty opened the email invitation, her first thought was “is this legit?” After calling the number included in the email, she confirmed it was. Immediately, she thought, “we were remembered.” 

 

From there, Betty excitedly called family and friends and booked flights and hotel rooms for the stay, which included a day of celebration in the Presidential Garden at the White House. 

 

During the visit to Washington, D.C., the Dinans were impressed by the friendliness at the event. Despite sitting in the sun for several hours, the wonderful people they met made the sunburn worth it. 

 

So did sitting in the sixth row, a short distance from the podium, where they heard speeches from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Vice President Kamala Harris. The highlight, of course, was President Joe Biden, who brought out a familiar phrase to highlight the occasion. Referencing a gaffe he made in 2010, Biden said, “this is a big f-ing deal,” which according to the Dinans, elicited loud applause from the crowd. 

 

What struck the Dinans was how Biden emphasized the passage of the act was not something he did, but something “the people did.” It made them feel like “two little nobodies can make a difference,” Dick said.

 

Unfortunately, due to the high security risk nature of the event, the Dinans were unable to visit with Biden. So they did the next best thing, visiting tourist sites like the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the World War I memorial and Department of Commerce. They also attended church services at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church. 

 

The trip served as inspiration for Betty, who said it showed her “what to do and gave her the strength to do it.”

 

“I’m supposed to do exactly what I’ve been doing. To try to help. To try to educate. To share what I’ve learned in my life that hopefully will help others and ultimately help our community…whatever I can do,” she said. “This trip gave me a bigger picture of what I think I’m supposed to be doing.” 

 

Of course, Betty, who was a lobbyist for Iowa nurses from 2007 to 2011 and won the 2017 Iowa Nurses Association Hall of Fame Award, has been active in politics and an ardent advocate for mental health and health care even before this trip. She’s seen the impact on families through her work with the elderly and with patients with Alzheimer’s at local hospitals. 

 

One thing both Betty and Dick want to do, other than tirelessly campaign for Democratic candidates, is get more young people involved because there is “power in numbers.” 

 

Throughout their lives, the couple has always believed in helping, which is why they’ve both worked as election officials. If you’ve seen any political lawn signs around the community, chances are Dick is responsible for putting them up. 

 

To suggest they’re passionate about politics is an understatement, but it’s never for personal gain. Even the visit wasn’t them, though they “were thankful to be remembered.” The Dinans also highlighted the “friendliness and kindness” they witnessed throughout the event. And the invitation itself suggested you don’t need to be a big donor to make a difference. You just have to get involved.

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