From the sky bridge at OHSU, in a neighborhood where the median annual income is $42,000 and poverty is less than 15%—you can see neighborhoods six miles away with incomes half the size and the poverty rate twice as big. Between the sky bridge and those neighborhoods, poverty and its associated health disparities increase by […]
The State of Oregon has done a good job conveying the importance of wearing masks and following social distancing measures, but official government communications alone may not be enough. Trust in government is at an all-time low, especially within minority communities, which have been disproportionally impacted by COVID. This problem has been exacerbated by the unfortunate politicization of public health during the recent national election cycle and the resistance in parts of our society to being “told what to do” by government. There are other, perhaps more effective, messengers that have not yet been fully mobilized—the trusted local leaders living in every community across our state, whose voices may carry more weight than directives from the state.
On this consequential election day, and at a perilous moment for our state and our nation, I want to share some thoughts on where we go from here. Early last Spring, in a letter I sent to several large Oregon foundations, I expressed concern about the health and integrity of our communities—a concern that economic stress, social isolation and prolonged uncertainty could tear apart the fabric of our society, and erode any sense of shared purpose.
The fatal shooting last weekend of a protestor in downtown Portland should give all of us pause, regardless of which side of the “political divide” we find ourselves. What we are witnessing here in Oregon is the ultimate test of the great American experiment, launched almost two and a half centuries ago. The central question is whether it is possible to establish a government “ruled not by accident and force, but by reason and choice.” How we choose to proceed in Oregon will, at least in part, answer that question. And the nation is watching.
The Black Lives Matter movement has provided courageous leadership forcing all of us to confront the ugly specter of social injustice. We have an obligation to express our gratitude, to support that leadership, and to act. In that spirit, I offer these heartfelt thoughts, motivated by a concern that the crucial narrative at the heart of the movement is at risk of being hijacked for political gain.
As the protests in Portland continue, as crowds grow larger and violent confrontations more pronounced, some community members are asking whether the current process is advancing or hindering the goals of justice and equality that sparked the protests in the first place.
Consider three converging factors colliding on the streets of Portland: peaceful protests, a divisive president, and the deployment of federal agents in our city.
In the early hours of June 6, 1968— 52 years ago today— Robert Kennedy died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, felled by an assassin’s bullet, which ended an 84-day campaign that took place against the backdrop of a nation torn asunder by race and riots. I was 21 years old in 1968 and the protests sweeping our nation today remind me of how far we have come… and how little progress we have made in terms of social justice and equal opportunity. The social conditions of race and income inequality that Kennedy sought to address are as acute today as they were a half-century ago—indeed, today’s disparity between rich and poor is far greater.
Not since WW II has this nation been so united against a common threat—the coronavirus—that has exposed the deep inequities, disparities and divisions within our society. These problems have been with us for decades, churning just below the surface, out of sight but always present; masked by a debt-financed economy that has allowed us to avoid mustering the political will and community solidarity necessary to address them. Today we are presented with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to capture this sense of unity; to ensure that it does not simply fade away once the crisis diminishes; but can be harnessed and carried forward as the foundation for building more equity and resiliency into our future.
As we all struggle to adapt to social distancing, I came across this opinion piece by E.J Montini, published in the Arizona Republic. It offers a thoughtful perspective on our new normal through the words of Edward Abbey. Old Ed is one of my favorite Western writers and he provided ample fodder for many of my speeches over the years: “Growth for growth sake is the ideology of the cancer cell.” “One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain’t nothin’ can beat teamwork.” “Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while, then a layer of scum floats to the top.” I hope you enjoy it.
On this 75th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, turning the tide of WWII in Europe and marking the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany, I want to take just a moment to remember my father and the others of his generation who sacrificed so much for so many.
We have a choice—a choice about what we want our state to be, about who we want to be, as Oregonians and as fellow human beings. It is a choice to put understanding before reaction; to put collaboration before conflict; to put reconciliation before recrimination. Reconciliation begins with each of us; it begins in the heart of each individual, fueled by a desire and choice to make our community better; to repair the fabric of our society and of this place we call Oregon.