When we went in the forest, there were 12. When we got to Thailand, there were 6.*
Governor Bob Ray, who passed away earlier this week, looked at an awful situation and wanted to help. Because he stood up, people found safety here. The same people gave back, worked hard, raised their kids here, and became citizens. And they remember him, whether they came with the first wave of refugees or learned about him as I did, later on. Tai Dam, Hmong, Vietnamese, Lao, Cambodian, Bosnian, Burmese, Nuer, Burundian, Ethiopian, Somali and more.
His commitment to refugees is most likely why I ended up in Iowa so long ago working with refugee and immigrant families. We aren’t a perfect country, even on the best days, but this was one thing we did right. Governor Ray could see the positive possibilities, a future where everyone would benefit and thrive.
Thanks, Governor Ray. Well done.
*My memory is not perfect, but this is the gist of a conversation I had with a student when I first moved to Iowa. She and her family fled the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. I often think of it when I’m talking to people about refugees, because it is such a clear and simple reminder of what all of the big-picture discussions about political disruption boil down to.
For more about Governor Ray’s legacy, watch this: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/videos/news/2018/07/08/bob-ray-saved-lives-welcoming-refugees-iowa-and-diversifying-state/766568002/