Every time I walk past the bronze statue of John McLoughlin in the U.S. Capitol, I’m reminded of the adventurous spirit and welcoming nature of Oregonians. McLoughlin, the “Father of Oregon,” recognized the special character of Oregon Country and reached out to American settlers heading west to seek a new life in a land rich with resources and opportunity. McLoughlin’s general store in Oregon City was the last stop for families ending a long and treacherous journey on the Oregon Trail.
It has been 150 years since Oregon was admitted as the 33rd of the 50 states and during that period our state has grown from an unsettled territory to a thriving state home to millions of working families. On February 14th of this year, we will begin a year-long celebration honoring those who invested their lives in making Oregon a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
Oregon is fortunate to have benefitted from a long line of leaders who combined common sense with a passion for public service. I had the good fortune as a young man to intern in Senator Mark Hatfield’s office. To me, Senator Hatfield embodied the best of Oregon: he cared deeply about the people he represented and he put deep thought into each policy decision he made. As governor, Hatfield was able to bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans and work towards real progress for Oregon.
Oregon is one of the most geographically diverse states in the United States, with natural wonders from the Idaho border to the Pacific Ocean. In Eastern Oregon, the Painted Hills are a sight to see, while the Sea Lion Caves on the Oregon Coast are the largest of their kind in the world. Southern Oregon is home to Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the nation, while Northern Oregon is home to the largest urban forest reserve in the United States.
Oregon’s culture is one of protecting and preserving our breathtaking natural resources. The tradition of leaders who have served as custodians of our natural areas and champions of responsible interaction with our ecosystems didn’t start when our state joined the union in 1859. I’m proud to live in a state with such a rich legacy of Native American cultures. Those whose ancestors lived on this land long before it was part of the United States have contributed greatly to Oregon’s identity, making major contributions to art, music, and conservation in our state.
Our state continued to lead the way in conservation by passing the landmark bottle bill and we are proud to preserve our historic old growth forests. I love traveling throughout Oregon with my wife and two children and showing them the same natural sites that I enjoyed as a child growing up in Douglas County.
I’m proud to be an Oregonian. In the Beaver State, we are blessed to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful natural areas in the U.S. We have a rich legacy of Native American cultures. We have a strong history of conservation and environmentalism. And we are home to some of the kindest and hardest working people in this country.
I encourage my fellow Oregonians to commemorate Oregon’s 150th birthday by taking part in local celebrations of our culture and history and volunteering some of your time to a service project in your community. Together, we can make Oregon’s next 150 years even more memorable.