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Remarks to American Legion Boys and Girls State (061713)

​(as prepared)

Good morning and welcome to Salem. I am glad to see students from every corner of Oregon convened here in the capital city for Boys and Girls State.

First, I’d like to thank the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary for organizing this week. Beyond its significant work for our veterans and their families, the Legion has been a dedicated supporter of Boys and Girls State since founding the program in 1937.

This week’s event and your attendance and commitment is a reassuring sign that civic engagement is alive and well in our state.

Tocqueville could have been talking about Oregon today when he said the United States is the "one country in the world which, day in, day out, makes use of an unlimited freedom of political association.”

As we head toward Sine Die of the 77th Legislature, we can be proud of citizen legislators from across the state, who are working with engaged citizens and associations to govern in an open committee process.

More than at any other time in Oregon history, this Legislative Assembly lives up to the ideal of being representative of all Oregonians. That’s not a guarantee of perfection, and it certainly is not a guarantee of agreement, but it does ensure a debate more inclusive of the diverse voices and needs of communities across the state.

When I was Senate President, I often drew inspiration from John F. Kennedy, who said, “Where nature makes natural allies of us all, we can demonstrate that beneficial relations are possible even with those with whom we most deeply disagree.”

Over the past two years, the Oregon Legislature has shown that it’s not only possible to disagree agreeably, it’s also possible to move beyond what divides us and build instead on what unites us: a shared vision of a strong middle class, equal opportunity for every Oregonian in every community in the state, good schools and good jobs and a government that is fiscally disciplined and efficient.

With this common vision, we have made much progress on behalf of Oregonians. Two years ago, we erased one of the largest per capita budget deficits in the nation with civility, not rancor; with bipartisanship, not gridlock.

We passed major reforms in education and health care – and key investments to spur economic innovation – to help accelerate Oregon’s recovery and restore our shared prosperity. Last year, during the Legislature’s first-ever even-year annual session, we moved those reforms forward, maintaining our commitment to the ambitious goals we had set.

This legislative session, members from both parties and from both chambers have come together, not shying away from hard decisions necessary to sustain Oregon for the long term.

We’ve dealt with some controversial issues, and I’ve been pleased to see Oregonians of all ages coming forward to testify on bills and offer their unique perspectives on issues important to the state – and important to their own future.

It hasn’t always been easy, but even as the Legislature and I grapple with significant and complex issues like the state budget, Oregon is still recognized for our ability to work together and get things done on behalf of Oregonians.

With robust debate, and even with differences of opinion, we are guided by a shared intent to ensure that economic revitalization and an enduring prosperity reaches all Oregonians, in every corner of the state.

The next few weeks in Salem will no doubt be busy and interesting. As we work toward completing the Legislative session, I’ll be thinking about something I’ve often said: Oregon will not be a great place for any of us to live until it is a great place for all of us to live.

I built my 2013 legislative agenda on the simple premise that all Oregonians deserve their shot at the American dream. It’s a commitment to equity and opportunity for all, secure jobs with upward income mobility, and safe, secure communities where people have a sense of common purpose and commitment to one another.

And if, as I believe, it is the promise of equal opportunity that lies at the heart of the American Dream – the promise that if you work hard you can build a better life for yourself and your family; the promise that each subsequent generation will be better off than the last one – then public education is the vehicle through which the American Dream is most directly fulfilled today.

Our approach to education is guided by an ambitious goal that we call 40-40-20. It represents the goal that by the year 2025, 100 percent of our students will graduate high school, with 40 percent going on to a career/technical certificate and another 40 percent obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher.

To meet this goal will require investing more in public education, and it will require investing more wisely.

That’s why we’re focusing the state resources on the highest-leverage strategies to reach key outcomes: entering kindergarten ready for school, reading by third grade, support for the transition from high school to college, and helping students connect to jobs of the 21st century.

We have a lot to do before the end of session, but my top priority will be doing everything I can to maintain our momentum in building a seamless and meaningful education experience for Oregon students, from early childhood through college and the workplace.

I’m encouraged by your commitment to our state. Looking out into the audience, I have no doubt that Oregon will have future leaders who will collaborate, innovate, and inspire.

Part of that future leadership is ensuring we have a strong public education system for young people to learn, and I commend you for taking part in this valuable learning experience.

Thank you all for having me and I look forward to hearing about your efforts this week.

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