Media Room

REMARKS AS PREPARED

Governor Kate Brown
June 9, 2018

Congratulations, Class of 2018! I am so honored to be with you this evening.
 
Thank you so much to Lisa Allen for that wonderful and generous introduction.
 
Tonight, I’d like to share with you a story about an American family – my family.
 
My grandmother Lois, my dad’s mom, was a nurse; my grandfather was a doctor. He was brilliant, but he struggled with drug addiction most of his life.
 
They separated, living apart for many years, leaving my grandmother to raise their four young sons alone.
 
Living on a nurse’s wages, it was terribly difficult for her; a constant and exhausting struggle to make ends meet.
 
But, she never stopped thinking about her sons’ future. Those four little boys kept her going. Mostly by her own example, she instilled in them the importance of self-reliance and hard work.
 
She taught them that the key to a better life was education, education, education.
 
All four boys finished high school, went on to college, and served in the military. Three became doctors; one became an engineer.
 
One of those doctors was my dad. And because my dad worked really hard, my childhood was different than his. I grew up in a solid, safe, middle-class neighborhood. I never worried about whether I would have enough to eat, or if the heat would be turned off during the sub-zero Minnesota winters. I knew from an early age I was going to college, and that my parents would support me.
 
In short, I was raised to believe that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to.
 
All because 85 years ago, my Grams put her family on a path out of poverty.
 
My family’s story is not so different than many of yours. And I know that there are a lot of incredibly hardworking parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles here tonight, cheering you on. Let’s give them a hand.

They are proud that you have made it this far. So am I.

And you have—you’ve made it.

Tonight is a moment to celebrate the hard work that brought you to this point.

And after you walk across this stage, it’s a moment to reflect on your next step.

Because graduation is not a finish line.

It’s a launch pad.

Taking on something big — starting something new — at the end of a long and tiring journey is the epitome of the Oregon Way.

A historian once described the Oregon Trail as a “defining ordeal” that winnowed out those who did not have sufficient courage, creativity and common sense. Of the half a million people who took the Oregon Trail, more than 10 percent didn’t make it.

And that defining ordeal has shaped Oregon ever since. The spirit of those original settlers is imprinted onto the DNA of our state. It lives on in the independence and resolve that you bring with you today.

And while Oregon has long been settled, it is still the land of dreams for many.

One of our graduates today is a Dreamer, who I will call “Maria.”

Maria came to the United States from Mexico when she was only two years old.

Her parents knew that education was the key to set the family on a path towards prosperity.

Like the mavericks on the Oregon Trail, Maria’s parents have risked much to create a better life for her.

And Maria is on her way.

She has courageously navigated the difficult terrain of a life with two identities.

A good education has been a compass on that journey. She remembers helping classmates with their English, and how that brought her so much joy.

As an intern at the local library, she helped a patron look for a federal document in Spanish. When she couldn’t find a Spanish translation, she came up with a creative solution. She simply translated it for them. That moment became her north star: she wants to help others.

Like her teachers at Hilhi have helped her.

When Maria couldn’t apply for federally-based scholarships, they helped her find other opportunities. They mentored her throughout her college application process.

And while we continue to fight for a permanent legal solution for our Dreamers, Maria will continue to forge her way forward, paving a path for those who might follow her.

This fall, she plans to major in Education at Western Oregon University to become a bilingual teacher.

It’s a very Oregon story.

In Oregon, we’re mavericks. We’re one of the first states in the nation to give women the right to vote.

We’re the first state in the nation to make registering to vote automatic when you get a driver’s license.

We’re the first state in the nation to bring an end to coal generated electricity.
 
We are also stubbornly persistent. We won’t pump our own gas. We don’t use umbrellas.
 
That persistence is the common denominator in each of you in the Class of 2018. Because each of you have taken different paths to reach this stage.

You never gave up. You never gave in.

You will set out on different paths the moment you leave here today.
 
And that is what makes our state such a rich and interesting place to live.

We need all different skills and talents. Just like those mavericks on the Oregon Trail, coming together to make the Oregon we know and love.
 
Now, it’s your turn to come together to make the Oregon of our future.
 
Earlier this year, I launched Future Ready Oregon, a skill and job training initiative. I want to close the gap between the skills Oregon workers have and the skills our growing businesses need.

What closes the gap are hands-on learning opportunities, like the ones you have had here at Hilhi. Every student in Oregon deserves these experiences. I am so pleased that you cross this stage tonight with marketable, in-demand skills — and hopefully, a plan to use them. 

For the past couple of decades, you have watched everyone in this audience work hard to make a better life for you and for your families. Our job as parents and educators has been to make you Future Ready.
 
Guess what, students? The ball is now in your court. We want to see what you do with it. 

Today is the day to celebrate your incredible accomplishments so far, but don’t stop here. Make your mark.
 
Just like my Grams paved a path for me, and Maria’s parents did for her, you have the chance to set your future in the direction of your dreams. To define success for yourself, and to model it for everyone who follows you.

Looking out at your faces, at the hope — and in some cases, relief — I see, it reminds me of Oregon’s motto, “She flies with her own wings.”

Class of 2018, you stand on the edge of the nest, wings outstretched, sun on your face. The winds are in your favor. You are strong. You are ready to leap into the blue.

So, fly. Soar. Be the brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous person you were meant to be.

Congratulations. I am so proud of each and every one of you.

Thank you.