Media Room


Governor Kate Brown
Jack & Jill Remarks
January 25, 2020

Hello everyone, I am just delighted to be here today, and thank the Portland and Willamette Valley chapter of Jack & Jill organization for inviting me to speak with you today.

My goal as your governor is to build a better Oregon, for everyone.

And Oregon has had some incredible change-makers. I want to take a moment to mention three that have influenced me: Senator Margaret Carter, Rep. Avel Gordly, and Senator Jackie Winters.

From Senator Carter, the first African American woman to serve in the Oregon Legislature, I learned that its critically important that our elected leadership reflect the diversity of our communities. 

When I chaired the Senate Rules committee, she pushed me, and I pushed the then-Governor to diversify our boards and commissions. One example of our recent work is the Port of Portland, now chaired by an African American woman. And for the first time ever, a majority of women on the commission -- definitely the most diverse commission ever.

But our work doesn’t stop there. When I became a lawyer in 1985, there was one woman on the Oregon supreme court.

We now have a majority woman court, with the first woman chief justice ever in Oregon’s history. And of course, our first African American appellate court judge, Adrienne Nelson.

Still, we have more work to do...representation matters, but in the longer battle to change hearts and minds, we must make Oregon a sanctuary to call home. 

That’s something Senator Avel Gordly seared into my brain. When we were fighting for protections for farmworkers she said, “No person is illegal.” And those words have stuck with me as I continue to fight the Trump Administration's horrific immigration policies with executive orders, letters and tweets. 

And those words inspired me to declare Oregon a sanctuary state, welcoming to all who call this place home. We have also supported funding for legal services for immigrants on a path to citizenship.

But it was Avel who taught me the importance of early childhood education as a way to close the opportunity gap before it has a chance to take root.

And why I fought to create and fund a system of early childhood education focused on meeting the needs of our most vulnerable and underserved communities.  

And, finally, it is through Senator Jackie Winters' leadership that I am reminded that we all deserve a second chance.

She fought hard to pass the first modifications to BM11 affecting youth, and that’s why I was so proud to sign it and continue her legacy through our work reviewing requests for clemency and pardons. 

Even though Winters is no longer with us, we must continue the fight toward an equitable justice system for all. And with your support and your love we will continue to build in Oregon a beloved community. A place where everyone can thrive.

Before I hand the mic over to Rep. Bynum, I want to take a moment to reflect on the theme: bloom where you’re planted. 

There’s this saying that I’m particularly fond of sometimes when you feel buried, you’re actually just planted.

Moving to a new place can be tough, even with a new job that’s totally kick-ass. Especially when that state has a reputation for being one of the whitest states in the nation. 

I won’t deny that Oregon has a long history of discrimination and racial inequality.

You all may be relatively unfamiliar with me: I moved here to go to law school, with the idea that I would pursue a career in social justice advocacy. 

I do not know what it is like to walk through the work with brown skin. But I know what it’s like to be afraid of losing my job if someone discovered that my partner at the time was a woman. 

I know what it’s like to have the white, male lawyer in the office next to mine treated differently and paid more, even though I was doing a better job.

I have felt buried: like I was not good enough, that no one understood my struggles, that I was alone.

But finding communities of strength and shared experiences made all the difference in the world.

Which is why the work that the Jack & Jill organization does is so important. It brings families together to form a community of like minds to provide social, cultural and educational opportunities for youth in our community.

It is my priority to ensure that Oregon is an environment where all children, especially black children, can thrive in their education, protected from the harms of violence, racism, and economic inequality. 

We need diverse talent here in Oregon, and we are excited about you! 

We have places in the state for your contributions, specifically for some of the statewide boards and commissions. I have staff here so please, please, please reach out if you’re interested. 

But the important thing is that you are not buried here. And this state is the place for you to bloom.

Thank you.