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    Vic Atiyeh Reflections on a Great Oregon Governor

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    July 30, 2014
    Representative Dennis Richardson

    Rep. Richardson's Newsletter

     July 29, 2014 

    Vic Atiyeh—Reflections on a
    Great Oregon Governor

    Rep Richardson & Vic AtiyehLast week, Oregon lost one of its greatest treasures, Governor Vic Atiyeh. Our most senior statesman always exemplified extraordinary grace, dignity, honesty, and integrity. He set the bar for all who have subsequently held public office in Oregon. I am grateful to have known him, and will carry the lessons learned from his legacy with me forever. 
    I last saw Governor Atiyeh on May 21st, when the Grand Ronde Tribal Council wrapped a Pendleton blanket around his shoulders to honor him for his lifelong commitment to Native Americans. His signature smile lit up the room as it always did – I am deeply saddened that it would be the last time I saw that smile.
    The reason for the honor was that while a member of the Senate in 1975, Atiyeh championed the Oregon Commission on Indian Services, an office that promotes government-to-government relationships between Oregon tribes and the state.
    He was no stranger to building relationships between governments. One in particular – like Atiyeh himself – has a special place in my heart.
    Gov Atiyeh China SigningWhile Governor in 1984, Atiyeh did something way ahead of his time. Recognizing the economic potential of trade with China, he signed the Oregon Fujian Sister-State Accords. This created a formal relationship between Oregon and Fujian, one of China’s largest coastal provinces. This sister-state relationship opened opportunities for local companies to have global trade opportunities.
    Since Governor Atiyeh left office in 1987, other Governors have come and gone, and none have been enthusiastic about prioritizing Oregon trade with China. I was elected to the Legislature in 2002 and found a tremendous opportunity to continue the international trade work he started 18 years earlier.
    With Governor Atiyeh’s counsel and assistance in 2004, I created the Oregon China Sister-State Relations Council, which is a non-governmental group focused on building relationships between our states. The association organizes yearly visits in which Oregon and Chinese government officials and business leaders travel to each other’s countries to promote trade, education and tourism.
    In the last ten years China has gone from being Oregon’s 15th largest export partner to number one. Today we export $4 billion of Oregon’s products there, which helps create and sustain good jobs for our fellow Oregonians. The result of Governor Atiyeh’s vision is deserving of one of his signature smiles. 
    We are blessed to have had a Governor whose commonsense approach to leadership build a vibrant economy out of the ashes of one of our state’s darkest economic days back in the 1980’s. 
    Vic Atiyeh wasn’t just a numbers guy. His kindness and compassion knew no bounds. He was truly a man of the people – one who kept office hours at the Capitol so anyone who wanted to speak with him could walk in and do so. It wasn’t for politics or for a photo op. He did it because he loved the people, and we loved him back. 
    Governor Atiyeh’s example will continue to touch many lives, as those he influenced carry his torch forward and pass it on to future generations of Oregonians. I will miss his empathy, compassion, common sense and candor. And of course, I’ll miss that signature smile. 
    Representative Dennis Richardson Signature
    Dennis Richardson
    State Representative

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