Rayfield Highlights Session Priorities Including Education, Small Business Support, Housing and More
SALEM — Today, on the opening day of the 2022 legislative session, the Oregon House of Representatives elected Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) as Speaker of the House.
In his first remarks as Speaker of the House, Rayfield explained how a chaotic childhood made him the person he is today and outlined priorities for the 2022 session.
“Like the rest of the country, Oregonians have faced immense challenges over the past two years,” Rayfield said. “We can give them hope that stability, security and a better future are possible.
“We know our children learn best when they are in a safe school environment five days a week, so we will work to support our teachers and schools to make that happen. We will support the working families and small businesses that form the backbone of our economy. We will work to lower the cost of living by investing in key areas like housing and health care, and we will work to address the homelessness crisis in every community across the state. And we will prioritize the safety of our communities, while investing in mental and behavioral health services to help some of our most vulnerable neighbors.
Rayfield was officially named to the court by Rep. Wlnsvey Campos (D-Aloha).
“I know many of our colleagues can attest that he has spent time listening and learning about the priorities of the various communities we represent and has demonstrated that he is someone who values all voices. in this place and that he shows authenticity and integrity in this work,” said Campos.
The full transcript of Rayfield’s remarks is posted below and the video can be found here.
It is a tremendous honor to be elected as your next Speaker of the House and I am immensely grateful to have the opportunity to lead this House.
First of all, I want to thank the people who supported me and allowed me to do this work – my family, especially my wife, Amanda, and my son, Adam. Without you two and your patience, I could not do this work. And while I don’t say it enough, I want you to know how grateful I am to you. I love you both more than you will ever know.
When the going gets tough – and many of us have had more than our fair share of it lately – I rely on two main things: my family and my terrible sense of humor, for which I apologize in advance. .
We are at a critical point in our recovery from the pandemic. Over the next five weeks, we will have the opportunity to support the people and communities that have been most affected over the past two years. We may have different views on the best way to proceed.
Turns out I’ve had some experience navigating from different perspectives.
I grew up in a divided household. My parents divorced when I was 1 and it couldn’t have been more different. My father was a colonel in the Air Force Reserves, senior vice president of a commercial insurance company, and lived in Oregon. It is probably not surprising that he was active in Republican politics. In fact, the first political event I attended was in support of Vice President Dan Quayle. I attended in my scout uniform.
On the other end of the spectrum, my mother lived in Southern California and was very progressive. She volunteered at the Catholic Worker to feed the homeless and protested at Nevada nuclear test sites. She was also a proud feminist.
I spent my childhood going back and forth between these two houses. It gave me an early lesson in how two people can have similar goals but approach them from very different places. My mother protested against nuclear weapons to keep the world safe; my father supported them because he thought they were necessary to keep the world safe.
I believe we are all here because we want to do good for Oregon. And it’s important to me that we all give the measure of grace that comes with acknowledging that to one another.
As President, I want to understand what motivates each of us so that I can help us work together to serve the entire state of Oregon, when we agree and especially when we don’t. It takes time, patience, and honest communication in an environment that doesn’t always encourage these things. I will do my best to show these qualities in this role. And I’m sure you’ll let me know when I fail.
With that in mind, I want to share some of the reasons why this job is important to me.
I spoke a moment ago about how my family provides stability and is the center of my life. It was not my reality as a child.
Early in my life, my mother struggled with alcoholism, anger, and drug addiction. Some of my earliest memories involve seeing these struggles up close. I was that child. But I also saw with my own eyes his efforts to get sober, and learned from it. When I was in kindergarten, she joined Alcoholics Anonymous. To maintain her sobriety, she quit her job so she could attend meetings during the day and spent her free time cleaning local homes and businesses to pay the bills.
For me as a kid, that often meant sleeping on a hair salon couch while my mom cleaned up in the middle of the night. I was that child.
The chaos of my childhood followed me.
I was a terrible student. I struggled with ADD. I didn’t graduate from high school on time because I missed an entire term for not coming to class. Imagine what it means as a teenager for the police to rush into your neighborhood because of physical abuse from your step-parent. I was that child
So I drank and tried drugs when I should have been concentrating on school. During this deeply painful time in my life, I was arrested four times for things like a DUI, reckless endangerment, and criminal mischief. When I got to college, I did even worse. I left university after two terms with an average of 1.4.
What was my plan B? I didn’t have any. So, I did the one thing any of us would do in this situation. I became a Jungle Cruise Skipper at Walt Disney World.
You might think that finding a job helped turn my life around and get me back on track. If that’s what you thought, you’d be wrong. My jokes were so bad that I got fired from that job. That’s right – I was fired by Disney World from my job as Jungle Cruise Skipper.
Everyone has their own version of rock bottom – this was mine. I felt like an endless failure and had no confidence. I remember being with my mom — angry, scared, desperate, and in tears — not even knowing if I could pass a single class at community college.
I had no choice but to look in the mirror and ask: what the hell am I doing with my life? The answer was not easy, and the path was neither short nor straight. But it led me to this moment, standing before you as Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives.
So many Oregonians end up where I was two decades ago – except for the Disney World part. We have all cared deeply about someone who has struggled to find their way in life.
I stand before you as someone who has been in this dark place. Who was called “dumb” and “dumb” by my own family. Which relates to the financial anxiety that so many of our students are experiencing because I am still paying off my own student debt
Which felt like an absolute failure.
But I also stand before you as living proof that the worst times in our lives don’t have to be our destiny.
I believe you are not defined by your failures, but rather by how you move forward. We can continue to see the positive potential in people, even when they cannot see these traits in themselves.
I recognize that during the most difficult times of my childhood, I would have been treated differently by the criminal justice system if my skin color had been different. This is part of the reason why I believe we must continue to center equity in our work.
That’s why I wanted this job and that’s why so many of us are here: to make a difference in people’s lives and create opportunities for Oregonians to build a better future.
That is why the work we do here in this chamber is important.
I will conclude by saying that I believe this is the most important short session we have ever had. That’s why short sessions were created – to respond to crises like the ones we’re facing right now.
Like the rest of the country, Oregonians have faced immense challenges over the past two years. We can give them hope that stability, security and a better future are possible.
We know our children learn best when they are in a safe school environment five days a week, so we will work to support our teachers and schools to make that happen.
We will support the working families and small businesses that form the backbone of our economy.
We will work to lower the cost of living by investing in key areas like housing and health care, and we will work to address the homelessness crisis in every community across the state.
And we will prioritize the safety of our communities, while investing in mental and behavioral health services to help some of our most vulnerable neighbors.
These two years have been incredibly difficult for all of us. That’s why I ask that we empathize with each other and stay focused on the work ahead of us to help the people of Oregon.
Thank you. Let’s get to work.