Although I had planned on writing a brief note to you early in December, events trumped good intentions. On December 3, 2007 Oregon was hit by an unseasonably strong storm developed into a federally declared disaster throughout seven counties.
As the emergency preparedness policy advisor for Governor Kulongoski - it was an incredibly busy and meaningful time. The work done over the past eight months allowed our state to respond and begin a tailored recovery effort that brought the full measure of government capacity to bear for the benefit of Oregonians in dire need.
The storm followed TOPOFF-4, the largest homeland security exercise in U.S. History; it consumed much of the summer/fall of 2007 and proved an invaluable test for a few emerging policy initiatives.
TOPOFF-4 provided a foundation for the response/recovery framework executed in December. The recovery will be long and challenging, but the state has made tremendous progress and I am proud to work with a leader and a team that is both innovative and determined. While we do not know the future, we do know that the work done this past month validated a new, proactive philosophy in emergency management.
Much of the time between has been spent focused on making sure the people dislocated by the storm's fury were assured of assistance for restoring their lives; slowly these communities will rediscover a new normal - the intensity of life and death decisions has now passed - the hard work of recovery will continue.
It is 2008.
The holidays are now past us and our nation finds itself squarely engaged in the selection of our new President. Iowa was a surprise -- as much of a surprise as New Hampshire. We have ourselves a real election campaign about the kind of country we want to become.
As an admitted idealist, I am heartened at the stir of the American Conscience.
Eight years ago our country took a wrong turn; that decision was chiseled into our history four years later. For many of us, the past several years have been spent under the cloud of disbelief. The rains have slowed and the storm has temporarily yielded the sky. It appears the American People have decided that two hard right turns now justify a left.
It's exciting to be an American again.
Our vocabulary is beginning to rekindle the words of democracy: hope, opportunity, and possibility. And words matter.
We will wage this contest on the high ground of hope instead of the valley of hopelessness. Fear is no longer sufficient to stifle our liberties and thwart our will. Our country has reached its tolerance for intolerance - change is on the way.
Think about it for a moment: the top three candidates currently seeking the Democratic Nomination for President are Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards - arguably the most diverse group of contenders in U.S. History.
The most recent departure from the race was the most experienced Governor to run for higher office in at least the past fifty years - Bill Richardson - and Governor Richardson remains among the highest elected Hispanic-Americans in history.
Whatever the outcome, whoever the eventual nominee will be, this election has been an amazing - and positive - experience for our national conscience. For the first time in a long while we have a bounty of leaders ready, willing, and able to do battle in a quest for a new America.
We are all working harder for less value; there is indisputable evidence that our planet's climate is changing; the Congress and the President are on a collision course; and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been downgraded to second page stories.
We continue our lives even as casualties mount, our debt rises, and the future of the next generation hangs in the balance.
We inhabit a world where China, Russia, a resurgent Europe, and an unleashed India are working to define global trade. We struggle to face the growing diplomatic and military challenges of state-less terrorism, developing nations with nuclear capacities, and the swagger of emergent economic powers throughout Central and Southern Asia.
But 2008 is the year we can choose to renew the American Promise, to extend the rights and responsibilities of citizenship to a new generation of patriots.
Seldom in history have nations been as blessed as ours has been; almost never has a country been given as many "second chances" as We the People have been given second chances. This year, we must seize the moment - and choose redemption through renewal.
During the last campaign we built an agenda upon four core principles: guaranteed opportunity, a safe environment, protection of our basic rights, and provision of the future as well as the present. These four elements comprised the Pioneer Compact: a new relationship between citizens and government - a description of civic stewardship - a call for action.
As the dust settles and the candidates become nominees it is up to us to affix the rudder; the ship of state is dependent upon an activist citizenry to secure the change our leaders propose. This next chapter of our history will either restore the America we all know to be possible, or it will diminish us.
Let us rekindle the spirit of the better angels of our democratic nature; let us commit ourselves to finding a time, place, and manner to invest ourselves in the outcome of this race - and others.
What a time to be an American; what a time to reawaken. Together our conscience can be restored - and together we can make this nation, state, and our communities worthy of the sacrifices made on their - and our - behalf.