Iowa History Daily: May 24 - Robert D. Ray & Refugees

Iowa History Daily: On May 24, 1979, Iowa Governor Robert D. Ray testified before the United States House of Representatives’ subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and International Law. Governor Ray clearly detailed his sense of moral obligation to resettle Tai-Dam refugees displaced by the aftermath of the Vietnam War in Iowa.

Ray, born in Des Moines in 1928 grew up in Iowa’s capital city. A Rough Rider, Roosevelt graduated from Roosevelt in 1946 before entering the United States Army. Following military service in post-war Japan, Ray returned to Des Moines and attended Drake University where he gained a degree in business before also enrolling in law school.

Ray started a successful career as a trial lawyer in 1954. Always interested in politics, Ray became chair of the Iowa Republican Party in 1963. 6 years later, in 1969, Ray rose to the highest office in the state when the people of Iowa placed him in the governor’s office. Serving the people of Iowa as governor from 1969 to 1983, Ray accomplished a great deal during his time in office including extending the governor term from 2 years to 4, work on civil rights, advocating for renewable energy, and moving his family to Terrace Hill.

Best known for his humanitarian work, Ray engineered his own refugee resettlement program to help the Tai-Dam people. Controversially, Ray went above and beyond the federal limits to resettle an additional 1,500 refugees within the state of Iowa.

To detail the thinking behind his decision, Ray said: “I think what it shows is that everyone can do something and make a difference in this world. We might not be able to do it all but we can do something, and isn’t there great satisfaction in that? The happiest people I know are people who are doing things for other people. Think about at Christmas time; what makes you happiest? Is it what someone gives you or what you give to make somebody pleased, right?” #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar #IowaOTD



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