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The Oregon Business Association recognized Oregon Representative Vic Gilliam as the 2016 Statesman of the Year at the annual Statesman Dinner held Thursday evening at the Oregon Convention Center. Following are excerpts from Gilliam’s comments at the Statesman dinner Thursday evening:


My attraction to government and running for office started with fascination by boyhood stories of American presidents, pioneers and freedom fighters and receiving an award for reading every American History biography in my elementary school library.

At Franklin High School and also at Warner Pacific College, I ran and lost several class elections. Finally, I won the election for Student Body President at Warner Pacific College. One year after graduation I was fortunate to land on the DC staff of Oregon’s Greatest Statesman - Mark O. Hatfield.

Senator Hatfield was the official host for the Reagan Inaugural in 1981. My staff assignment that day was to assist Gerry Frank hosting the entire in-coming Reagan cabinet before the swearing-in.

As I prepared for my strategic tasks to hang coats and pour coffee, the first guest arrived... It was in-coming Secretary Of State, Alexander Haig.

“General” Haig began barking orders, and I looked around for a soldier...and realized: “I was in the Army now!”

He demanded coffee and a telephone, pronto, and I immediately obliged and overheard the following from him on the phone:

“You tell those Iranians when we’re sworn-in, the American hostages will be a whole new ball game!”

And he slammed the receiver down. I thought Haig was going to be joint Secretaries of State and Defense!

After six years in DC I returned to Oregon on staff at Willamette University. Again political ambition was stirred with an opening in my neighborhood in the Oregon House.

Was I the next Mark Hatfield? Could I copy his march from Willamette University across the street to the Legislature, Secretary of State, Governor, Congress and beyond!?

Nope. My losing streak returned, and I couldn’t get out of the primary in ‘86 or ‘88.

20 years later, after a career in charitable fund-raising from Willamette U to Mercy Corps and living in Silverton, an opening in the legislature came my way again. Nobody was more surprised than me to be appointed.

Now at 63, I hope to be focused on representing Oregon’s Christmas tree district in Salem and resisting temptations to climb the ladder of power and ambition.

So many experiences from a decade in Salem — like the evening entire Oregon House amazingly escorted me to the Senate President’s office.

Now, I don’t always understand our longest serving Oregon senate president, but I respect him for things like his passion for improved care for our vulnerable mentally ill population.

But despite our efforts we’ve never convinced the President of the Senate to release our “Hatfield statue bill.”

And that’s ok because here is one indelible lesson I’ve learned:

At the close of the last legislative session, my good friend Rep. Brian Clem and I retreated to my office feeling defeated as our statue bill died once again. In hopes of lifting our spirits, we decided to read from our favorite devotional book. Brian made a wonderful error that day. As he thumbed thru the book, he mistakenly landed on the daily message from exactly one month before.

The scripture verse from that day was from 2nd Corinthians:

“So we fix our eyes on not what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Due to Brian’s “divine mistake,” I began to consider that it wasn’t merely about sending a marble image to Statuary Hall in our nation’s Capitol. Instead, I realized the significance of shining a light on the faith and legacy of a sterling statesman and humble leader — Mark O. Hatfield.

The “Peaceful March” from the House to the Senate the previous evening is, to me, a shining example of the manifestation of the “unseen” vs. the “seen.” The Unity of members and staff of the House of Representatives that night was astonishing.

And tonight’s OBA banquet is another unique opportunity to spotlight Hatfield’s extraordinary example of true public service.

OBA has honored many Oregonians including two of my favorites Co-Speakers-of -the-House Bruce Hanna and Arnie Roblan. Mark Hatfield won this award in 2004 which could have been the-end-all of Statesman banquets. I’m just lucky to be here, barely in the Roblan, Hanna and Hatfield shadows.

The senator possessed political and personal power, yet kept it under control by reaching out in love and putting others first. He resisted selfishness by navigating life from the heart

Mark Hatfield knew that Scripture could turn hearts above government activity. His example to me along with other relationships I’ve had with people like Senator Jason Atkinson and Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron - have fortified my faith in Jesus.

I close with this passage from Galatians. I feel this scripture can inspire “statesmanship behavior” rooted in faith and resulting in fruitful relationships - even in the tempest of politics.

“... God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?” (Galatians, The Message Version)

Thank you for tonight and may the Lord bless all of you.”

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