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A behind-the-scenes look at governor

Speaker — Former Gov. Barbara Roberts shares stories from her life growing up and as a politician


She refers to herself as a historical artifact, but at 76 she can still keep a crowd entertained and laughing.

by: GARY ALLEN - Orator -- Former Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts spoke Sept. 12 to the Friendsview Retirement Community about her book, her life and her place within history. She took the audience through her life in Yamhill County starting as a young girl growing up in Sheridan.Former Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts spoke Sept. 12 to the Friendsview Retirement Community about her book, her life and her place within history.

“When someone mentions they’ve published a biography, there’s a sense of ego, but for me it’s a belief of capturing and preserving history,” Roberts said.

She took the audience through her life in Yamhill County starting as a young girl with familiar interests growing up in Sheridan.

“As a girl we would never had confessed that those bike rides were a great opportunity to practice our flirting skills,” she said as related how local teenagers would bike to a favorite swimming hole in the summer. “Truth be told, I never learned how to swim. However I did learn how to kiss underwater.”

It wasn’t until she found herself single and raising her autistic son Mike that she became involved in politics.

When someone ­mentions they’ve ­published a ­biography, there’s a sense of ego, but for me it’s a belief of capturing and ­preserving history.

Barbara Roberts

The issue of special education was raised in Oregon in 1971 and legislator Frank Roberts — later to become her husband — presented the idea of her becoming a lobbyist.

“I began to think that Frank’s recommendation of one day a week in Salem was within the realm of possibility for me,” she said.

Six months later Senate Bill 699, which en­sured that emo­tionally and physically challenged youths would receive an ed­u­cation, passed and Roberts said she was hooked.

“My lobby assignment had been one of the most stimulating and productive experiences of my life,” she said. “I discovered I loved the political arena and I could actually change people’s lives positively in that setting.”

In 1991, after serving in a variety of government positions, she was elected Oregon governor.

As one of the first 20 female governors, Roberts said she was concerned their history would go unrecorded. So after five years of working on “Up the Capitol Steps,” her book was published in 2011.

Frank Engle, Friendsview marketing director, said residents really appreciated hearing from her.

“One resident said, ‘I followed her when she was governor. How interesting to hear behind the scenes stories,’” Engle said. “One person talked to me quite in depth about how funny she was. And another said, ‘I’m glad I moved to Oregon. She put in words some of the reasons I moved here.’”

He said Roberts stayed late into the afternoon talking with residents and signing books.

“She shared stories as if you were right there yourself,” he said of her speech.

He added that Roberts was brought in by the education committee made up of residents who put together classes, seminars and speeches.

“They are always on the look out for speakers for the community,” Engle said.




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