The Right Thing to Do

Former Iowa Governor Robert Ray talks about his decision to bring refugees from Southeast Asia to Iowa to live in 1975.


I thought it was the right thing to do whether it would be more acceptable or not. I did think it would be more acceptable but that wasn't what prompted me to do that. These people, if I understood correctly, were good working people, they were good moral people, they were good family people and I didn't want to spoil that. And I think if you get on welfare it's very easy to have that change your lifestyle and I didn't want that to happen. And so we did what I guess they didn't do any place else in the world and it worked very effectively. I remember that there were groups of people from other states that would come to Iowa to see how we were handling the refugee situation and there were groups from other countries. And I recall the one from Germany who came and examined what we were doing and we hosted them and tried to help them understand what we did and why we did it. And when they left in my office they were very complimentary, very nice people, very complimentary but they said, “We couldn't do it that way.” “Why?” “Well, we have to put them in camps first and teach them our language. And I thought, “Well, do what you have to do but just think about it. Wouldn't it be better for them to go to work and learn English while they are working and earning and providing for their families?”

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