Oregon Democrats Take Center Stage for Convention
By Carl Fisher, PCP, HDL – HD35
We are approaching the 2020 Democratic National Convention. It is sure to be one of the most unique conventions in American history. The Convention at Home or Stay at Home Convention has become known as Convention Across America. The DNC is asking for you to submit videos about various subjects (Why are you supporting Joe Biden? Why are you a Democrat? What’s your American Dream & more)
Maybe you need a little inspiration? Motivation? I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the Oregonians that have been given the chance to address the convention. Most conventions from 1984 to the present day can be found online via C-SPAN. You can watch every moment of every convention if you like. There are some great speeches from people not from Oregon and I would encourage you that if you are interested in learning more about them that you take a chance to explore them.
Speeches from before 1984 are a little harder to find online and so I have not included them here. For instance, Oregon Senator Wayne Morse spoke at several conventions from the 1950s and 1960s. I have also not included reading the roll call votes, even though sometimes the Oregonians that read our votes give little speeches themselves at that moment.
1988 Les AuCoin & the Cold War
The first speech you can find was made at the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. 1988 was in some ways a lot like 2020. We saw a large field of Democratic candidates (13) run against each other and a top tier of 3 candidates emerged, but eventually centered on two: Governor Michael Dukakis and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Dukakis would end up securing the nomination and in the process of finalizing the 1988 party platform, there were several substitute planks and amendments discussed and voted on. One such substitute was presented by Oregon Congressman Les AuCoin (CD-1). AuCoin had represented CD-1 since being elected in 1974. You can watch Congressman AuCoin discuss arms control by clicking the photo below. Some of us were born while the Cold War was still going on and some of us involved in the party were born after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s hard to imagine that 1988 was still before the collapse of the Soviet Union. When I first watched the speech I kept forgetting that the fall of the wall did not happen until 1991.
Now, in 2020, former Congressman Les AuCoin is back representing Oregon Democrats as a member of the Platform Committee at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Les is also a very good author and recently published his autobiography. You read more about him in “Catch and Release”.
1992 Barbara Roberts & Women are Leading the Party
Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts had a very inspiring political journey and by 1992 had been elected Oregon’s first woman governor. It was only natural in a year when the Democratic National Convention wanted to highlight the roles of women in elected office that they ask her to serve as Co-Chair of the Credentials Committee. This committee is charged with resolving any conflicts there may be about the seating of delegates at the convention not covered by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee at some predetermined cutoff point prior to the convention. Any challenges that come during this window are put forward to the Credentials Committee for them to resolve. Their committee reports back to the convention first before all others. Here is Governor Roberts starting the report to the 1992 DNC.
A big push was made at the 1992 Democratic National Convention to highlight women leaders of the party. Governor Roberts was given a second opportunity to address the convention. This is a rare thing for an Oregonian! If you have not read her autobiography, “Up the Capitol Steps”, this speech is a good mini-preview of that book. It is perhaps one of my favorites of Oregon speakers at a modern Democratic Convention.
2000 & 2004 The Earl of Oregon
Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer (CD-3) was an in-demand speaker in the early 2000s stumping for both Vice President Al Gore and Senator John Kerry.
One of the things that I really like about the speeches made by Oregonians is they talk about their personal experiences and the issues they are passionate about. For Earl it has always been the environment, transportation and maintaining a quality livability. When I went to Iowa in 2004 to help Senator Kerry in the Iowa Caucus and I told people I was from Oregon one of the first things they asked was, “Oh, isn’t your member of Congress that bike guy? He came out here earlier.” The other really neat part of these videos you may have noticed, when speakers from a particular state are at the podium before, during and after the cameras sometimes cut away to see the delegation from that state. Keep your eye on the video and you may see someone you know.
2000 David Wu Comes to America
The 2000 Democratic National Convention was held in Los Angeles, the same city that forty years earlier had been the city where the Democratic National Convention had nominated John F. Kennedy for President. Several of the speakers at this convention spoke about how their life was impacted by President Kennedy. Oregon Congressman David Wu talks about how his family was able to immigrate to America thanks to the policies of the Kennedy administration. Reminding everyone that public policy matters and makes a difference in people’s lives.
2008 & 2016 From Newbie to Seasoned Pro Jeff Merkley
Few Oregon politicos have seen such a rise as Jeff Merkley in recent years. When he addressed the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver he was the Speaker of the Oregon House and working to explain to the Democrats across the nation why they should support him in his bid to unseat U.S. Senator Gordon Smith. By 2016 Senator Merkley was given a speaking role at the convention to unite the party, a call that Oregon Democrats heard loud and clear.
It’s hard not to smile after hearing Jeff Merkley speak to any sized audience. In the 2008 speech, that enthusiastic yell you heard was from Oregon Delegate and former Washco-Dem Huma Pierce!
2016 Tina Kotek & Building the Bench
2016 was another great year for Oregon leaders getting a chance to shine on center stage. Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek addressed the convention about why she was supporting Hilary Clinton and was part of a triple treat of speakers (including Stacey Abrams!) talking about the work that the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee was doing to elect Democratic legislators across the country.
You might have guessed what Speaker Kotek is pointing at in the crowd. She’s calling out the Oregon Delegates!
2004 Citizen Rassmann
This is probably one of the more special moments of recent conventions that an Oregonian participated in at the convention. Jim Rassmann was propelled to the center stage by an incident that took place while he was serving overseas in Vietnam. Rassmann was saved by John Kerry in 1969 while both were serving there. He credits Kerry for saving his life and when Kerry decided to run for President Rassmann knew he had to be there. By this time he was living in Oregon. Rassmann was a popular surrogate for the campaign and was often paired with fellow veteran Max Cleland. On the final night of the 2004 Democratic National Convention Rassmann and Cleland helped introduce John Kerry to the country as the nominee of the Democratic Party.
I don’t know if any Oregonians will get to address the 2020 Democratic National Convention. We have been pretty lucky in recent conventions to get our leaders at center stage addressing the nation. If you were thinking about submitting a video to the 2020 DNC, I hope you got a little inspiration or even a ‘I could give a better speech than that’ boost from these videos. Looking forward to watching the convention with you starting August 17th.
Carl Fisher is a Joe Biden Delegate to the 2020 DNC from CD-1 Washington County & State Central Committee Delegate