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Oregon's beacons of achievement

Haiti, January 30, 2010

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George Rede

The Oregonian
January, 2010

Hardly a day goes by without a front-page headline on the latest crime, conflict or natural disaster. Readers get tired of negative news -- and sometimes we do, too.

That's why we've decided (for a week, anyway) to shine a spotlight on the positive. Recently, we asked 50 Oregonians with an interest in public policy to help us identify some Oregon "success stories."

Everyone touts the Oregon beach bill and the Oregon bottle bill as signature accomplishments -- but those laws date to 1967 and 1971, respectively.

What have we done more recently? What can we brag about?

We received more than 120 nominations from our contacts in government, business, education, religion, the arts and the nonprofit world, and then we tossed in a few of our own. From that list, we chose nine that reflect creative thinking and innovative approaches to problem solving.

After the bruising campaign over the twin tax measures that were approved last week, just reading through these achievements made us feel better about our state.

-- George Rede, Sunday Opinion Editor

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7. Mercy Corps: Heroism of philanthropy improves lives elsewhere

The world's philanthropic outreach to help remedy human suffering in earthquake-devastated Haiti has been powerful and continuing. As we have come to expect, among the first responders, with programs already involved onsite, was Portland-based Mercy Corps. But the heroism of philanthropy is even nobler when it occurs beyond the reach of sudden spotlights of publicity. This larger commitment is the deeper story of Mercy Corps. It works in more than 30 regions and nations of the world, places of unpublicized but intolerable circumstances -- places and peoples brutalized by economic collapse, natural disasters or armed conflicts.

Over this last third of a century, Mercy Corps has grown to 3,200 experts across a range of professions that organizes people in each region to be "agents of their own transformation." When faced with the impossible, our normal human instinct usually is to do nothing. Mercy Corps' values-based mission takes a dramatically different view, working one step at a time to keep hope alive and to make progress a reality.

I learned more about Mercy Corps when it became a neighbor to the University of Oregon's White Stag complex in Portland's Old Town. Consistent with its mission worldwide, Mercy Corps brought to its new worldwide headquarters an ethic of environmental sustainability, commitment to historic preservation and community rejuvenation. As an Oregonian I am proud to salute the worldwide impact of this selfless, effective effort to preserve and improve human lives.

-- Dave Frohnmayer is former president of the University of Oregon and now teaches at the university's law school.

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