Former Governor Robert Ray’s efforts to welcome Indo-Chinese refugees to Iowa in the 1970s is the subject of an hour-long Iowa Public Television program that will be rebroadcast Sunday. In the mid-70s, Ray helped many of the Thai Dam people who’d been driven out of Vietnam into a then-unsettled Laos eventually resettle in Iowa. Ray says he didn’t think “we could sit here in a land of plenty, a place where we had so much to contribute, and do nothing.” Ray says he thought at the time it was the right thing to do, and believes so even more today. He says Iowa has benefited because the Thai Dam have made a contribution to the Iowa economy. A few years later, Ray also persuaded U.S. officials to allow more of the so-called “boat people” who were trying to flee Vietnam to seek refuge in Iowa and the rest of the U.S.Ray says he looked at the plight of the boat people and decided he couldn’t stand by when he knew he could help by helping more refugees come to Iowa. Ray says there were critics, but he always told people they didn’t have to vote for him and he could go back to practicing law. Ray says politicians always benefit when they do what’s right. Ray says he was in a store a few days ago and someone who’s passed him in the aisle turned around and told Ray he had never met him, but wanted to let the Governor know that he had saved his life. “You tell me if there’s any bigger reward than that. I don’t think so,” Rays says. The former Republican Governor says his experience shows people can make a difference. Ray says if you really want to be happy, you need to do things for other people. The program with Ray as featured guest will air Sunday afternoon at 4:30 on Iowa Public Television. Ray, who is now 75, was Iowa’s Governor from 1969 to 1983.
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