Featured Stories

Call him Mr. Governor

by: Vern Uyetake, Gregory “Rory” Murray, a Lake Oswego High School senior, was elected as Oregon’s Youth Governor after he ran a heated campaign against a representative of the South district during the YMCA Youth & Government session in Salem in February.

In the three days he spent in Salem, Gregory 'Rory' Murray got a taste of the political roller coaster, complete with the highs and lows: gossip, mud-slinging and drama that he says got blown way out of proportion.

What's more - his title as Oregon's Youth Governor almost got taken away when the opposing candidate's delegation started circulating a petition pushing for a recall.

'It got kind of ugly at times,' Murray said with a grin. 'Interesting things went down in Salem.'

And he loved every second of it. After his experience campaigning and working as the state's leader during the annual YMCA Youth and Government meeting, Murray still wants to run for political office someday.

'It was fun to be around it,' said Murray, a senior at Lake Oswego High School. 'Everything that happened really mirrored the political process.'

The YMCA program started in New York in 1937 and came to Oregon a decade later. It's now in about 40 states. Essentially, it provides students the opportunity to learn about the intricate workings of government by granting them unique access to the capital and knowledgeable lawmakers.

Students determine laws they think should be enacted or changed, do the research and then write a measure.

'I strongly believe it is one of the best learning processes we have for high school students,' said Oregon Y and G Director Don Andrews.

As Oregon's Youth Governor, Murray will represent his state in Washington, D.C., in June at the YMCA annual Governors Tour, where he will spend a week debating and learning about leadership with other state Youth Governors.

'I imagine it'll be a fantastic experience,' Murray said.

In the fall, students begin working on the measures they will sponsor. In January, the two state districts - North and South - met to elect their President of the Senate, Speaker of the House and respective officers.

In the North district - which includes Lake Oswego - Vishu Anekonda of Lakeridge High School was elected Speaker; Andrew Holbrook, Gabriel Davis and Ben Willis of Lakeridge were selected as committee chairs and Amanda Micossi of LOHS was selected as an alternate committee chair in addition to nominating Murray as the district's Youth Governor candidate. Gubernatorial nominations are typically handed down based on a person's length of participation and depth of involvement in Y and G.

Murray, a former committee chair, credits LOHS strong government classes for helping to prepare him for the three years he spent in the program.

'You can see that difference down in Salem,' he said. '(LOHS) helped me see there is no black-and-white issue. My teachers helped me look at the grey areas.'

A week earlier, the students in the South district had elected their own Senate officers and nominated Andrew Reyna of Sprague High School in Salem as their gubernatorial candidate to run against Murray.

When both districts - 200 students - convened in Salem on Feb. 14 for their three-day session, Murray campaigned for the position the way his favorite politician, Barack Obama, would - with integrity.

'I am who I am, and I presented myself like that,' he said. 'I'm an open and honest person and I tried not to censor myself. I just look (people) in the eye and tell them the truth and word it carefully. It's a fine line to walk.'

His widespread network of friends and his political savvy also proved beneficial.

'I'm a real political person, always interested in the issues and the kid who always read the newspaper,' said Murray, who plans to attend college for business.

Following the campaign, he moved on to a 45-minute head-to-head debate with Reyna.

It was Murray's 'skillful answers, sharp thinking and sparkling personality' which won him the majority vote, according to an LOHS student press release.

After enduring protest from Reyna's side (and that pesky petition), Murray was sworn into office as Youth Governor by Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul J. DeMuniz.

'(Murray) was scrutinized quite closely by his constituents and got as much criticism as he did praise,' LOHS teacher Ursula Wolfe-Rocca wrote in an e-mail. 'He weathered the storms of public opinion better than I would have.'

Following a day of committee work, the students then came together on the floor of the House and Senate for 1-1/2 days to debate the measures that had been passed in their committees.

Those that passed both assemblies were then handed off to Murray for his review and approval or veto. Of the 79 measures submitted by the students, 12 made it through the process. Murray approved 10, vetoed one and intentionally did nothing for one other measure.

'I didn't know what to expect but I ended up being extremely busy,' Murray said. 'Everyone wanted something.'

One of the 10 approved measures was sponsored by LOHS students Hayley Luhr, Alex Kiddle and Kaitlyn Barclay. It repealed the law making it a crime to abuse a venerated object. They objected to the law on the grounds that it violated the right of Freedom of Speech.

Also, two of the 10 were Lakeridge-sponsored measures. Matt Boston and Lauren Doege sponsored a memorial asking the United States Congress to revise the U.S. Patriot Act to provide for more civil rights protections; and Isabella Jacoby and Holbrook sponsored a measure providing that the electoral college vote be determined by the popular vote of the district they represent.

While in Salem, Murray shook hands with a lot of movers and shakers, including Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, legislators and other big time leaders who were also inspired by Y and G during their teen-age years.

'You're at the Capitol, so you're bound to run into somebody,' Murray said. 'It adds a lot of seriousness that you don't get with other programs.'

Murray follows another Youth Governor from LOHS, Jerrod Engelberg, who was elected at last year's session.

'That doesn't really happen,' Murray said of the back-to-back LOHS victories. 'Lake Oswego is becoming a real powerhouse down there.'

Or maybe it started several years ago when, according to Andrews, a group of students from Lake Oswego sponsored a measure pushing for a contest to design a vanity Oregon license plate.

Then-Secretary of State Barbara Roberts - who went on to become the state's first female governor - was discussing the measure that evening at home with her husband, Sen. Frank Roberts. He also liked the concept and introduced a similar measure in the Oregon Senate.