American West Briefing Tour: Topping off our day at Lewis and Clark College
By Al Ortiz
Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown visited a direct democracy exhibition at the college, giving a few words to those sitting in the audience. Brown first started her speech with her background, which includes her birth in Spain, her undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado - Boulder, and how she obtained her law degree at, you guessed it, the Lewis & Clark College of Law.
Brown also served in the Oregon State Senate and in 1998 became the Senate Democratic leader. In 2004, Kate Brown was elected State Senate Majority Leader, a role she occupied until 2009 when she became Secretary of State.
Another little fact pointed out before she proceeded with remarks about the initiative and referendum process: Brown is the only Secretary of State in the nation that is also the state chief auditor.
In a state where many previous panelists stated had an effective initiative process, Brown comes from a non I&R state, Minnesota, where she says her family is terrified of the direct democracy endeavor. With a laugh, Brown brushed off those concerns to the equally amused audience.
Brown's remarks of the initiative process in the state included a history of direct democracy and elections process. Included was the mention of a measure to give the women the right to vote in 1920 and the fact that the state of Oregon is only one of two states that allows residents to vote by mail. The other is the state's neighbor to the north, Washington.
At the end of her 10 minute greeting, tour guide Joe Mathews gave the audience one last tidbit on Brown, one that got the state elections official to blush.
According to Mathews' sources, Brown is one of, if not the best, Secretaries of State in the nation.
On that note, here are some awards Brown has won over the years:
- Woman of Achievement Award (1995) from the Oregon Commission for Women
- National Public and Community Service Award (2004) from the American Mental Health Counselors Association
- President's Award of Merit (2007) from Oregon State Bar 
- Profiles in Courage Award from Basic Rights Oregon
- Legislator of the Year Award from the Oregon Psychological Association
- Outstanding Achievement Award from the Oregon Family Support Network
- Current City: Salem
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