Mondale, Ray join to remember rescue of "boat people"
Monday, March 14, 2005, 7:40 PM
A former Vice President and a former Iowa Governor joined Monday night to celebrate one of Iowa's most notable humanitarian achievements. "I was just bragging on you," former Vice President Walter Mondale said as former Iowa Governor Robert Ray joined him in front of a group of reporters gathered for a news conference. "Oh, I'm sorry I missed it," Ray joked. Mondale and Ray then reminisced about their efforts to rescue the Vietnamese "boat people" thirty years ago. "At the end of the war, the Vietnamese government viciously started driving ethnic Vietnamese...out to sea," Mondale said. Countries in the region started refusing to take the refugees. "They'd push them back out to sea. It was a horrible human tragedy," Mondale said. "What we did was we had the big U. N. Refugee Conference in Geneva. Bob Ray was there, really an example of bipartisanship at its best, leading Iowa and really the country to some kind of civilized resolution." Ray offered to accept thousands of the boat people in Iowa after he had visited the refugee camps. "(I) saw the tragedy and misery. Has a lasting effect on one, doesn't it?" Ray asked Mondale. "Oh, yeah," Mondale responded. The U.N. Conference made a lasting impression on both men. "That showed that it was not just talk but that we intended to make a difference in these people's lives. Your presence there helped a lot because it made it an American effort, not a political effort," Mondale says. "Well, it's true that it was not political. I sat there and I watched those people and I listened to those people from different countries and everyone expressed some concern about the boat people but nobody offered anything." Ray admits there were some who objected to the idea, but Ray said it was an opportunity to "literally save lives" and there was no way he was going to turn his back to the plight of the boat people. Mondale said it's a memorable highlight in his long political career because it was something only the U-S could do and it worked because the Vietnamese government soon stopped expelling people from the country. Mondale said it's an example that doing "the right thing" is always the best policy because rescuing the boat people showed American decency. "That's kind of a 4th of July word, but I do believe there's something about America when it's at its best that shows we are exceptional and we can do good things," Mondale said. "I love that." You can hear the entire conversation between Ray and Mondale on www.radioiowa.com. The two men were keynote speakers at the annual Hoover-Wallace dinner honoring the two Iowans who rose to become U-S president and vice president in the last century.
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