News

Oregonian Guest Opinion: Finding a way forward with ‘Mark Hatfield values’
Author: Phillip J. Cooper, Portland State University
Posted: March 4, 2019

Read the original story on OregonLive.

How many times recently have we thought how much we really miss U.S. Sen. Mark O. Hatfield?

When the news is full of confrontation and incivility, and each day the rhetoric seems to grow more vicious, we can recall a senator who could deliver passionate arguments on important matters without hostility toward those who might not hold the same views. As we see and hear so many pleas for a return to a commitment to the public interest above one’s own private interest, we can think back to a time when the senator challenged his colleagues and all of us to rise above narrow self-interest.

We remember a man dedicated to public service. He personified courage, even when it meant standing alone against his political party — as he did when he was the deciding vote on the balanced budget amendment.

Perhaps it is time to think carefully about what those of us at the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University refer to as the “Hatfield values.”

These were not partisan values or ideologically driven positions, but a call to civility and a commitment to public service. “There has to be passion,” he said, yet he directed his passion at problems rather than weaponizing it to attack adversaries.

When he spoke about issues and problems, such as the need to address pollution at the Hanford Site, you could feel the energy welling up as if he were downshifting an automobile and pressing the accelerator. Even so, he saw those with whom he disagreed as people to be won over, not as enemies.

He was as tough as they come, but also a compassionate leader and a caring public servant. “We are dealing with human beings,” he said, “real live people.”

It’s evident in watching his speeches that are archived online that even with his passion, he was dedicated to facts and serious research. And he supported that research in many fields. Many programs at our universities benefited from that dedication to research, from health care to the environment. And that work served Oregonians and others far beyond this state.

Whether others agreed with him on key issues or not, no one could doubt Hatfield’s sincerity or his commitment to arguing for policies based on facts and evidence — not on narrow political self-interest. He demonstrated that passion and reason are both essential ingredients of true public service. That is why Senate Resolution 257, which was offered by Sen. Ron Wyden in remembrance of Sen. Hatfield on his passing in 2011 had 99 co-sponsors. And that’s why so many of the tributes came from across the aisle.

As so many people — and indeed, so many Oregonians — seek a constructive way forward, it is time to remember the man who described himself as a “servant leader.” It is time to look to the future by understanding and honoring the Hatfield values.