June 20, 2016

A message from Director of Office of Diversity and Equity, Benjamin Duncan:

"I want to first thank the Immigrant and Refugee and Multnomah Volunteer Employee Resource Groups for inviting me to offer a few remarks.

I’ve been reflecting on what this day means, particularly in the context in which we celebrate and honor our refugee communities. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees report that more people are displaced by rising violence, insecurity, and persecution than at any time on record. More than 65 million people around the world. In the US, that is the entire populations of California and Texas combined.

I’ve thought a lot about what it means to establish home. For myself, this reflection takes me to Syracuse, NY---I have distinct memories, friends, family members. Foods and sounds. And I can return. I left on my own, not under duress, not to provide a better life for my family, not to escape persecution or war or disaster. I left by choice.

There are many  different pathways and experiences,  but also a shared story for many of our refugee and immigrant communities. While often couched in trauma and challenge, today we can honor the strength and resiliency. The creativity and commitment. The desire to learn and grow. The balance of maintaining identity from where you are from, and developing an identity for where you are.

We can celebrate the immense contribution that our refugee populations make to our workplace and our nation and we can honor and commit to ensuring that people everywhere are able to be safe and feel a sense of belonging. For Multnomah County we have that opportunity every day, both with our colleagues and with our clients. Today is a day to celebrate, and to challenge ourselves to continue to be better."

- Remarks were given on 6/20/2016 for World Refugee Day hosted by Employee Resource Groups Multco Volunteer Program and Immigrant and Refugee.