DES MOINES, Iowa - Students from St. Benedict School in Decorah brought their award-winning National History Day project to Wesley Acres in Des Moines Friday. Their reenactment of Governor Robert Ray's refugee program in 1975 was presented to an audience including the governor himself.
Andy Murphy, Alli Groux, Emma Rooney, and Leah Weis spent hours in research for their presentation, "Governor Ray's Leadership: Leaving a Lasting Legacy on the Southeast Asian Refugees." The 10-minute performance displayed the plight of refugees from several Southeast Asia countries during the Vietnam War, as well as the split opinion among Iowans on Governor Ray's decision to be the first state in the nation to accept them. Students used quotes from the governor, and from Iowans who expressed their displeasure with his decision, that they found from state archives.
"I had no clue Iowa had this type of background and history, so without this National History Day opportunity - without Governor Ray, I wouldn't be able to know about my town's history, but also Iowa's history. It really brings me closer and it's been a great opportunity," said Alli Groux.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Governor Ray's refugee program.