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Character Counts, a Lasting Legacy for Governor Robert D. Ray

DES MOINES, Iowa -- As Iowa continues to look back on the legacy of Governor Ray we also look to how it will continue after he is laid to rest.

Character Counts. It's a phrase, program, and way of life that many Iowans know about thanks Governor Robert Ray, and the Robert D and Billie Ray Center at Drake University.

“He had a vision to enhance civility through ethical leadership and character development; and that was the founding of our work. We started with the Character Counts imitative in 1997. There was one 5th grade classroom in 1997, and now we've trained over 50,000 community leaders in the character counts framework” said the center’s executive director Scott Raecker.

That framework revolves around the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. The center's mission is to help instill them not only in schools, but also in communities, corporations, and politicians. Raecker, a close friend of Governor Ray, says the center is a fitting legacy.

“I think it speaks volumes to the person that he was in all elements of his life, and as there's a lot of reflection on that right now I would tell you I think a lot of that is rooted in love. Governor Ray saw love as service and service to others, and through that it was about building relationships, demonstrating good character, and making good decisions” said Raecker.

Kevin Biggs is the principal at Roosevelt High School, the same school Governor Ray attended, and works to instill Character Counts in his students and staff; but he knew of it long before starting in Iowa.

“I'm from California and I heard of Governor Ray and his work with Character Counts when I was a student, administrator and teacher.  Biggs says leading the school which the governor called his own is an honor.

“He represents all that is right about Iowa, he represents all that is right about inclusion and acceptance and I heard that the moment my family moved to the state” said Biggs.

Raecker says Iowans can do their part to remember Governor Ray by working to embody the six pillars of character and reflect on the man who worked to make the world a better place.

“There will be a void in many of our lives of Governor Ray not having an actual presence with us, but that's not what we should be thinking about. What we should be thinking about the void we would have in our lives if Governor Ray had not been part of our lives” he said.

To get involved with the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center, call 515-271-1910