DES MOINES, Iowa -- It was better late than never for Terry Branstad who made it to Des Moines from the other side of the globe in time to say goodbye to a friend and mentor Thursday.
Branstad, the former governor and current US Ambassador to China, arrived at the State Capitol Thursday evening to pay his respects to his first predecessor to the governor's office, Robert D. Ray.
"He was such a great man and such a great leader and had such a great influence on me and many other Iowans," Branstad told us moments after pausing to pay his final respects to Robert D. Ray. Branstad served as Ray's lieutenant from 1979 to 1983. Ray left office at the end of that term and Branstad succeeded him. Ray was Iowa's longest serving governor until Branstad surpassed him.
"I learned a lot just by watching the way he handled the job as Governor," said Branstad, "He loved people and he made people feel so welcome when they came to visit him or as he visited them when he traveled throughout the state. He was just a great role model and a great mentor. He really had a lot of impact on the people of this state."
Branstad says Governor Ray's diplomacy is partly to credit with Branstad's current office. In the 1970's Governor Ray had a professional relationship with the father of current Chinese President Xi Jinping. That relationship lead to a young Branstad and a young Xi Jinping meeting.