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A Promise Called Iowa

A Promise Called Iowa documents how Iowa became a place of refuge and freedom for many Southeast Asians. It tells that story with the people who lived the history: the political and public officials who made it happen, the private individuals who made it work, and the refugees who found a new home in Iowa.

In the summer of 1975, after Saigon had fallen, President Gerald Ford wrote to every governor asking them to help resettle the 130,000 refugees who had escaped from South Vietnam. Iowa's Governor Bob Ray responded. And many Iowans responded to Ray's committment to help.

The first refugees to arrive in Iowa were the Tai Dam, a distinct ethnic group that had been forced out of their homelands in Vietnam, escaped to Laos, and then had to escape again to Thailand. Over time, Iowans would embrace Vietnamese, Cambodians and Lao of differing ethnicities, helping them start a new life in Iowa as the fallout from war in their homelands destroyed many lives.

Ray's humanitarian response started Iowa down a road it is still travelling today. Iowa is the only state with a state government entity certified by the U.S. State Department to resettle refugees: the Bureau of Refugee Services. Iowa is the only place where state government, along with the private resettlement agencies, welcomes the dispossessed.

Stories

Wayne Johnson: Many People Help Refugees

posted on February 9, 2011

Wayne Johnson: Many People Help Refugees
Former chief of the Bureau of Refugee Services Wayne Johnson talks about Iowans who helped refugees who came to Iowa from Southeast Asia in 1979. 01:02 Play Video

David Yepsen: Iowans Became Aware of Diverse Cultures

posted on February 9, 2011

David Yepsen: Iowans Became Aware of Diverse Cultures
Des Moines Register columnist, David Yepsen, talks about refugees helping Iowans to be more aware of diverse cultures. 01:00 Play Video

Governor Robert D. Ray: Iowa Benefits From Refugees

posted on February 9, 2011

Governor Robert D. Ray: Iowa Benefits From Refugees
Former Iowa Governor Robert Ray discusses how Iowa benefitted from the influx of refugees in 1975. 01:31 Play Video

Michael Gartner: State of Iowa is One of a Kind

posted on February 9, 2011

Michael Gartner: State of Iowa is One of a Kind
Former president of the Des Moines Register, Michael Gartner, explains the state of Iowa's unique status as a resettlement agency. 00:50 Play Video

Governor Robert D. Ray: Iowa Responds

posted on February 9, 2011

Governor Robert D. Ray: Iowa Responds
Former Iowa Governor Robert Ray talks about Iowa's response to a plea from the President of the United States asking Americans to help refugees from Southeast Asia in 1975. 01:06 Play Video

Governor Robert D. Ray: Iowa Responds to Tai Dam

posted on February 9, 2011

Governor Robert D. Ray: Iowa Responds to Tai Dam
Former Iowa Governor Robert Ray discusses his decision to bring Tai Dam refugees to Iowa in 1975 after receiving a letter from Art Crisfield, an American who had met the Tai Dam while living in Southeast Asia. 01:23 Play Video

Wayne Johnson: The Need is Immediate

posted on February 9, 2011

Wayne Johnson: The Need is Immediate
Former chief of Iowa's Bureau of Refugee Services Wayne Johnson talks about changes in refugee services in Iowa over the years. 00:53 Play Video

Kenneth M. Quinn: Iowans Send Aid to Southeast Asia

posted on February 9, 2011

Kenneth M. Quinn: Iowans Send Aid to Southeast Asia
Former US Ambassador to Cambodia Kenneth M. Quinn describes the response from Iowans to the plea for aid to refugees in Southeast Asia in 1979. 02:10 Play Video

Wayne Johnson: A Legacy Continues

posted on February 9, 2011

Wayne Johnson: A Legacy Continues
Former chief of the Bureau of Refugee Services Wayne Johnson talks about the roles former Iowa Governor Robert Ray and other Iowans played in helping refugees in 1979. These earlier events laid the foundation for future refugee efforts. 01:19 Play Video

Michael Gartner: Iowa's Embrace of Southeast Asian Refugees

posted on July 25, 2008

Michael Gartner: Iowa's Embrace of Southeast Asian Refugees
In 1975, nobody knew how bringing people who were so different to Iowa would work out. Michael Gartner says it was a good thing for everyone. 01:05 Play Video

Wayne Johnson: What is a Refugee?

posted on April 4, 2007

Wayne Johnson: What is a Refugee?
Wayne Johnson provides the legal definition of a refugee. He also explains how someone who escapes their home country with little to their name can demonstrate they are indeed a refugee, someone at risk in their home country. 02:43 Play Video

David Yepsen: Lasting Impact of Southeast Asian Refugees on Iowa

posted on April 4, 2007

David Yepsen: Lasting Impact of Southeast Asian Refugees on Iowa
The Indochinese exodus followed decades of war and chaos in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, called the Vietnam War. David Yepsen reflects on how the legacy of that time will always be with us. 00:32 Play Video

Kenneth M. Quinn: Experiences of Tai Dam Coming to Iowa

posted on April 4, 2007

Kenneth M. Quinn: Experiences of Tai Dam Coming to Iowa
In 1975, a distinct ethnic group called the Tai Dam wanted to settle as a group in the United States. Natives of Vietnam, they had been in Laos for 20 years in 1975. Ambassador Kenneth Quinn explains their experiences coming to Iowa. 02:49 Play Video

Walter F. Mondale: Welcoming Refugees from Southeast Asia

posted on April 4, 2007

Walter F. Mondale: Welcoming Refugees from Southeast Asia
Former Vice President Walter Mondale talks about the legacy of resettling refugees from Southeast Asia. The refugees lives weren’t the only ones changed. 01:21 Play Video

Governor Robert D. Ray: Iowa's Leadership in Resettling Southeast Asian Refugees

posted on April 4, 2007

Governor Robert D. Ray: Iowa's Leadership in Resettling Southeast Asian Refugees
The state of Iowa was a leader in resettling Southeast Asian refugees, not only because the government got behind it, but because of the way it was done. 00:59 Play Video

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