I exist only because Oregon welcomed my dad as a World War II refugee from Eastern Europe. After learning English while working at a logging camp in Valsetz, in the Oregon coastal range, he worked his way through college and grad school. He and my mom taught for decades at Portland State University.
I grew up on our family’s sheep and cherry farm outside Yamhill. We were lucky to have a home filled with books. I had great teachers who nurtured me, and a tight-knit community that supported me.
In Yamhill schools, I discovered a love of journalism – reporting in Yamhill County for the News-Register in McMinnville, and later interning at the Statesman Journal and The Oregonian. After college and graduate school, I got the job of a lifetime, working for The New York Times, and while there I met Sheryl – another journalist from an immigrant family. Our work at The New York Times took us around the world, and in 1990 we became the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism for our reporting of the 1989 Tiananmen democracy movement in China. I won another Pulitzer in 2006 for coverage of the genocide in Darfur. As a columnist at The Times, I bore witness to some of the biggest humanitarian crises around the globe and tried to show how people and governments could address them and improve lives.
But every time I returned to Oregon, I saw problems here as well. Good working-class jobs had become harder to find and for too many of my friends life was a tightrope walk – some made it across, but for others, one stumble and that was it. I lost many friends to a brutal cycle of addiction, incarceration, unemployment, and despair. We tried in many ways to address it. But the problems were deep-rooted and widespread, evident in towns and cities across the state.
Over the last four years, while trying to address these issues, we’ve put in the work to revitalize our family farm, together with our three adult children: Gregory, Geoffrey, and Caroline. Kristof Farms now produces cider apples and grapes, and we’ve just produced our first cider. We are so fortunate in what Oregon has given us.
But a good life in Oregon shouldn’t just come down to luck; everyone should have the opportunity and support needed to succeed. And that’s why I’m running for governor. I’ve buried too many friends and seen too many problems fester. We often accept Oregon’s problems as inevitable and unsolvable, but they’re not. I know Oregon can be better, but we have to make a different choice – a choice to treat people with dignity and to tackle problems even when they’re hard. Oregon has given me so much, and that’s why I’m running for governor – to get Oregon back on track so that it works for everyone.