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The Governor Saved My Life!

May 20, 2014

Sure, politicians can save lives by ordering a stay of execution, or allocating funds to hunger-fighting programs, for example. These two stories are a little more direct.

  • Jerry BrownAfter graduating from a Catholic high school in California, Jerry Brown left for Santa Clara University, but dropped out after a year to join Sacred Heart Novitiate—the seminary. He wanted to be a priest. Brown was so committed to the sanctity of life that in 1960, the 22-year-old seminarian pleaded with the state’s governor to give a 60-day stay of execution to Caryl Chessman, a death row inmate scheduled to be executed. He wanted time to petition the state’s legislature to ban the death penalty outright. (The governor at the time was Brown’s father, Pat Brown, and the stay was delivered, but the death penalty was not banned in California, or at least it wasn’t until 1972. Three years later, Jerry Brown became California’s governor (and did so again in 2011).
  • In the 1990s, former doctor John Kitzhaber became the governor of Oregon, where he helped institute a statewide affordable health care plan. But he’s still a doctor at heart, and a hands-on one at that. In early May 2014, Kitzhaber’s motorcade was in downtown Portland when he noticed a woman laying on the ground, with a pedestrian trying to help her. Kitzhaber told his driver to pull over. While an associate called 9-1-1, the governor performed CPR on the unconscious woman. Paramedics soon arrived, and continued reviving the woman, who is expected to make a full recovery.
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