In 1974, New Yorker magazine published a 6000-word article titled "Letter from Oregon" by E. J. Kahn Jr. The article was about the state's unprecedented governing initiatives under the leadership of departing Governor Tom McCall, then near the end of his second and final four-year term in office.

McCall called the initiatives, collectively, The Oregon Story. In the article, McCall described The Oregon Story as one of "innovation and regeneration that can actually be used anywhere. We're trying to export the hope and the formula."

Study Units Lesson Plans

By 1974, Oregon could boast of many recent political innovations, most of them nationwide firsts:

  • protection of ocean beaches from privatization and development,
  • a law dedicating one-percent of highway funds for bicycle and pedestrian paths,
  • a mandatory five-cent deposit on returnable cans and bottles,
  • an effort to clean up the polluted Willamette River,
  • visionary land use planning to preserve farm and forestland,
  • a forest practices act,
  • and an astonishing level of voluntary energy conservation promoted by state government.

In effect, these initiatives led Oregon to become, within a generation, one of the most desirable places to live in the country.

A curriculum that teaches about Tom McCall's leadership and The Oregon Story and emphasizes service-learning as an outcome is long overdue for Oregon schoolchildren. Everyone who has ever spent any time in Oregon has benefited from the bold political initiatives achieved during the McCall era. The examples are all around us and part of our daily lives. This exciting and relevant new curriculum will help bring the Oregon Story alive to students and inspire them to preserve what made and continues to make Oregon such a great place to live.

Matt Love

Matt Love is the author/editor of The Beaver State Trilogy and Citadel of the Spirit: Oregon's Sesquicentennial Anthology In 2009, Love won the Oregon Literary Arts' Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award for his contributions to Oregon history and literature. He's taught nearly 20 years in Oregon secondary schools and currently teaches English and journalism at Newport High School on the Oregon Coast.


Tom McCall: A Better Oregon is a multi-disciplinary, service-learning curriculum focused on Governor Tom McCall's legacy to Oregon citizens. By learning about Tom McCall, students will gain knowledge, skills and commitment to act boldly and responsibly in civic matters. The curriculum is designed to involve young people in decisions and actions that will create "A Better Oregon".

These learning units and curricular resources may be used by teachers, by leaders of after-school programs, by youth-serving agencies, and by anyone else who believes that young people are essential in creating A Better Oregon.

Student Learning Goals

  1. Students will be able to identify Tom McCall; why he is important; and how decisions and policies enacted during his time as governor continue to impact the lives of all Oregonians.
  2. Students will be able to identify the following bills, their historical context, and their current impact on Oregonians:
    1. Beach Bill
    2. Bottle Bill
    3. Bicycle (Pedestrian) Bill
    4. Land Use Bill.
  3. Students will consider current community issues and policy decisions, conduct research, and then take action to create a better community, "A Better Oregon".