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Last year's poetic words from our nation's Youth Poet Laureate have set a tone that still resonates.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Sen. Rob Wagner during the opening-day ceremonies of the 2021 Oregon Legislature, one year ago.One year ago, I was gripped by the poetic performance of a lifetime. Words to simultaneously shake and comfort a nation. A burst of hope, punctuating a crisp blue sky morning in our nation's capital.

Amanda Gorman, our country's first National Youth Poet Laureate, climbed the hill and delivered the words that still sound clear in my mind. She asked us "where can we find light in this never-ending shade?"

I've been asking this question again as we endure another wave of a pandemic that threatens our health and challenges our resilience. I think of my family, my neighbors and community, the hardships that folks in every corner of the state have endured for nearly two years.

I've been reflecting on where we go from here.

Building on our work to provide Oregonians with housing security, keep kids in school and promote a clean energy future, we will be back in Salem on Tuesday, Feb. 1, for the 2022 legislative session. We're up against many challenges this year. Due to the surging omicron variant, our legislative committees will continue to meet virtually during the 35-day session. On the bright side, the Legislature is well equipped to continue to receive virtual testimony, meaning that you will not need to drive to Salem to share your thoughts and perspectives.

In my role as Senate majority leader, I am optimistic about our opportunities this year and in years ahead. The Democratic caucus in the Senate is working tirelessly to advance a legislative agenda that will deliver meaningful change for Oregonians — providing support for our educators, helping our kids succeed in school, recognizing the heroism of our essential workers, expanding affordable and effective health care for families, and creating additional pathways for jobseekers.

As every Oregonian feels the difficulties of these unprecedented times, I hope that we can continue to support each other and our communities by following the best available public health guidance, volunteering at local organizations, and sharing our resources with others. Despite the strain of the present moment, I'm confident that we will emerge stronger than where we started.

Amanda Gorman's poem acknowledges that in our grief, there is growth. In our hurt, there is hope. And that in our exhaustion, there is effort. We will rise from this experience and build a better future, but we have to do it together. She concluded her poem by encouraging all of us to be brave enough to see, and be, the light we need in this world.

Let's bravely commit to that light and use it as our guide to improve our communities. Democracy is a big house that we have the privilege to keep working on together — a bold and unending project of renewal. To weather the storms that we face, we will need to build each other up, not tear each other down.

Sen. Rob Wagner is the Senate majority leader and represents Southwest Portland, Lake Oswego, West Linn and Tualatin in the Legislature.

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