Senator Slade Gorton
Tribute to Slade Gorton
The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) is deeply saddened by the death of Senator Slade Gorton on August 19, 2020. Senator Gorton was engaged with NBR since its founding, co-established with Congressman Norm Dicks the congressional membership of NBR’s advisory board, and served as a counselor in residence. He also served as a founding member of NBR’s Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property (IP Commission).
“Slade was an integral part of NBR’s history and development,” said Roy Kamphausen, president of NBR. “His commitment to public service, fierce intellectual independence, and laser-like focus on impact have been imprinted upon NBR since our founding and continue to guide us as we carry out our mission.”
Senator Gorton dedicated himself to more than 60 years in public service. He served in both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force Reserve, attaining the rank of Colonel. He represented the people of Washington State for one term as Majority Leader in the state House of Representatives, for three terms as state Attorney General, and for three terms as U.S. Senator. Following his time in Congress, Senator Gorton continued to serve in other ways, including by being the first permanent appointee to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission).
“Washington State has just lost one of the most important leaders—with national and international impact—in its history,” said Richard Ellings, co-founding president of NBR and a former staffer to Senator Gorton. “On Slade’s U.S. Senate staff nearly forty years ago I saw firsthand Slade’s leadership—upholding high standards, distributing responsibility among his staff widely, working hard on important issues, focusing on being effective, and serving as a model of personal integrity with utter dedication to the state, nation, critical facts, and disciplined analysis. For us at NBR he was a very big deal. He helped found NBR and was a stalwart for us on many projects going back thirty years, especially in his service as an IP Commissioner these past seven years. He relished his engagement with NBR’s Slade Gorton Policy Center, where he was able to mentor more than a hundred distinguished undergraduate and graduate students, interns, and staff. It was our honor to have his personal office, where he displayed not only the quills from the fourteen cases that he pleaded before the U.S. Supreme Court but much of his Mariners memorabilia.”
Ellings continued, “There seems no end to what accolades we could recite, including what he accomplished in bringing women into leadership positions and public service and for grappling with China, but it’s good now to appreciate what a person of integrity, brilliance, judgment, patriotism, and effectiveness he was. I am but one in an army of equally loyal former staff. He had a tremendous life and leaves us a tremendous legacy of bipartisanship and civil discourse. The country needs a tidal wave of young Slade Gortons.”
In 2010, NBR founded the Slade Gorton Policy Center as a way of honoring Senator Gorton and his lifetime of contributions to U.S. policy. In 2013, the Center established the Gorton Leaders Program (GLP), a ten-month leadership development course for college undergraduate and graduate students in the Pacific Northwest. Senator Gorton invited luminaries from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to join him in teaching the students about leadership at all levels.
“Slade’s lasting legacy can be seen in his mentorship of the students in the Global Leaders Program,” said Deborah Hazlegrove, president of the Slade Gorton Policy Center.” Slade enjoyed watching the students’ leadership abilities develop throughout the program, no matter their field of study or political views.”
The GLP currently has over 120 alumni throughout the country working in areas such as politics, policy, healthcare, technology start-ups, and social service organizations. Senator Gorton often said that his greatest legacy would not be in any particular legislation but in the hundreds of young people who had worked with him over the years and gone on to become leaders.
“Senator Gorton shaped my career trajectory,” said Bruno Fiorentini, member of the 2017 GLP class and former assistant to the Gorton Center. “He impressed upon me the importance of professionalism, wisdom, and mentorship—lessons I carry with me every day.”
Member of the 2020 GLP class Maekara Keopanapay added, “When I first shook Senator Gorton’s hand and addressed him as ‘Senator,’ he corrected me with a smile: ‘please, call me Slade.’ He was an intellectual, but I most remember his ability to inspire. I was inspired by his passion for service, his belief in the strength of our political institutions, his efforts for bipartisanship, and his servant leadership in the face of opposition—even when it was from his own party. At the end of every GLP meeting, I felt hopeful about the future, and I hope to carry Slade’s legacy forward in my own style of leadership.”
Even as Senator Gorton worked with NBR, he remained active in public life, being appointed to the War Powers Commission, the National Commission on Federal Election Reform, and the Washington State Redistricting Commission. For baseball fans, he will long be remembered for successfully saving the Seattle Mariners twice by attracting Japanese investment.
“Senator Slade Gorton was a strong advocate for the people of Washington State,” said Congressman Norm Dicks, an NBR board member. “When we served on our respective appropriations committees in the House and the Senate, Slade reached across the aisle and made bipartisanship work. Even after we left Congress, Slade and I continued our partnership working in support of NBR and the Gorton Center. We will miss Slade’s friendly smile and his brilliant mind.”
Slade with the 2013 class of Gorton Global Leaders.
Governor Gary Locke with Slade at a Slade Gorton Policy Center event at NBR’s Seattle headquarters.
Photo credit: Otto Greule Jr., Seattle Mariners
In a career defined by numerous achievements, saving the Mariners 25 years ago remains one of Slade’s proudest.