Robert C. Belloni Boys’ Forest Ranch Dedication
I cannot adequately express my pleasure at the honor of this wonderful venture bearing my name. While obviously I could have no part in naming the Ranch, I have known for a long time that it would probably carry my name. Believe me, if I did not wholly and completely approve of the concept of this boys’ ranch, I would have prevented my name’s connection with it, because to a large degree my acquiescence places my own reputation on the line. I would not, for example, allow an institution such as a jail or any structure designed for punishment to bear my name.
But this day is not a triumph for any one person. It is a great achievement for a wonderful community. Never before have I known of the people of an American county to rally to the support of a home for the rehabilitation of its own youngsters to the extent done here by the people of Coos County. Against a strong trend to delegate all authority and responsibility to higher and richer government forms in the capitals, you have actually assumed locally a responsibility that has been traditionally a state responsibility. In an age of heavy resistance to spending even for good social programs you have from your own pockets and hearts contributed the large sum of money and work needed to construct these buildings. In the county where my family now lives, a $160 million bond issue was, with difficulty, passed to construct just such a home as this, but when it came time to build, no one wanted it in their section of Clackamas County. At first, they tried to build it, in a neighboring county and discovered that that would be unlawful. Then, after a competent committee chose an ideal site, the neighbors for miles around protested because they didn’t want “bad boys” in their midst. Don’t tell me all communities are the same. How can the plan work there? How can it fail to work here? The accomplishment of the people of Coos County is one that deserves to be written up in Readers’ Digest or a similar publication, but I doubt that the writer could capture the spirit of this community well enough to do it justice.
While our public participation was from the heart, it does not imply sentimental nonsense. Those of you who have worked for this program have a right to demand performance by its administrators. You are aware that not everything here on the Ranch will be sweetness and light. We will have our successes’ and we will have our failures. Most of you know that a few youngsters have already found that it’s not too hard to get away and head for parts unknown where discipline and supervision do not exist and the Utopia of the open road beckons. (It’s surprisingly easy to catch up with them when the reality of cold and hunger and life’s hardships show their heads.) Surely those little problems will not greatly concern you. We could build a structure that would hold them in. We could build a pen or a cage, but you wouldn’t support it and you shouldn’t, because it wouldn’t do the job intended. The very purpose of this place is to keep boys out of jails and penitentiaries. I have, unhappily, had to send many boys of all ages to state and federal prisons; hopefully, most of our boys here will be saved from that fate.
What then can you expect of your administrators? You can expect and demand professional competence and full-time attention to each boy on a one-to-one basis. You can expect and demand that each boy’s problems be dealt with individually. Above all, you can expect the administrators to carry out the policies of your two excellent and knowledgeable circuit judges. Your Judges Norman and Warden know their business; they are highly competent and among the best-respected jurists in Oregon. You have chosen well, now trust them to do the job and give them your help.
This home is dedicated to the belief that a boy’s problems arise in the community and they must be cured in the community and by the community. We have rejected the old practice of sending all problem boys to the state capital where they are out of sight and out of mind. We know they will be back living with us again soon. Let us keep them here and participate together in their rearing as welcome and productive members among us.
That, my friends, is the real reason Judge Norman has labored among you for two years. Surely he wanted your money and your work and your skills — he got them, too, but deeper than all that he knew that your lasting interest would be secured because you participated from the idea’s inception and are not likely to allow the dream to deteriorate into a run-of-the mill facility.
On the contrary, let us hope and expect that after 15 or 20 years Coos County residents, including the families directly affected by this Ranch, will know that we were not impractical dreamers but truly builders of a better community.
Judge Robert C. Belloni
Robert C. Belloni Boys’ Forest Ranch Dedication Speech