1—Oregon is an Inspiration

Bigger than life, a ten foot bronze statue of Governor Tom McCall was unveiled in Salem's Riverfront Park in September of 2008. Tom McCall served as Oregon's 30th governor from 1967 to 1975. He is remembered for his outspoken leadership, commitment to the environment, and his genuine love for Oregon.

Young people who see the Tom McCall statue are mesmerized by its bigness, its beauty. They touch that giant fish, look up into the big man's eyes, read the writing on the surrounding river rocks. Most often, however, they have no idea who Tom McCall is.

The statue embodies this essential belief: Tom McCall is too important, has done too much for Oregon, to let him slide into the dusty chronicles of state history. Tom McCall is an inspiration for all of us who love Oregon.

The Tom McCall Slide Show includes several pictures of the statue. We hope these curricular activities will inspire students to seek out the statue when in Salem. They can also see a smaller version of the statue at the Oregon Historical Museum in Portland.

Created by sculptor, Rip Caswell and based on a picture by John Daniel Callaghan, the statue depicts McCall fishing in the Umpqua River.

Essential Questions

What is special about Oregon?

How do past events help us define who we are - as individuals and as Oregonians with special interests and common values? How do representations of these events - in words and through art - help us discover our uniqueness and our commonality?


Governor Tom McCall left an indelible mark on Oregonians. We go to other states and shake our heads at the soft drink bottles and cans that get thrown in the garbage. We take for granted that we can play on Oregon's beaches, and don't understand how it is that in other places, individuals actually own the beaches, disallowing public use.The statue of Governor Tom McCall provides a focus for thinking about who we are, what we value, and how we define ourselves.

Common Core State Standards

Common Core State and Oregon Social Studies Standards (PDF)

Student Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Identify pictures of Tom McCall.
  • Identify his role as governor of the state of Oregon,
  • Identify and explain the symbolic elements of the statue.
  • Identify primary and secondary sources
  • Focus on an issue related to Tom McCall, analyzing different viewpoints.
  • Identify, describe, and analyze the attributes that make community places special.


Literary Texts

Informational Texts

Art, Music, Media

  • Tom McCall Statue in Salem's Riverfront Park
  • Tom McCall Portrait by Henk Pander. Located in Oregon's Capitol Building
  • Tom McCall Slide Show
  • Large Map of Oregon

Sample Activities and Assessments

Classroom Learning

Class Discussion: Using pictures of the Tom McCall statue as reference points, discuss symbolic statue elements. From looking at the statue, what can you tell about this man? What does he care about? How is the statue a symbol of McCall's love for Oregon, and Oregon's love of Tom McCall?

  • Fishing Rod
  • Water/Waves
  • Fish/Steelhead
  • Waders
  • River Rocks

Reflective Essay/Discussion: What do you love about Oregon? Be specific. It may be a place, an idea, an event, a way of life? Why is it important to you? How does it make you feel? How is that like or different from what Tom McCall loved about Oregon? What symbol might help others understand what you care about?

Video Montage: Students watch the Tom McCall video montage. Write down questions, first impressions. After research activities and further studies, watch the video again. Have questions been answered? What do they know about Tom McCall now, that they did not know the first time that they watched it?

Research: Through internet research student pairs discover essential facts about Tom McCall. In a round robin exercise share what they have learned. As facts are presented, students create a timeline that can be expanded throughout this study.

Newspaper Search: In pairs, students read the newspaper searching for issues that relate to Tom McCall, e.g. land use, the environment, river pollution/clean up, transportation issues, plastic bag ban, recycling, garbage dump expansion. With further research, students take a stand, articulate point of view and rationale.

"How Bout Them…." Poems: Read Mason Williams "How Bout Them…" poems ( The Mason Williams Reading Matter). Students write "How Bout Them Oregonians" poems

Art Essay: Students use pictures and symbols to create an artistic rendition of what they love about Oregon. It may be a drawing, a collage, sculpture, a photo exhibit, or a multi-media project.

Service Learning

Using the service-learning model, students identify a need in their community to address. Students conduct research, propose solutions, and act upon them.

  • Work together to make a book of the essays and art pieces to donate to the local library.
  • In teams create photo collages of places in the community/state that the students value. Place them public places that students choose.
  • Create Flicker sights with photos of special places within the community.
  • Interview community members about their favorite places in Oregon or their local community. Create a book or blog site with quotes from interviews and photos of favorite places.
  • Work with SOLV to plan and implement a community/river/stream clean-up.
  • Write letters to local editor, city council, state legislators about current community issue.

Making Interdisciplinary Connections

This unit could be extended to teach:

  • Oregon History/State Government: Role of governor, how laws are created and passed.
  • History/geography: Famous people throughout history (e.g., How have these people changed our world? What makes them famous?)
  • Science/Civics: Environment, role of government and individuals in protecting the environment.