Office of Governor Gary Locke
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - January-11-05
Contact: Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136
Gov. Gary Locke’s Farewell Address OLYMPIA – Jan. 11, 2005 – Gov. Gary Locke today delivered his farewell address to a joint session of the Washington State Legislature. Locke served two terms as governor and will leave office tomorrow, Jan. 12, at noon. The text of his speech is as follows:
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Honorable Chief Justice, distinguished Justices of the Washington State Supreme Court, statewide elected officials, members of the Washington State Legislature, members of the Consular Association, and people of our great state of Washington: It’s been an honor and privilege to serve as governor these past eight years.
My service has been made possible by my family members love and encouragement. I want to acknowledge them: My father, Jimmy Locke; my mother, Julie; my sister Marian Monwai and her husband Peter; my sister Jannie Chow and her husband Eddie; my brother Jeffrey Locke and his wife Doris; my sister Rita Yoshihara and her husband Joe; and my brother-in-law Judd Lee.
And it is with great pleasure and honor that I recognize and acknowledge my wife, Mona.
Mona has been a tremendous First Lady for the state of Washington, as well as a loving, supportive wife, and an amazing, nurturing mother. She has been a dedicated champion for families and children across our state, especially in the area of early learning. She co-chaired the Governor’s Commission on Early Learning and later helped establish a separate 501c3 non-profit Foundation for Early Learning. She also spearheaded the Computers for Kids program, where Department of Corrections inmates have refurbished 20,000 surplus computers and donated them to schools across the state.
I’m not the only one saying goodbye today. Mona and I are leaving a city we truly love. And our children Emily, Dylan and Madeline are leaving the only town and only home they have ever known. We will all miss Olympia very much.
It was 22 years ago yesterday that I was sworn in as a member of the state House of Representatives. I sat where Rep. Judy Clibborn now sits. And I can still spot a few of the people that were here when I started. Public service has been my life and my passion.
I am very proud of the progress we’ve made during my two terms as governor of the great state of Washington. From raising academic achievement to increasing family wage jobs; from restoring wild salmon runs to increasing sales of Washington agricultural harvests to foreign markets; from streamlining regulations to improving services to Washington citizens.
I’m especially proud because we’ve faced some formidable challenges. Challenges that seemed to come from every direction. A major earthquake. An energy crisis. Droughts. September 11th, and the constant challenge of improving homeland security. We survived, we rebounded, and we’re charging ahead.
Just a couple of years ago, we were in the depths of some very tough economic times. We faced serious state budget shortfalls like 47 other states across America. Significant decisions had to be made, and we made them, using our Priorities of Government budgeting approach – an approach that should still be used regardless of the amount of resources available.
Now Washington state is showing clear signs of a strong economic recovery that is broad, deep and all across our state. Our unemployment rate has dropped by almost two percentage points since a year ago, twice as fast as the rest of America. We’ve gone in a short time from one of the highest unemployment rates in America to close to the national average! The new jobs that are being created are good jobs, too, paying much more than new elsewhere in the nation.
It’s policies we have enacted together that have helped spur this recovery, creating thousands of private sector jobs. Policies like:
· incentives for businesses to locate in rural Washington,
· the transportation improvement package,
· and the acceleration of state construction projects.
We have Washington on track for a very bright future.
During my inaugural address in 1997 I shared with you the story of my family. My grandfather’s work as a houseboy here in Olympia, receiving English lessons in exchange for his labor. My father’s service in World War II and his participation in the Normandy invasion. My mother’s wonderful work raising five children and learning English so she could become a US citizen – at the same time I was learning English in kindergarten.
I was struck on that first inaugural day that – after nearly one hundred years and three generations – my family had traveled the mile from the house where my Grandfather worked to the Governor’s mansion. As I finish my term here at the end of that century mile, I am humbled to know that it was made possible by the hard work of so many members of the Locke family.
I will always remember my parents impressing upon us kids the values they felt were critical to a successful life: get a good education, work hard, and take care of others. They are the principles that I promised to uphold eight years ago. They are the principles that have guided my decisions during all my years as governor.
I have worked to ensure that Washington is a state that provides a quality education, creates opportunities for individuals who want to work hard, and takes care of its own. A state where individuals are given not only a chance to achieve success, but also the tools they need to flourish.
The most important tool we can provide is a quality education. As you’ve heard me say so many times, and as many of you have now begin to chant, education is the great equalizer. It offers opportunity and hope to all it touches. It is the key to a vital economy. It is the key to an enriching future for our children.
We’ve made great strides in raising academic achievement during the past seven years.
In fact, our kids are making some of the biggest academic gains in America! This year’s WASL results are proof. In 1997, only 48 percent of 4th graders met the state reading standard. This year, 74 percent passed. And in math, in 1997, 21 percent of 4th graders met the standard. This year, 60 percent passed.
There are other measures of success for Washington’s schools. In states with similar numbers of students taking the test, Washington ranks FIRST in both math and verbal scores! And our students ranked third on the ACT college readiness exam, which is by many of the private colleges in America. I am especially proud that Washington led the nation last year in reading scores for African-American fourth graders. African-American eighth graders in Washington scored better in math than in all but three states. We are closing the achievement gap.
But we know much more must be done in this area. We must continue to provide extra assistance to struggling schools and struggling students.
We have set high, rigorous standards for academic achievement for all students.
Our standards are higher than most other states, because we know these are the skills students need to be successful in this global, high-tech, 21st century economy. And our students are still meeting these higher goals at a greater rate than those in the states with lower standards. We must stay the course. So we can’t turn back and lower our standards or abandon these reforms. We must stay the course. There is too much at stake.
Our success in education is a product of the hard work of our students and the dedication of teachers, parents, and community members. We can’t thank or reward our educators enough for nurturing, inspiring and molding our children. They deserve our recognition.
And in higher education, there are 17,000 more students attending our colleges and universities a year than seven years ago.
We have established many significant, life-changing programs, like our Promise Scholarships, which help high achieving students from middle and low-income families realize the American Dream of a college education. We developed Kindergarten Readiness Guidelines, working with the Superintendent of Public Instruction, recognizing that education begins at birth. And we have expanded job training and retraining programs, because we must also view education as life-long, continuing even through our adult and working years.
With record high school graduations over the next few years, we must add enrollments to our colleges and universities. Because tuition only provides a small amount of a universities budget, without extra dollars we will have to turn students away. As our economy improves, we want our kids to fill these new jobs, instead of businesses needing to hire workers from out of state. Education sets the foundation for individuals to succeed.
And with hard work a good, family-wage job should be the payoff. To ensure that such jobs are available, we must keep the businesses we have and attract new ones to our state. We must continue to cultivate a healthy, dynamic business climate. And we must also make sure that our workforce is protected and fairly compensated. The hard work of our labor force should not be exploited for the gain of a few, but instead for the profit of employers, employees, and society as a whole.
In just the last two years, nine national companies have chosen Washington over Oregon, Idaho and even California for major facilities, employing thousands. And Boeing airplanes still mean “Made in Washington.” This is because the state of Washington is known for its innovation, competitiveness, quality of life and entrepreneurial spirit.
Recent studies by independent organizations confirm our success in improving our business climate. The Small Business Entrepreneurial Council ranked Washington the 4th friendliest business environment in the nation. A study by the conservative, anti-tax, Tax Foundation ranked Washington as having the ninth most business friendly tax climate.
Unfortunately, not all Washingtonians possess the capacity to support themselves. Some are physically sick, developmentally disabled or suffer from mental illness. Others have worked hard their entire lives, but have reached their retirement years and need a little extra help. And many children, through no fault of their own, are living in intolerable conditions.
It is our responsibility, as individuals and government, to help those who are in need. Even through tough budget times, we have maintained a safety net for those who are unable to take care of themselves, whether in institutions or community settings.
I am proud that we have taken great strides in broadening access to health care. We’re one of the few states in the nation that provides health care to children from families with incomes up to 250% of the poverty level. Most states only provide up to 200 percent of the poverty level. We’ve made it convenient for seniors to purchase low-cost, American-made prescription drugs from Canada. And we’re the only state with a real commitment to providing decent housing for migrant farm workers who harvest the food we put on our tables.
And if we are to continue our success in helping families move off of public assistance and become self-sufficient, we must maintain the emphasis on affordable child care and quality job training programs. It is one thing to be governor and guide the policies of state government. But it is the people who work in our agencies every day who really make government work. It’s been my honor to work with so many incredibly talented, dedicated individuals in our state agencies – our directors, managers, line staff and members of the Governor’s Office. Many of our state agencies have been ranked the very best in their respective fields. Many of our agency directors are leaders in their national associations. And they have each held themselves to the highest ethical standards.
The quality of our leaders is reflected in national rankings. And in the two evaluations done since I took office, Governing Magazine and Cornell University have each time named Washington among the four best-managed states in America.
No one goes into public service to get rich. Instead, the payoff is that every day you have the opportunity to help someone achieve a better life, whether it is helping someone in finding a job or finding loving, adoptive parents for an abandoned child.
It is important that in the politics of governing we not forget to recognize the dedication of these individuals, these great public servants, the public employees of the state of Washington. I thank our public employees for the outstanding work they do to promote the welfare of our state.
But government can only do so much. Our society depends on dedicated volunteers who give of their time and energy across our state. So many individuals and organizations put in countless hours volunteering in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and other places of need. For example, in 1998, Superintendent of Public instruction Terry Bergeson and I created the Washington Reading Corps for struggling readers in our elementary schools.
Since its inception, 75,000 struggling readers have made phenomenal reading progress thanks to 50,000 volunteer tutors. And our state’s volunteer spirit has never been more evident than in recent weeks as individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations throughout our state have risen to the challenge of helping the Tsunami victims in South Asia.
But there is always more that can be done. I encourage everyone in our state to share their gifts with their communities – to help take care of others. Take some time to help those who need assistance. Participate in the preservation and cleanup of our natural environment. Fight for the rights of oppressed groups in our society. Invest your time on behalf of others.
Our state is so diverse – in its geography, climate, culture, industries and communities. From Forks to Walla Walla; Point Roberts to Vancouver; and Long Beach to Colville – the people of this state possess a shared, irrepressible spirit. We all have a common goal: a strong and prosperous Washington, where everyone has a chance to succeed. I call upon the Legislature, the next governor, and all the people of our state to pull together to achieve this goal. My administration leaves you a stronger, healthier state poised for even greater things.
Eight years ago I was blessed with two titles of immense honor and responsibility: Governor, and a few months later, Dad. One title ends tomorrow. The other lasts forever.
Emily will soon turn 8. She misses her friends in Olympia very, very much. Dylan will soon turn 6. And Madeline is just 2 months old! Doesn’t she have a lot of hair? Mona and I have been so touched all these years by the warmth, graciousness and well wishes of people all across our state. The books and quilts for the children and the letters, cards and emails. We can’t thank you enough.
As we begin a new chapter of our life, Mona, myself, Emily, Dylan, and Madeline leave office with cherished memories that are sure to last at least through the next 100-year journey. Our family has been so blessed. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts – for the incredible privilege and honor – of serving you, the people of the state of Washington – for the opportunity to make Washington an even greater place to live, work and raise a family. Thank you very much. God Bless you all.