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Office of Governor Gary Locke
Contact:  Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136

Locke declines request to speak at Evergreen State College

OLYMPIA — Gov. Gary Locke announced today that he will not give the keynote address at The Evergreen State College commencement on June 11 because of his concerns about a separate taped address on the same program by a convicted murderer who is on death row in Pennsylvania.

In a letter Friday to Jane Jervis, President of The Evergreen State College (TESC), Locke said:

"Thank you for inviting me, on behalf of the student body at The Evergreen State College, to deliver the 1999 commencement address. I regret that I must respectfully withdraw my participation from this event.

"This has been an extremely difficult decision for me. I am honored that the students selected me as their keynote graduation speaker, and I had looked forward to delivering at Evergreen my first commencement address in Washington State since becoming governor.

"I applaud and respect the students' efforts to develop a graduation program that includes a diversity of views. However, now that I have received confirmation that the taped speech of a convicted murderer will also be an official part of the program, I cannot, in good conscience and out of respect for law enforcement officers throughout our state and nation, participate in this year's commencement exercises."

Locke was referring to plans by TESC to play an audiotaped message from Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on death row in Pennsylvania for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia policeman. Some TESC students invited Abu-Jamal to submit a taped address after it had scheduled Locke as the keynote speaker.

TESC President Jane Jervis said, "We are disappointed that the governor will not be able to speak at our commencement, but we certainly respect his decision. We look forward to having another opportunity for the governor to come to Evergreen and visit with our students."

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