Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Boy Scouts of America
May 30, 1997
|Governor Locke with Scouts at National Boy Scouts of America Meeting
Good morning. In fact, "morning" is something of an understatement.
In my time zone, it’s about 4 AM, so I think this sets a record for the earliest speech I’ve ever given.
First, thanks to Jack Creighton, for great work and leadership of Boy Scouts of America and CEO of the Weyerhaeuser Corporation, and to Jere Ratcliff, for keeping Scouting strong and vibrant in America.
As I stand here this morning, my mind is filled with the memories of my development as a Scout.
It all started with a camping trip I took with my Aunt and Uncle when I was just five years old.
I will never forget the sense of absolute awe I felt in that first experience in the rain forest of the Olympic Peninsula, and the thrill of standing beside a wild river waiting for a fish to strike.
But my parents ran a grocery store that was open seven days a week, and there was just no way my Dad could ever take time off to take me camping.
So when my parents urged me to join the Boy Scouts, I jumped at the chance.
Scout leaders became an extended family, and Scouting was a great adventure.
In fact, I had the most fun after I earned my Eagle.
I became very active in the Order of the Arrow, and through all my high school and most of my college summers, I worked at Camp Omache in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state.
It’s great to see Del Loder, my former Lodge Adviser, here this morning.
Even now, many of my dearest friends and most enjoyable memories are from my Scouting days.
So I stand before you today, deeply honored by this award, immensely proud of my years in Scouting, and forever grateful for the nurturing I received, and for all that Scouting has helped me become.
When I was invited to this breakfast, I was asked to speak about two things: patriotism and leadership.
And I was told I would have 15 minutes to do so.
It made me wonder if, in addition to being loyal, brave, trustworthy and so forth, we’re now requiring Scouts to be "brief."
In fact, if we define patriotism as doing what’s best for our country, teaching people – especially politicians -- to speak briefly could be considered a patriotic act.
Patriotism flows from a genuine love for our country –a love for the ideals of liberty and opportunity, for the guarantees of our constitution, and for the land that both nourishes and inspire us.
And leadership is simply patriotism in action.
That much will never change.
But what is changing, day by day, is the nature of the challenges that we must love and lead our country through.
In much of the 20th century, the word "patriotism" evoked the commitment to counter external threats to our democracy – threats from which we needed the protection of men and women in uniform, and a mighty arsenal of weapons.
We fought not only to preserve the ideals of freedom and democracy, but to create a world in which others could share our liberty and prosperity.
Americans wanted our country to be strong for a moral purpose - not because we wanted to be the biggest and toughest, but because we wanted to save people from tyranny and poverty.
We wanted to do good deeds.
Even when we were at the peak of our military mobilization, we were always extending a helping hand to other countries - through the Marshall Plan, or with programs to help developing countries grow more food, or through special relief efforts for people suffering from starvation and natural disasters.
And even Americans who were denied the right to vote, and Americans whose families were locked away in internment camps, fought for these ideals.
During World War II, the African-American Tuskegee Airmen, and the 442nd Regiment of Japanese-American soldiers proved that the power of belief in America’s essential goodness – and its destiny to protect democracy -- could overcome even the most devastating experiences of racial discrimination.
My own father fought in World War II, and participated in the Normandy invasion.
And while our loved ones fought, our families did all they could to support them.
They collected aluminum, planted victory gardens, and opened child care centers so that Moms could go to work building airplanes and running factories.
We succeeded as a nation because in times of crisis, we pulled together as a people.
Now, as we approach the new millennium, the challenge to those who love this country has changed.
Now our men and women in uniform are called on more often be peace-keepers than to win wars.
Our position of global leadership depends more on the strength of our economy than on the strength of our military.
And our ability to be the shining beacon of democracy depends on our ability to lead by example.
That’s why I am deeply concerned about the quality of the example we provide to the world.
Today, the most dangerous threats to America’s leadership for democracy come from within - from within our borders, and from within our own hearts.
When our children do not receive a world-class education, that is a threat to our democracy.
When students graduate from high school uninformed and unprepared to be good citizens, that is a threat to our country.
When the number of children living in poverty keeps rising, that is a threat to our democracy.
When the chasm between the wealthy and the rest of us widens, and when a growing number of people who work hard support their families, that is a threat to our democracy.
And most important, when voter participation and community volunteerism decline, year after year, that is a threat to our democracy.
But these challenges can’t be met with partisanship or finding fault with one another.
We have come to the end of our nation’s ability to survive the toxic politics of meanness, blame and selfishness.
So what’s the answer?
Democrats blame Republicans; Republicans blame Democrats. Politicians blame the electorate; Americans blame other countries or our immigrants.
Those cop-outs pull us backwards, into the abyss of cynicism and alienation.
As Pogo said, we have met the enemy, and it is us.
To some extent, nearly all of us have let our country down.
We have all been too quick to criticize, and too slow to take responsibility.
We have all been too quick to judge, and too slow to really listen to each other’s pain, confusion and fear.
And we have all clung too tightly to our own brittle opinions, and been too resistant to the fresh air of new ideas and perspectives.
But Pogo was only half right.
Because if we look at our history, we can also see that we have met America’s best friends and strongest allies – and they are also us.
It’s time – right now, right here – to turn over a new leaf.
Today, America’s problems call out to all who love our nation to nurture our country’s troubled soul, and to renew our sense of national moral purpose.
Today, the moral renewal of America requires a new call to arms.
But this time, the arms must be our own – the arms with which we hug our children; the arms and hands we extend in partnership; the arms in which we carry food to the hungry and medicine to the sick, and the arms and hands with which we hold books and turn pages for children who are learning to read.
This is a new challenge, but the way to succeed is the old, familiar strategy: It is pulling together, and taking care of each other.
To renew America, we must focus on the values we share: the value of hard work, the importance of equal treatment for all, and the value of real, hand-in-hand partnerships between government, business, labor, community groups, and individual citizens.
President Clinton said, in his last state of the union address, that "the era of big government is over."
So now we have entered a new era – one that President Clinton describes as the era of the "big citizen."
This is an immense change and an enormous challenge for every one of us.
Over the past thirty years, conventional wisdom has held that we could use government entitlements as the primary instrument to create a kind society.
But in the course of those thirty years, many of us were all too eager to shift more and more of the responsibility for compassion and intervention to the government, and to take on less and less responsibility for it ourselves.
Now the ground has shifted.
Today, the predominant view is that government has been too clumsy and too expensive a substitute for our own compassion and personal responsibility.
Now we must all hold ourselves accountable for creating a country where people take care of each other... a nation where all children grow up healthy, well-educated, and confident of their own power to make a difference in their communities.
This is a new, national experiment – a test of our ability to achieve the goal of a great society one citizen at a time, one family at a time, and one community at a time.
We are saying, in effect, that the responsibility for reducing poverty rests on everyone’s shoulders.
We are saying that businesses have a responsibility to hire the disenfranchised, and to teach them the skills and values that lead to success.
We are saying that government assistance will be the last resort, and that friends, family and community will be the first line of defense against deprivation and despair.
This experiment will require a dramatic change in the way we think about the responsibilities of leadership as well as the responsibilities of citizenship.
We will need elected leaders who are less partisan, and more skilled in the art of persuading people to turn off their TV sets, come out of their houses, and take care of each other and the world around them.
In my job, that means making better use of the bully pulpit to inspire people to come home to the core values of service to others, respect for our elders, and sacrifice for our children.
It means recognizing that the solutions to our problems are not so much political as they are familial, spiritual, and communal.
These are the lessons we all must master to make the era of the big citizen succeed where the era of big government fell short.
This is a dangerous experiment.
If we fail, our country truly will become a meaner, more dangerous place.
But democracy itself is always a dangerous experiment.
And Americans have always risen to the challenge, and managed to make it endure.
Four or ten or twenty years from now, we will undoubtedly re-calibrate the balance between what government does and what we as citizens do for ourselves.
Our form of self-government is always a work in progress.
But for now – in this new era – we must all shoulder the newly enlarged responsibilities of patriotism and leadership.
And it’s critical that we must teach our young people to do so, too.
No organization is better suited to this challenge than the Boy Scouts of America.
Scouting has always been one of America’s most reliable developers of character and leadership, and one of the best teachers of the ethic of service, and the discipline to get any job done.
Boy Scout leaders have always been generous not just with their money, but with a far more precious resource -- their time.
You have served as the surrogate Dads and Moms to millions of kids like me.
And you have created a national model for teaching the values that must be strengthened if we are to make the era of the "big citizen" succeed.
What kids learn from Scouting is the American spirit of adventure; love of our environment; compassion; optimism; appreciation of diversity; and a lifelong commitment to service, personal responsibility and self-discipline.
Scouting creates authentic American heroes – not just those who perform death-defying acts of bravery, but also those who -- day in and day out for the whole span of their lives -- read books to children, create opportunities for young people, care for neighbors, and work on community projects.
These are the kinds of patriots and leaders we’ll need to make our country all it can be in the 21st century.
And these are the people who – like me – will be forever grateful to the Boy Scouts of America for the enormous contribution you make to our youth and our country.