Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Everett Chamber of Commerce
July 24, 1997
It is a great honor and blessing but also an enormous challenge to be governor of Washington state at a moment in our history so rich in possibilities and potential.
And today, it's great to be here in Everett and to listen and learn from people in a community that's pulling together to prepare for a new millennium.
So I'd like to speak for just a few minutes about the priorities of my administration and leave time for your comments and questions.
My first priority - and I'm sure this won't surprise anyone - is education. And when I say education, I mean lifelong learning.
In the late 1800's our state constitution made education of our children the paramount duty of our state. But learning isn't just for the young anymore.
In the next century, with its rapidly changing technology and economy, our state's paramount duty is creating a system of lifelong learning.
There is a hunger for education.
They know that they need to learn new skills to move ahead in their careers.
And people today intuitively understand, more than ever before, that knowledge is power.
So we need to build a seamless, comprehensive system of lifelong learning that serves people of all ages.
That means more than building more schools; it means making every workplace and every home a center of learning.
We need to make Washington a state of learning - a state in which everybody learns, everywhere, and every day.
To do that, we need to foster a culture that supports learning as a way of life.
Schools can't do it alone. We must all be involved.
Families, communities, business and labor all must shoulder more responsibility.
I want Washington to become a state of learning because in the next millennium education will be the absolute prerequisite to sustaining our quality of life.
Education will be the engine of economic growth and prosperity. But equally important, educated, open minds will be essential to the preservation of American democracy.
We cannot hope to fulfill the promise of America and promises of our constitution unless every student learns and takes to heart the lessons of our history.
We cannot hope to solve the ever-more complex problems of our environment, or sort out the ethical dilemmas posed by new scientific advances, or manage our economy, unless all students achieve higher standards in math and science.
And we cannot possibly sustain the tradition of self-government unless all students are taught to be independent, critical thinkers.
Creating a state of learning will require a relentless focus on raising academic standards in our schools.
It will require staying the course even when our initial test scores - which are due this fall - show that many of today's students aren't measuring up to the new standards we've set.
Creating a state of learning will require making the best use of the new telecommunications network that will link all schools - from kindergarten through graduate schools - so that students in Forks or Walla Walla can take classes that originate at another school, college or university in some other part of the state.
Think of it, no student in any part of the state will be denied access to advanced courses offered elsewhere in the state because of traditional constraints of lack of instructors.
Creating a state of learning will also require new thinking and new institutional flexibility as we move not just public schools, but colleges and universities toward measuring what students learn rather than how many hours they spend in class.
But most important, we must all recognize that schools can't succeed without more outside help and support from entire communities and people like you.
We must all make a conscious effort to create a culture that values learning, honors students and teachers, and embraces the adventure of exploring new frontiers of knowledge.
I want to ignite a sense of excitement and possibility about our unlimited capacity for success in the coming century.
We need to build a sense of urgency, an unstoppable momentum toward higher levels of learning- in every home, in every school, and in every workplace.
This is the central purpose of my administration. To achieve this purpose, we're working to squeeze every state dollar until it squeaks, so that we can invest more in education.
That's why when I took office we re-wrote Gov. Lowry's budget proposal for state spending. I asked all non-education state agencies to identify 5 percent cuts and we imposed most of those cuts so that we could make education the number one priority in words, deed and budget. 70 percent of all new dollars went to education.
We've expanded college enrollment, increased financial aid for middle-class families and stayed the course on higher academic standards.
We've also created new incentives for state new incentives for state agencies to save money rather than spend it.
Our new Savings Incentive Plan gets away from the spend it or lose it mentality and allows each agency to keep half of what they save to improve customer service, and it allocates the other half to school construction and technology.
My cabinet team and I are also working to save money by making state services faster, simpler, and more responsive to citizens.
My first executive order called on all state agencies reporting to me to reduce regulations.
And my second executive order directed them to set quality improvement goals, and measure their progress towards achieving them.
All the members of my cabinet have agreed to be held accountable for those improvements.
I want state government to improve in ways that every citizen will really notice.
I want to create a regulatory environment that lowers your blood pressure rather than raising it.
And I want every interaction you have with state government to build your trust in our democratic institutions rather than damage it. Not that you'll agree with every decision or action of state government but that you have respect for and confidence in the actions of state government.
I want to create an upward spiral in which good schools lead to family-wage jobs, and family-wage jobs and thriving businesses contribute to continuous improvement in our education system.
I said earlier, education will be the engine of economic growth and prosperity, but that growth and prosperity will not last unless we also improve our transportation system.
When it takes as long to drive a truck from Redmond to Everett as it takes to drive from Everett to Bellingham, our economy is seriously threatened.
Our ability to increase our capacity to move both goods and people is suffering because we are no longer receiving federal funds to build new highways to expand capacity.
The amount of money we have to spend on new transportation projects has also shrunk because of inflation, and because of the rising cost of maintaining and renovating our existing roads, bridges, freeways and ferries.
We cannot solve this problem by raiding the general fund of MVET dollars that now help to support our schools and local police.
We cannot pit education against transportation. Both are essential to a vibrant economy. So let me be clear, I support, along with the Republican chair of the House and Senate transportation committee an increase in gas tax.
And there is far too much at stake to allow this issue to be tied up in knots by those who care more about politics than economic progress.
This is an issue that can't be ducked, can't be postponed, and can't be solved without a massive effort to educate the public about what's at stake.
It would be an immense tragedy if we squandered opportunities for economic expansion because we were too short-sighted to invest in our transportation system.
The consequences of failing to enact a comprehensive solution to our transportation needs are enormous. Our economic future is at stake.
In all other ways except the freeway, Washington is on the move.
We are truly poised to prosper in the 21st century.
We are home to the industries of the next millennium - software, aerospace, biomedical technology, agriculture and food processing, precision instruments and tools; and telecommunications.
Our mountains and our environment turn the rest of the world green with envy. And in no part of the state is our potential for prosperity more exciting than here in Snohomish County.
To capitalize on that potential, here and across the state we simply must step up to the challenges before us. We must invest in our transportation system. We must make our schools second to none, and make Washington a state of learning. And most important, we must recognize that the era of big government truly is over.
Across all of America, people have made it plain that they want government that is less bossy, less intrusive, and less expensive. But if people want government to do less, citizens simply must do more.
As President Clinton has said, the era of big government must be followed by the era of the big citizen.
So this is the time for all of us to come home to the values of service to others, respect for our elders, and sacrifice for our children.
This is the time to redouble our efforts to involve parents, grandparents, business, and labor in improving our schools, strengthening the bonds of family and neighborhood, and reviving our sense of community and shared purpose.
President Clinton honored me during the close of his State of the Union speech in February, by mentioning me as the first Asian American Governor in the mainland U.S. But I was more touched by what he said a moment later, that there was less than 1000 days to the beginning of a new century and children born today will have no recollection of the 20th the century. They are truly a generation of the 21st century.
What does that new century hold for my little Emily, your children and grandchildren. What do we want our communities to look like 15, 20, 30 years from now? How do we want it to be like to live and work?
I'm optimistic about our future and I am deeply convinced that if we work together, if we truly focus on the future and core values we can make Snohomish County and all of Washington state a great place to live, work and raise a family.
I know that here in Everett, you not only share this optimistic vision but will act on it.
Thank you very much.