Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Spokane Chamber of Commerce
November 6, 1997
Over the last few months, I've been to Spokane seven times, and on every visit, I've found more reasons to admire and appreciate this community.
This morning, I found another one: Jefferson Elementary School.
Some second and third grade students at this school had e-mailed me an invitation to come visit, so I took them up on their offer!!
What I found was truly a school for the 21st century, in a 1908 vintage building.
I met with senior citizens and parents who work as volunteers, tutoring little kids in reading.
I visited with students and teachers who have the latest computer technology - and better yet -who know how to use the latest computer technology.
And most important, I found kids who understand - even in the second and third grades - that their future depends on how hard they work and on how much they learn in the classroom.
These kids will have to work very hard to meet our tough new academic standards.
And they will need a lot of help from all of us to do so.
To provide the help they need, it's critical that all of us understand and agree on what it is we're preparing them for, and what we want them to know and be able to do.
So I want to take a few minutes to lay out four basic ideas about the purpose of public education for the 21st century.
The first thing we know about the coming century is that human nature will be the same as it was in the 20th century, the 19th century, or even the 1st century.
So it's important that our schools and communities focus on producing people of good character - and because I was in the Boy Scouts, people who are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
These are qualities that must be taught at school, at home, and in the community - and qualities that each of us must teach by example.
We must prepare every student to be the best human being he or she can be.
Second, we must prepare our students to succeed in the world of work.
The global, high-tech economy of the next century will be cruel to those who are uneducated, and kinder to those who are lifelong learners.
It will require not just basic skills, but what many businesses call "the new basics" - team-work, the ability to adapt to changing technology, and problem-solving.
That's why it's so important to continue to develop closer connections between classrooms and workplaces.
The Chamber's Spokane Youth Jobs Program is an exemplary beginning, and so is Seafirst's combination of giving kids real work experience and scholarship incentives.
Every student - including those who will earn college degrees - needs to understand the relationship between learning and working.
And every student needs to understand that learning and working will go hand in hand for their entire adult lives.
Third, we must prepare every student to be an active, engaged citizen - a citizen of their neighborhoods and communities; a citizen of Washington state; a citizen of the United States of America; and a citizen of the world.
In the 21st century, good citizenship is going to be more complicated than ever before.
Today's kids will have to learn more science to cope with the complexities of feeding a growing global population, protecting our environment, and resolving the ethical dilemmas posed by new technological advances and medical discoveries.
They will have to know more history, more civics, and more about the cultures and economies of other countries.
In a state where one out of four jobs depends on international trade, this will be especially important. And of course, so many jobs in the Inland Empire are related to wheat.
Washington state can and must continue to be a national leader in embracing international trade rather than fearing it, and today's students must be prepared to carry the torch for open markets and open minds in other countries.
Fourth, today's students must be prepared for a world of diversity - diversity of cultures, races, religions, perspectives, and ideas.
I know that here in Spokane, the issues of diversity have been very much in the forefront the past few months.
I know that hasn't been easy.
But I want to commend this community for having the courage to talk openly and honestly about how to overcome mistakes and miscommunication, and how to create an atmosphere of trust and cooperation.
This is vitally important to today's students, because they will come of age in a world that is both smaller and more diverse than ever before.
They will live and work with people of every color, of every religion, and of every political persuasion.
They will be challenged to find ways to live in harmony in a world where cultural, political and religious differences are a daily part of life.
Their ability to appreciate and enjoy diversity will be an ever-more important factor in the quality of their lives.
And their capacity for empathy - their ability to really listen, and to understand the history, the experience and the feelings of others - may very well determine whether their communities succeed or disintegrate.
I am immensely proud to be the first person of color to be governor in the state of Washington.
I am proud that in our state, where over 90% of the population is Caucasian, the top two vote-getters in the primary election our of 15 Democratic and Republican candidates for Governor a year ago were Norm Rice and myself - both people of color, and with a combined vote total of over 43%.
I think that's an eloquent testament to how much progress we've made in this turbulent century.
But to prepare for the coming century, we must make more progress.
And we can only do that if we are very thoughtful about how we educate our children.
And being thoughtful about how we educate our children means that we must be even more thoughtful about what example we set.
On all of these four purposes of public education for the 21st Century - character, work, citizenship and diversity - there can simply be no doubt that we teach most powerfully when we teach by example.
And there can be no doubt that teachers and principals can't do this alone.
Meeting our tough new academic standards is the work of whole communities.
Every kid who goes astray or fails in school can take a different course - if we are willing to become more vigilant, and more generous with our resources and our time.
Students won't work harder in school if they don't understand why it's important to do so.
And they won't succeed in life, in work, or as citizens unless families, communities, businesses and civic leaders unite around a vision of the character of the communities we want to create for the 21st century.
Spokane's unique identity as a city that sets the pace for much of Eastern Washington confers on you both special power and special responsibility.
Your local school districts are miles ahead of many others in teaching to our new academic standards, and in establishing rigorous systems to hold teachers and principals accountable for academic improvement.
But even the very best of your schools - schools like Jefferson Elementary - cannot sustain their progress, or succeed with every student without more help from all of you.
We need to move from having a few exemplary businesses involved in education to having every business involved.
We need to move from having some at-risk kids getting the extra support they need to having all at-risk kids getting the extra help they need to come to school ready to learn.
And we need to move from having some parents and grandparents engaged in their children's education to having every parent - and every aunt, uncle and grandparent - supporting the learning process.
During my recent trip to China, I learned an ancient Chinese saying that "Children are the heart of the home."
Here in Spokane - and all across Washington state - children are also the heart of the community.
We need to listen to the beating of that heart. We need to take care of our heart.
We need to remember - not just on special occasions, but every day of our lives - that our most important responsibility is to protect our children, to teach them, and to show them, with all our words and deeds, that a good life is available to everyone who studies hard and works hard.
If we do that, our children will meet our high academic standards.
And they will become people with strong characters, prepared to succeed as workers and citizens in communities where diversity and unity are two sides of the same coin.
This is the real challenge of education reform: it is the challenge of not just raising academic standards for our children, but of raising the standards of character, hard work, citizenship, and respect for diversity that we set for ourselves.
Thank you very much.