Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
America's Promise with Gen. Colin Powell
January 21, 1998

Less than 1 year ago President Clinton, President Bush, Nancy Reagan on behalf of President Reagan, President Carter, President Ford, and General Colin Powell stood up and challenged America to get involved and make a difference in the lives of America's children.

Today I am extremely proud to see so many of Washington's business and community leaders and citizens stepping forward and making commitments to our children. You are the heart of Washington's Promise.

Washington's Promise is a statewide effort to inspire Washingtonians of all backgrounds and from the business, non-profit, faith communities and government to reach the goals of the Presidents' Summit for America's Future.

The response to the Presidents' summit in our state, "Washington's Promise," is a host of new initiatives and contributions of time, talent, and funds all coordinated to compliment and stimulate existing efforts to help our youth.

This effort calls on all of us to roll up our sleeves and make the time to help our children be successful.

In fact, real progress already has been made on Washington's Promise because of the dedication and hard work of all those from our state who participated at the Summit. Seattle's response to the summit is Sound Promise to Youth and in Spokane it is Bridging the GAP.

And Tacoma, Yakima, Tri-Cities, Lakewood and Key Center are mobilizing to become communities of promise.

Each of these communities, and every one of you involved in volunteering, knows that the source of greatness is the willingness to serve others.

By giving of ourselves to our children and our communities, we tighten the social fabric and lessen the chance of a precious child falling through the cracks.

That's the call to us from America's Promise and the call to us from General Colin Powell.

Washington's Promise will support the goals of the Presidents' Summit and will begin by expanding community commitments to help students learn to read.

Reading is the foundation for education. And education is the great equalizer in our society and is the key to hope and opportunity for every child.

We are entering a time of moral renewal - a time when more and more Americans are coming home to the values of service to others, respect for our elders and sacrifice for our children.

Those are the values imparted to us by immigrant parents all across America and deeply ingrained in the cultures all across the world.

President Clinton has said the era of Big Government is over, and that the era of The Big Citizen must now begin. That's why I'm calling for new partnerships - not government programs - but new partnerships between citizens and schools and business labor and government at every level.

The pledges we've heard today from SeaFirst, Boeing, Weyerhaeuser, United Airlines, Microsoft, and Costco are examples of that renewal and partnership - the commitment to serving others - and the commitment to our children's future which was the charge of the Presidents' Summit for America's Future.

Unfortunately, we know some children are falling through the cracks.

Last fall we received our first test results that tell us how well our fourth graders are measuring up to our new academic standards.

Less than half of our fourth graders met our standard in reading.

Now those kids are in fifth grade. It is not enough to tell their parents that our schools will do better with next year's first and second graders.

Last year's fourth graders need help now and so do this year's first, second, third, and fourth-graders.

That's why the first and most important partnership I'm calling for is the creation of the Washington Reading Corps.

Instead of just giving schools money and telling them to fix the problem, the Reading Corps is designed to give teachers and principals the resources they need to mobilize their entire communities.

The goal of this program is to recruit 25,000 volunteers all across the state.

Teachers trained in the most effective methods of teaching reading would then supervise and work with the tutors to help 82,000 children in reading.

I have also asked The Corporation for National Service to provide hundreds of AmeriCorp volunteers to help form the infrastructure we need to build the Washington Reading Corps.

You and I know that tutoring works and that children need individualized attention.

And we know that if children fail in the early grades it is unlikely they will ever catch up.

That is why the commitments you've made to Washington's children today are so important.

Your volunteer efforts working with children do make a difference.

Your volunteerism is how a lifetime of success gets started and how a lifetime of frustration and failure is averted.

So I want to thank you for helping Washington get started on the road to success and keep our promise.

Working together, mobilizing people all across our state, Washington's Promise means every child is prepared to realize the American dream. It also means stronger communities and a stronger state rooted in the values of service to others, respect for elders, and sacrifice for children.

And we can all be inspired to keep the promise of helping our children succeed by the dedication and leadership of General Powell.

In less than one year, General Powell has led America's Promise from a great idea to a national movement. He has inspired our nation to return to the value of service to others and called out to all Americans to be better citizens.

He has harnessed the energy and power of countless communities, businesses, labor organizations, service organizations, and people of all walks of life and all ages.

More importantly, he has drawn our focus to both the needs and promise of America's youth.

Our state is indeed fortunate to be inspired to even greater levels of commitment to our children by General Powell's appearance at today's summit.

And I'm deeply honored to be able to introduce Retired General Colin Powell, Chairman of America's Promise - The Alliance for Youth.

General Powell is the winner of two presidential medals of freedom and numerous military awards.

He is a member of the Board of trustees of Howard University and a member of the Board of Directors of the United Negro College Fund.

General Powell also serves on the Board of Governors of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and is an advisory member of the Children's Health Fund.

So please join me in welcoming one of the great leaders of our time, General Colin Powell.
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