Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
November 20, 1998
I’d like to begin by thanking the organizers and sponsors of today’s conference. Focusing our efforts on cross-border cooperation and collaboration is a great way to prepare for a new century – a century in which borders will clearly be less important than in the past.
This is true not just for the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area, but for all of us, everywhere on earth. The major problems of our time – problems ranging from global warming to the AIDS epidemic – are truly borderless. And the new technologies of our time – from satellites to computer networks challenge us to think differently about what it means to be a city, a state, or a nation.
So cooperation across borders is truly the wave of the future. It is the only way to solve our biggest and most difficult problems. And finding ways to enlarge our sense of community and common purpose will be the key to this effort. That’s why this conference is so important.
I’d like to talk about three issues that exemplify this need for cross-border cooperation. The first is, of course, saving our salmon. On this issue, Oregon and Washington are fraternal twins. We both face challenges we’ve never faced before, and neither of us can rise to those challenges without an unprecedented level of collaboration.
The Columbia River no longer divides Oregon and Washington; it unites us. That’s why Governor Kitzhaber and I have been working so closely together. We know that we have to find a new and better method of governing this great river. We know that we have to work with the federal government and create a better relationship with Canada. And it’s clear to both of us that saving salmon requires a new and higher level of environmental consciousness in urban areas like this.
Salmon recovery is, at its core, about much more than fish. If we take care of our environment – if we are good stewards of our rivers and streams, and the land that sustains us – the salmon will return. But if we fail to do what’s necessary for salmon, we will fail at something far larger than saving fish. We will fail at saving the very quality of life that makes living in the Pacific Northwest special and distinctive.
Second, we share a common destiny as partners in Pacific Rim trade and investment. And with our new colleague in California, we have an opportunity to create a Pacific agenda that we can take back to Washington, D. C. Together, we can raise the profile of the Pacific Rim in America’s foreign and trade policies in ways that benefit the wage earners, entrepreneurs and farmers of our own state. These are concerns that are vital to the leading-edge industries of Portland and Vancouver.
Third, both Oregon and Washington are working to raise the level of academic achievement in our public schools, and to create seamless systems of lifelong learning. It’s certainly true that we have separate and different school systems, but the challenge we face is the same on both sides of the Columbia. And it would be a big mistake to think that the differences in our two education systems mean that we don’t have to work together on this issue.
Learning, no less than international trade, is becoming a borderless enterprise. The Western Governors’ University, which will begin offering on-line classes next year, is one example of this. And here’s another: In my state, one of our community colleges has linked up with Old Dominion University in Virginia to offer four-year degrees in engineering. The on-line learning from Old Dominion is offered to our students at the same price it would cost Virginia students – no out of state tuition is charged. This should make loud bells ring in the heads of every educator and every student or prospective student. And it should alert every policy-maker to the possibility of sharing resources to make more learning available to more people at less cost.
In my state, an innovative private firm is developing on-line advanced placement classes, so that high-school students in small rural schools can get the same Advanced Placement classes and credits that are available to their urban counterparts. And in our most innovative school districts, our educators have developed very popular and successful cyber-school programs for students who are home-schooled. These programs link students and teachers with interactive video technologies that work in tandem with home computers. And many students who’ve used distance learning report that they actually have more interaction with tutors and teachers than they had in the classroom.
So I believe there is an urgent need for all of us to work together to see how we can use these new distance learning technologies to make educational opportunity available to more of our citizens, no matter where they live. We need to talk about what our respective systems have to offer one another, and how we can capitalize on the special strengths and specialties of existing academic programs. Washington State University is already making use of these distance learning technologies in creative ways, and I hope that you will learn more about them before this conference ends.
These three issues – salmon, international commerce, and education – will be just the beginning of a fuller cross-border agenda for the 21st century. And on both sides of the Columbia, our success at building that agenda depends on two underlying efforts.
The first is the effort to restore the public’s faith in government by making all our public institutions more efficient, less expensive, and more focused on service to citizens. Re-inventing government is not a one-term, one-shot proposition. It is a long-term struggle to transform the institutions of democracy in preparation for a new era. Cross-border cooperation must be seen in this context, as part of this effort.
The second underlying effort is the equally long-term challenge of creating a renaissance of citizen activism and engagement. We know that the era of big government is over. But if government is to do less, citizens simply must do more. Instead trying to design a government program to solve every problem, we must design new partnerships – partnerships that revitalize people’s sense of personal and community responsibility for the future. That’s not easy. But it is absolutely necessary to saving our salmon, to succeeding in a global economy, and to raising the academic achievement levels of our children.
If all this seems like the work of a lifetime rather than an agenda for a one-day conference, that’s because it is. But the work of a lifetime is done one day at a time – and one conference at a time. So once again, I want to thank and congratulate the organizers of this conference, and all of you who’ve taken the time to be here, and to participate in shaping the future of this great metropolitan area. You are on the right track, at the right time. And your work will make a positive difference in the future of our salmon, our children, and our democracy and in keeping the Pacific Northwest a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
Thank you very much.