Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Promise Scholarship Ceremony - Central Washington University
September 28, 1999

Note: During September and October 1999, the Governor attended Promise Scholarship Ceremonies to honor Promise Scholars attending Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, Western Washington University, University of Washington, Gonzaga, Whitworth, and Clark Colleges. This website posts the remarks the Governor made at Central Washington University and at the University of Washington.


I want to thank you, Dolph Norton, for that very nice introduction. It’s really a great pleasure to be back here on the campus of Central Washington University, and a special pleasure to come here under these circumstances.

Today is a fulfillment of a long time dream of mine. The recipients of these first Promise Scholarships are attending their first college classes. I really wanted to see the faces of some of the 2,300 students who are the recipients of these first Promise Scholarships. And the faces of the people who encouraged these students to recognize their potential and apply for Promise Scholarships. And who are these people who have recognized their potential? Mainly the parents, family members, and educators and counselors and others involved in their academic careers. Thank you all for joining us today on this very, very great occassion.

I proposed the Promise Scholarships because I believe that students showing promise deserve a promise from our state. And I believe that if a student ranks in the top ten or fifteen percent of his or her individual high-school graduating class—and comes from a low or middle income family—that student deserves to pursue the American Dream of a college education and receive a two-year scholarship from the state to make that dream a reality.

The reality and the truth is that students from high-income families can afford the most expensive, prestegious private colleges all across America. And students from low-income families have financial aid available to them. But for so many students from working middle-class families, it’s getting harder and harder to afford a college education. We want to make sure that dream—that American Dream of a college education—is not beyond the grasp of those students and those families. And we don’t want our students taking out massive loans and having all of this debt when they graduate. The Promise Scholarships lessen the financial burden and help to make that American Dream of a college education a real possibility.

During the next two years almost 6,000 students across our state will receive these Promise Scholarships. It is my dream that some day—and some day soon—no high-achieving student will be blocked from pursuing a higher education because of financial burden.

It is my dream that every excelling student has access to college. You know, the Legislature provided funding for these Promise Scholarships, but only for the high school graduating class of 1999 that you represent, and the graduating class of 2000. We need to make sure this is a permanent program. In fact, it’s my dream that in a few years when the tenth graders take the new tenth grade test—that all of those who pass the tenth grade test will have a scholarship waiting for them when they graduate from high school. That’s our vision.

To the principals, counselors, teachers, parents, aunts, and uncles and grandfathers who have encouraged these students to excel and apply for these scholarships: Thank you very much.

With your help, we will be able to expand the Promise Scholarship program so that every student who shows promise can obtain a college education. To those of you who have achieved excellence and received these scholarships, congratulations.

You’re in your first week of college classes now, and I imagine it’s a bit overwhelming, although from everyone that I’ve talked to so far, you love this campus and you love your courses so far. It’s really great to hear the different majors and studies you want to pursue, from aviation to arts education to natural resources.

I have to tell you, I remember my first days on the college campus. I was admitted to Yale Campus on scholarships. I had a lot of loans and every part time job concievable during the school year and during the summer. And I remember arriving at the Freshman Square with my uncle who drove me from the New York airport all of the way up to New Haven.

Freshman Square is a huge quadrangle on the Yale Campus with all of the freshman dorms on the edge, facing into this huge square.

And the first thing I saw was these dozens of paths that criss-crossed the square, filled with hundred and hundreds of students. And they all looked like they knew exactly what they were doing: exactly where they were going, and exactly how they were going to get there. I eventually figured out that they just looked like they knew those things. But at the time, I was petrified. I was terrified. And so were most of them. And even the sophomores and juniors didn’t have it all figured out. So I want to say to you: you don’t have to have it all figured out , either.

This week is the beginning of a new chapter in your lives; the beginning of your futures. Begin bravely. Begin boldly. Goethe, the great German philosipher and poet said “Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” So be bold. Be brave. Accept the magic.

We’re all so very proud of all of you. I have to tell you that when I was in college, it was hard getting news from the state of Washington, so on Sundays I would go to the library, just before getting ready for the next round of putting the pedal to the metal—cramming that is.

I looked forthe Seattle Times Newspaper, and one day I saw the Sunday pictoral magazine. And on the cover was a picture of my friend George Uchiua, a scouting advisor. George was always there when I was growing up, always telling me, “Hey—that’s a great idea, let’s figure out how we can get it done.”

George had health problems and actually had open heart surgery and had a new, experimental valve put in his heart, and he was told he had to cut down on all of the hiking and camping. And yet there he was on the cover of the Seattle Times Magazine on the top of Mt. Rainier, teaching people snow survival skills. And I thought to myself: “Nothing can hold this guy back.”

And I remembered that he had taught me that nothing could hold me back.

The Promise Scholarship you have received tells you that you can do anything and nothing can hold you back. The Promise Scholarship is our state’s way of saying we are proud of you and we believe in you.

So never lose faith in your own potential. There will be times when no one understands you.

Just think: there were lots of times that people laughed at Einstein.

Learn from your failures. If you fail—and you will at some things—don’t be too hard on yourselves. It’s okay. You’re not perfect and nobody expects perfection. Just simply revise your plans and try a different way. Don’t bend to the lures of failure.

And take advantage of the opportunities this great university offers you.. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to declare a major and don’t take all of the courses that simply pertain to your major.

If you want to be a lawyer, take courses in music and the arts. If you’re tyring to go into psychology, take science courses and literature courses or history courses. Take courses that intrigue you and make sure you get an education, not just a degree.

Most importantly, take time to enjoy yourselves. These are very, very special times. Those of us who who have already graduated from college and even graduate schools wish that we could come back to this time period and take advantage of some of the opportunities that we missed. These are magical moments in your life.

By the time my own Emily and Dylan are old enough to go to college, you will be the leaders of our state. I’m looking at the futures architects, photographers, doctors and dentists of our state. Some of you will be authors and artists, speaking the truth of the human heart. Some of you will be software engineers, perfecting three-dimensional cyberspace. Some of you will be teachers, inspiring and nurturing our children just as you have been inspired and nurtured. One of you may discover the cure for cancer, Alzheimers or AIDS. One of you might actually be governor.

Whatever you do, you will all have an impact on your fellow citizens. You are all unique individuals with unique capacities.

I’m reluctant to leave this podium because from where I am I can see the future of Washington State—and I’m telling you, it looks energetic. It looks exciting. It looks promising.

But today isn’t about me. It’s about you. It’s about your future, our future as a state.

So as I step down and leave the stage to you, I just want to tell you: Keep doing well. Reach for the stars. And because you have already done well, our state is keeping our promise to you, of the American Dream of a college education. Good luck to all of you.
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