Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Promise Scholarship Ceremony - University of Washington
October 7, 1999

Note: During September and October of 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.


Thank you, President McCormick, for that very nice introduction and thanks for having me here today. It’s great to be back at the University of Washington to celebrate a very special occasion.

Today represents the fulfillment of a dream of mine: The recipients of the first round of Promise Scholarships attending their first weeks of college classes.

I’m thrilled to see the faces of some of this year’s 2,300 Promise Scholarship recipients with almost 600 attending the University of Washington. I’m also thrilled to see faces of the people who encouraged you to recognize your potential and helped you received your Promise Scholarships: Your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers and counselors who taught you the value of dreaming, reaching, achieving.

Thank you ALL for joining us today on this very, very great occasion.

I proposed the Promise Scholarships because I believe that students showing promise deserve a promise from our state: The American Dream of a college education. 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—then that student deserves to receive a two-year scholarship from our state.

Let’s talk reality. The truth is that students from high-income families can afford the tuition of expensive, prestigious private colleges all across America. And all kinds of students from low-income families qualify for financial aid.

But for so many students from working, middle-class families, it’s getting harder and harder to afford a college education. I want to ensure that the dream—that American Dream of a college education—is not beyond the grasp of students from middle-income families.

And we don’t want our students taking out huge loans and being saddled with massive debt when they graduate. And we don’t want our students too tired to perform in class, because they’re working two or three part time jobs. We want middle-class students to have a chance. Isn’t it about time we rewarded middle-income families for how hard they work, and try giving their children a chance?

Yes it is. And 80 percent of these Promise Scholarships are going to students from families who otherwise would not have received any state financial aid—working, middle-income families.

The other day I met the Bedford family at Central Washington University’s Promise Scholarship celebration. Bill and Ann Bedford run an eye care business side-by-side and are raising a son and two daughters. They reminded me of my own folks.

When Bill’s son Will was in the third grade, Will started talking about becoming an orthodontist. And that’s when Bill’s ulcer started—when he started thinking about funding those eleven years of orthodontic education—of fulfilling his son’s dream.

Well, folks, Will is sitting in his first round of biology classes right now as we meet here today, thanks to the Promise Scholarship. And if we can keep these scholarships alive, Bill and Anns’ two daughters, Christina and Elizabeth, will also be able to pursue their dreams, whatever they turn out to be.

You know, we pushed the Legislature to provide funding for these Promise Scholarships but we only received funding for the top 10% of the high school graduating class of 1999 that you represent, and 15% of the graduating class of 2000. But future scholarships the graduating class of 2,000 will depend on acts of legislature every two years. We need to make sure this is a permanent program. Please help spread the word.

During the next two years almost 6,000 students across our state will receive 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.

I was lucky enough to get here a little early today talk to a number of you. And from what I’ve heard, you love your courses and love this campus and you’re thrilled to be here. It’s really great for me to hear about the different studies you want to pursue, from history, arts, and sciences, to law, natural resources, and education.

But I imagine that it’s also a little overwhelming. All of the new places, faces, responsibilities and deadlines. I have to tell you, I remember my first days on the college campus. I was admitted to Yale University on scholarships. I had a lot of loans and every part time job conceivable during the school year and during the summer.

And I remember arriving at Freshman Square with my uncle who drove me from New York’s Kennedy Airport all of the way up to the tree-lined streets of New Haven, to finally land in Freshman Square. 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 were dozens of paths that criss-crossed the square, filled with hundreds and hundreds of students. And they all looked like they knew exactly what they were doing. They knew the right way to sling their bags over their shoulders. And they knew how to get to the student union without consulting a map. They were obviously people who knew where they were going.

But anyway, I eventually figured out that those other students only looked like they knew what they were doing and where they were going. They were just as terrified as I was. 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.

You are living a new chapter in your lives; the beginning of your futures. Begin bravely. Begin boldly. There’s a great German philosopher and poet named Goethe. You’ll learn about him if you take a philosophy course. He wrote that, “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. Your Promise Scholarships tell 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: people laughed at Einstein when he was in school. Look at Galileo! They almost chopped his head off! What would have happened had those great thinkers lost faith in their own potential?

Don’t bend to the lures of failure. 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 revise your plans and try a different way.

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 restrict yourselves to courses that pertain to your major. If you want to be a lawyer, take courses in music and the arts. If you’re trying to go into psychology, take science courses and literature courses or history courses. Take courses that intrigue you. 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 have already graduated from colleges and even graduate schools wish we could come back to this time in our own lives and take advantage of some of the opportunities we missed.

These are magical moments in your life. Embrace them.

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, Alzheimer’s or AIDS. Several of you might even be governors.

Whatever you do, you will all have an impact on your fellow citizens. You are all unique individuals with unique capacities, and we can’t wait to see you lead and contribute to our society.

As I look at you I can see the future of Washington State—and I’m telling you, it looks energetic, exciting…promising.

In closing, 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: the American Dream of a college education. Thank you very much.
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