Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Washington State Senior Citizens’ Lobby
November 19, 1999
OPTIONS FOR INDEPENDENCE
Thank you, Bruce Reeves, for that very nice introduction. It’s really great to be here today. Of course, when you receive an invitation from Bruce, you never say “no.” For those of us working in Olympia, Bruce is kind of like a beacon on Capital Hill. He’s supposedly retired, but he’s there every single day, lobbying left and right, working very, very hard to leave a legacy for the state. And, of course, he’s not the only one. Many of you have made fulltime jobs out of making sure that by the time my own Emily and Dylan reach retirement age, they will not be victims of age discrimination, credit discrimination, or telemarketing fraud. And they will be able to exercise multiple choices and options concerning their managed care and long-term care. So for all of you, thank you for the great work that you do. Because of your dedication to voicing the concerns of those who may not have the voice or the capacity to voice—because of your tirelessness—your endless giving—our state is a leader in long-term care—we are a leader in options, and we are a leader in home care. So thank you for the great work you have done.
On top of senior citizen advocacy, you also actively lobby for other causes that need a voice. I very much appreciate all you do on behalf of children. And you volunteer nearly recklessly! Your motto might well be, “Legal justice for all, and for all a good life.”
You use your life experience to improve the lives of others. You set an example for younger Washingtonians by prioritizing community involvement, giving, and advocacy. Thank you. I have to tell you, a year ago we launched the Washington Reading Corps to help the struggling readers in our grade schools, in grades two through five. In just one year we had 11,000 volunteers all across our state. And a lot of those 11,000 volunteers were senior citizens. Thank you very much.
Seniors in Washington are also setting an example for seniors in other states. In fact, just this past Tuesday I was in Port Angeles and I met Bob Smith—the 81-year-old runner who came in first in his age group in the New York City marathon. 81 years old and participating in a marathon of 26 miles. I couldn’t even walk 26 miles.
By the way, Bruce introduced Ralph Smith. And I think all of us very much appreciate his incredible contributions. 29 years of service to the state of Washington; over 20 of that helping the elder population. We really appreciate Ralph and wish him the very, very best of luck. Let’s give him another round of applause.
I first came to know Ralph when I was in the State Legislature working on budget issues. And any time he spoke before the Legislature, he commanded an incredible presence. He knew his material and had great credibility among democrats and republicans. The progress we’ve made in our state with respect to long-term care is very much thanks to his advocacy and leadership. You know, he’s not much older than I am. To retire after 30 years is incredible. On top of that, he’s got eight grandchildren! And my kids are only 8 months old and two and a half! I also want to acknowledge a dear friend of the Senior Lobby. Glen Hallman. Today is his 75th birthday. Glen, can you stand up? Keep standing. Let’s sing him Happy Birthday.
Happy Birthday to you.
Happy Birthday to you.
Happy Birthday Dear Glen.
Happy Birthday to you.
So Glen, are you treating us to cake and ice cream?
You know, when I was growing up my parents worked very, very hard. We lived in public housing for the first six years of my life. My Dad had a restaurant in Pike’s Place Market, which is now Il Bistro Restaurant—down that alley. My Mom and Dad worked 365 days a year, 12 hours a day in that restaurant. Later on, they had a Mom&Pop grocery store. And through hard work, perseverance and dedication, we were able to move out of public housing. Our family motto was always: get a good education, work hard, and take care of your elders. My parents saw to it that we all got a college education.
And that’s the background that led me to be a firm champion of education. A firm champion of hard work. That’s why I’ve always embraced welfare reform. And that’s why I’ve always embraced making sure that we take care of our parents and grandparents—our elders.
Just last week we celebrated Veteran’s Day. And I think so many people of my generation don’t appreciate the freedom and liberty that we enjoy today, thanks to the dedication of the men and women who served in our armed forces during World War II, or simply worked in the factories during the war to make sure the war effort was supported. We have so much to be thankful for, because of our seniors.
A lot of who I am and what I believe in stems back to what my parents taught me, just by the example of their lives. Our family has always been committed, like I said, to getting a good education, working hard, and taking care of our family members—our elders.
And I have to tell you, I’m still learning from my parents every single day. I watch them as they teach Emily so many things like how to read, how to use chopsticks, passing on our family history and our culture. They are also still teaching me how to live.
One of the things that I’m learning from my parents right now, I also learned from my grandparents. Something I’m learning over and over again, is that that deep-in-the-heart desire for independence doesn’t die with age. It doesn’t even fade with age. In fact, it increases with age. My grandmother lived until she was 101 years old. I remember on her 100th birthday, she was over in her apartment at the assisted living facilities, and she was opening the door to make sure only relatives came in. She would walk through China Town…the same streets she’d always walked. She went to the same church for almost 50 years. And she was so proud when she was able to vote for me.
She fought tooth and nail to hold onto every modicum of independence that her body allowed.
And now my Mom has a progressive degenerative disease that disables her. But I watch her fight every day for her independence. She is not letting her disease get her down. In fact, she types every day on a manual typewriter, to keep her fingers and arms in shape. She walks up and down the stairs every day. She's not letting the disease get her down. She is not letting the disease run her life. She’s the one in charge.
We all struggle for independence in different ways. Which is why it’s imperative that as we age we have options. As Americans, we never give up the need for freedom of choice.
I know that many of you are concerned about what programs might be cut now that Initiative 695 has passed. The voters have spoken and the responsibility of the elected officials at the local level and all the way up to the state level is to carry out the wishes of the voters. The issues that we face now range from how to maintain police, fire, medical, 911 and aid cars. Transit that seniors and low-income people depend upon. So I want to tell you that I remain true to the principles that have guided my administration since I was elected. When I ran for office, I made it clear that education was my number one priority. And that has not changed. I also made it clear that I am committed to providing options for aging people who need support services. And that has not changed. I will not allow funding for education to be sacrificed for transportation and highways. I will not allow funding for homecare options to be sacrificed for highways and transportation.
We in government will simply tighten our belts and set priorities. The priorities I have in terms of maintaining education and caring for the elders is constant.
You know, every year on my Dad’s birthday, he insists that his cake have a candle for every year of his life. “None of that one candle representing ten years stuff,” he says, “I’ve earned those candles.”
And he’s right. He has. In fact, we’ve all earned our candles. And every aging citizen in our state deserves health care and long-term care options. My administration will stay with the program. We will continue to improve health care policy in our state and support the continuing progress and innovation in long term care to meet the challenges ahead.
And we will work hard to make sure it’s the doctors and the patients who make medical decisions, not the accountants! Doctors are trained in medicine. Accountants are trained in numbers. Insurance agents are trained in statistics. Let’s leave the medical decisions to the doctors and the patients.
Thank you all for being here today and for your membership and support of the Senior Lobby. The only way we’ll be able to accomplish everything that faces us as we enter the new millennium, is if we all—citizens, businesses, government and schools, non-profits, churches—all work together to improve the lives of our citizens. The old, the young, the rural, the urban—all of us working together to improve the lives of Washingtonians. I just appreciate the great work the Senior Lobby has done over the years. Pushing the envelope. Insisting on dignity for our seniors, but also looking out for our young. Making sure that Washington is a great place to live, to work, and to raise a family.
Thank you very much.