Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Governor’s Commission on Early Learning Final Meeting
May 16, 2000

Thanks, Mona. It’s not often you get to be introduced by your own wife.

My son, Dylan, and this commission grew up together. And just as Dylan has grown from complete dependence to being able to walk across the room without any help from Mona or me, this commission has made sure that early learning will continue as a strong force in our state long after this commission ceases to meet. You have created an independent, growing entity.

Your accomplishments this past year will affect every generation to come. Or, as Walt Whitman would put it, your work will have impact "for many years stretching cycles of years."

I’ve read your final report. I’ve read your recommendations. Kathryn, Don, Marty, Kim, Sheri, Robbin, Lynn, Mary Ellen, Dee Ann, Gigi, Yolanda, Yvonne, Dee, Lawrence, Diana, Melinda and Mona, all of you -- thank you. You have accomplished so much. Most commissions merely make recommendations about what I should do. You, on the other hand, took the bull by the horns.

You met with hundreds of mothers and fathers to seek and distill information. You conducted polls to determine the level of awareness parents have about how important early learning is. You launched a public engagement campaign. You established a non-profit foundation that doesn’t rely on public money. You are making grants available in child care and parent education.

Instead of just studying early learning and letting government know that we ought to do something to increase awareness, you found ways to increase awareness and implemented them. You’ve built an unshakable foundation for the future of early learning in our state.

Nothing is more important to the future of our state, of our families, of the human race than our children. And for every parent you educate, for every child who receives more hugs, more songs, more books read to her, more stimulation, the quality of life for all of us increases exponentially.

I’ve made it my number one priority to fashion, for Washington, the best educational system in the nation, in the world. And we’re getting there. It was rough going at first. The first year we tested our school kids, less than half passed their exams.

Well, I can see a day coming when all of our children will pass math and reading tests with flying colors, because we won’t be relying solely on the K-12 education system to teach our kids. I can see a day coming when all families, businesses, and community members embrace the notion that learning truly begins at birth. I can see a day coming when we are all working together toward the common goal of educating our children and all of our citizens. From birth to the grave. And you have made this vision so much clearer.

If you put a rock over a wildflower seed -- if you deny that seed access to sunlight and rain, it will remain dormant. Waiting and waiting for the sun and rain. But when that stimulation comes, the flower starts to grow out of its seedpod, it pushes up through the dirt into the air and blooms.

Wouldn’t it be nice if people were like that, too? Well, we’re not. You know better. You know that if our children’s brains are not stimulated in those early years, they will atrophy. And because of the hard work you’ve done, soon the importance of those early years will be common household knowledge.

So commission members, thank you. Thank you for the time and energy you have devoted to making sure our children -- all of our children -- enter our schools ready to succeed.

Thank you very much.
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