Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Eastern Washington University Commencement
June 10, 2000
President Jordan, Chair Beschel, members of the Board of Trustees... faculty... staff... alumni... parents... families... friends... but most of all... graduates. Thank you for asking me to share this day with you.
And thank you for this medal. I am humbled by this honor you have bestowed upon me.
I am so glad to be at EWU. Talk about "The University That Could!" When enrollment slumped a few years back, you didn't just shrug your shoulders and turn the other way. You refocused your mission, rededicated yourselves to this beautiful campus here in Cheney and emerged as an unshakable institution with a traditional residential campus, quality professional programs in Spokane and a shining reputation throughout the state.
Because you here at EWU had faith in your purpose, confidence in your abilities, and a willingness to work hard, your enrollments are higher than they have ever been, your technology programs are an important component in our state's booming high tech industry, your health profession programs are top notch, as is your Honors Program, and you continue to produce excellent teachers for our schools...
There is a vitality and spirit here that is exciting and inspiring.
And... I would be remiss if I didn't say: Go Eagles! The Big Sky champions!! Ah... that our friends in Pullman enjoyed similar athletic success.
Today is a very important day... not just for our graduates but their families and, indeed, all of us. I know many families traveled long and far to be here today. Thank you for coming. This is your day too!
Let me share with you another journey... about how far another family traveled. My family. My parents traveled all the way across the country to see me get my diploma. It was the first time I ever remember my parents closing their mom-and-pop grocery store. They kept that grocery open seven days a week, 365 days a year. Because, as they used to say, "Rent is charged 24 hours a day."
That trip to my graduation was a real milestone in the journey of the Locke family. I was proud that day, still am. Of myself. But mostly of my parents. My family began our American life virtually a hundred years ago. It started when my grandfather first immigrated to Washington and worked as a houseboy in Olympia in a home one mile from the state capitol.
He earned money, learned English, and eventually returned to China where he married. And he and my grandmother raised a family. He made trips back and forth between China and America, sending money to his family. So my father was born in China but came to the United States as a teenager. He served in the United States Army in World War II and was part of the Normandy invasion. When the war ended, he went back to China where he met my mother and they married and came to America. My mom learned English at the same time I was learning English in kindergarten, but she was learning English to become a United States citizen.
My parents worked hard. They denied themselves even the smallest luxuries like sleeping in on Saturday morning, going to the movies...
They denied themselves those pleasures so the children in the family could have a better life... so I could have a better life.
Every time I'm with my parents, I remember what a huge privilege it is to live in the United States. To have the right to own your own business... to have the right to work 365 days a year... to have the right to have a goal and work towards it... to pursue a dream.
Every family here has a story. Whether you're a first-generation immigrant or sixth, or if you've been here from the beginning because you're Native American. Our journeys vary, but our dreams are shared... dreams fueled by the promise of freedom, hope, and opportunity.
And this Commencement ceremony is what generation after generation of Americans and people all across the globe have sacrificed for: education of their children.
You know, not long after I was elected governor, our entire family --Mom, Dad, my brothers and sisters and their spouses and Mona and I -- we all made a pilgrimage to our ancestral village... Jilong in the Guangdong province of southern China.
It was like stepping back into the 1800s, when my grandfather left China to come to America. My Mom and Dad had not set foot in the village since their wedding day fifty years before. In our tiny village of about 150, there is still no running water just a well in the center of town. No indoor plumbing... no toilets.
People still use chamber pots, and sewage runs in open gutters along the walkways that connect the tightly-spaced dwellings.
Very little has changed for the people of our village since my grandfather left 100 years ago. People still live by the ancient rhythms of planting and harvest... of birth and death. They measure time in generations, not in news cycles.
To the members of my family village, my return was a vindication of their faith in their purpose, confidence in their abilities, and their hard work. My election as a governor in the United States of America represents the success of our entire clan and the affirmation of all that America promises. They rightly understand-and they reminded me-that my success belongs to them, and to my parents, and not just to me as an individual.
I know for a lot of you graduates it was a long hard road to get to where you are today... to find the time and the money to go to college in the first place... and then to stick it through to the end. And I know it was a long, hard road for the parents out there... a road full of sacrifices and fears... will my child get hurt? Fail? Finish? Well, you all made it. Congratulations... you're done... in one way... but in another way, the journey starts here... the real challenge lies ahead.
Graduates, you now have the keys to ignite your life. You are in possession of the sharpest tool... the most precious instrument known to humankind: education. But remember, a college education only gives you knowledge, not wisdom.
Wisdom comes from experience, from our families, from our values, and from within.
Wisdom is balancing self-reliance with compassion for others. It is awareness that every individual's success and happiness is tied to the well-being of our communities as a whole.
Wisdom is respect for the elderly, and opportunity for our children.
Wisdom is an understanding that while technology may improve our lives, it is not the highest possible form of human achievement.
Each of you will make a difference in the world. But what kind of difference?
If you went to a high school that didn't have enough computers, what are you going to do about it? If you're tired of the hunger in the world, how will you change it? Will you step in and be part of the solution?
You may be the one to find a cure for cancer using biotechnology. It may be you who comes up with innovative ways to feed a rapidly growing population.
Whatever you do in tomorrow's evolving world, do it with each other in mind.
Remember the history of racism you learned from Professor Scott Finnie in his Introduction to African American Culture. Remember what you learned about educational obstacles faced by Chicano/Latino students. And don't forget what Professor Carlos Maldonado said about "widening the lens" through which we look at the world... to include everyone.
What you do with your life can be as monumental as that first step on the moon or as selfless as nursing the dying.
The choice is yours.
Will you use your education to help all of society or just to help yourselves?
Some of you have a career waiting for you... some have yet to decide. But it doesn't matter what you do for a living; it's how you live your lives... the underlying principles that guide your decisions - large and small.
Alexander Graham Bell didn't set out to revolutionize communications. He wasn't dreaming about someone on a California beach talking on a phone to someone on a Florida Beach. His dream was to help deaf people hear.
Rosa Parks wasn't trying to change our social structure. She just wanted to sit down anywhere on the bus.
Jesse Owens didn't go to Munich in 1932 to make a statement to Hitler about the ignorance of white supremacy. He went to run in the Olympics.
And Bill Gates didn't set out to completely revolutionize the way we transact business. He just thought that every home should have a computer in it, so he set out to design the software to make it so.
You, too, will change the world. And the ethical choices you make will determine what kind of world our children and grandchildren will live in. You will be the ones to decide how to use the genetic code, now that we've broken into it. You will determine what to do with the wealth of knowledge our society has amassed.
The choices you face are tough ones. Do we submit ourselves to genetic testing for disease? Do you want to know, at age 30, that you have a 90% chance of getting Alzheimer's? Should we allow genetic testing of potential spouses... should we try to influence the genetic make-up of our children? These are big questions. And their answers will come from you...
What world will you build? Will you move forward with malice towards none and charity for all, as Abraham Lincoln asks? You will change the world whether you like it or not. You will shape the future. By making choices or not making choices... by the decisions you make... and the ones you don't.
It sounds daunting. But it's not. Because today... as you pick up your diplomas, you will also be picking up your freedom. Not the freedom to do whatever you want, but the freedom or opportunity to become what you are... who you can be.
Strive for personal excellence... and let your underlying principles guide you.
Live your dreams. Nelson Mandela has said that our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. So today, I urge each of you... embrace your power. Use it to the greatest good. Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Because as Eleanor Roosevelt said, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
The future belongs to you, graduates of Eastern Washington University.
The future belongs to Tina Duvall of Snoqualmie, who sits among you and who never let a profound hearing impairment hinder her progress. She'll go forward and make the world a better place by pursuing a future in the ministry.
The future belongs to Gianna Hammer of Spokane... the oldest of seven children in an African American family, who will go on from here to the University of California at Berkeley for a Ph.D. in immunology with a full tuition and cost of living scholarship. It is her dream to one day teach at a university, to mentor and inspire other students as your own Haideh Lightfoot mentored and inspired her.
The future belongs to Josh Ashcroft who is on his way to Idaho where he will work on a campus to help people turn into the people they want to be.
The future belongs to Kathy Wilkerson of Valleyford who came back to college, after a 23 year break, so she can go back into our schools and teach our children.
The future belongs to Cheri Wen-pei Leng of Colville, whose parents came to America from Hong Kong and Malaysia who are here today to see their daughter graduate and then go on to medical school at the University of Washington this fall.
The future belongs to Tanya Jones, of the Spokane Tribe of Indians who earns a history degree today and who continues on for an additional degree in government. Because Tanya wants to make a difference by being a public historian by keeping the stories of our ancestors alive.
And the future belongs to David Franklin, a man who proves it is never too late. After sending four children through college, David went back and got his GED, and then his bachelor's degree and graduates today with a masters in social work at the age of 84 because David believes he can do a lot of good, counseling elderly people.
The future belongs to each and every one of you, no matter your age... who believe in the beauty of your dreams. The destiny of nations lies in the destinations we set for ourselves. May you always dream far and wide. And make your families proud. I bet some of you are wondering when I'm going to get around to telling you the survival skills the program promises. Well... here they are. They are simple. Faith in your purpose, confidence in your abilities, and a willingness to work hard... and the future is yours.
Thank you very much. Good luck and God bless you all.