Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Boeing Supplier Diversity Conference
June 20, 2000

Lance, great to see you again, and thanks for those thoughtful words.

I'm proud to be here today. Things in Washington have never been better. Washington is so economically strong because of the people and companies here and because of conferences like this one - people coming together to share strengths.

There was a time when Washington wasn't such an easy place for some of us to live. My parents faced a lot of discrimination, and I remember my third grade teacher didn't like me much. I was her example of how not to spell a word, kick a ball. She used to go around the room and ask us what we had for breakfast. I'd say "fish and rice." She'd slap my wrists for being "un-American."

Well, I'll tell you what, as Bob Dylan says, "The times… they are a'changing" and this -- you right here in this room, right now -- is as American as it gets. The America that recognizes the strength in, and necessity of, diversity. We're not there, yet. There's still discrimination. There is still prejudice and exclusivity. And I don't think anyone in this room would pretend there isn't. But Boeing is taking a big step, as usual, to create a business climate that celebrates diversity. And breaks down the boundaries.

Boeing has long been a groundbreaking company. Boeing joined you and me in the hard fight against Initiative 200, which eliminated some of the tools used in achieving equal opportunities through affirmative action. So, it's fitting that Boeing is taking the lead in ensuring diversity among its suppliers. Boeing sells airplanes to hundreds of countries. And those airplanes fly people from all over the world to other parts of the world to experience different cultures, so it's appropriate that Boeing planes should be made by everybody, too.

I know first hand it's not easy to be a minority and to own a small business. My parents ran a Mom and Pop grocery the whole time I was growing up. I watched them work 12 hours a day, 365 days a year, just to keep afloat. But I will never forget the lessons I learned by watching them. Perseverance, faith in their purpose (which was to make sure that my brothers and sisters and I got a good education and a better life), confidence in their abilities, and a willingness to work hard. Those were the most valuable lessons I've ever learned, and I'm sure your children will learn the same from you.

As you all are aware, I-200 is now law in our state. Prior to the passage of the initiative, the state commissioned a disparity study, which is nearing completion. There will be much debate about the study, its methodology and its findings. However, it must be noted that the study covers a period before the passage of the initiative.

Since the passage of the initiative, minority and women contracting opportunities and participation in state contracting and procurement have significantly decreased. This concerns me. It is unacceptable, and arguments over the details of the study must not divert our attention from the reality faced by minority- and women-owned firms.

I remain committed to making sure that everyone is given fair and equal consideration in public contracting. I have directed all of my agencies and the institutions of higher education to intensify our outreach and recruitment efforts to encourage diversity. The Office of Minority and Women's Business Enterprises is leading the way with expanded training to buyers and contract officers, a matchmaking service that provides timely notice of opportunities to qualified firms, and a new on-line user-friendly directory to simplify searches for qualified minority and women-owned firms.

I want to ensure that your tax dollars are equitably distributed through the state's contracting and procurement expenditures without preferential treatment based on race or gender. Toward that end, the state is launching a new statewide contract management and tracking system which will enable us to quickly identify inappropriate trends and patterns and take corrective action as needed. Further, OMWBE will use the disparity study to identify contracting and procurement areas where race and gender disparities were found and work with affected business owners and state agencies to identify and remove any systemic barriers that may be contributing to the disparities.

Diversity is what makes our state and country unique. And our diversity is a vital source of our strength, creativity and innovation. However, the state cannot do this alone. We must continue to find creative ways of making sure that everyone is given a fair and equal consideration in contracting. Together we can. Together we must. Together we will succeed. With the restrictions on government activities, the private sector must do more. So the partnership between Boeing and the Northwest Minority Supplier Development Council is more important than ever. And it sets an example for other companies.

You know, at a luncheon at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church a few weeks ago, Yash Gupta described "strength through diversity" as a "tiger in a cage." And it's my dream that we release that tiger from its cage; that we let its strength shine through and carry us forward into this new century. It is my dream that my children will face no discrimination, that equal opportunity will mean equal opportunity for all, and that it will be commonplace to have women and people of color in government and running successful businesses.

I want my children to live in a world where cultural diversity is celebrated and nurtured, not met with fear -- and where Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream is not just remembered but lived every second of every day by every citizen "that we judge each other not by the color of our skin but by the content and the strength of our character." And partnerships and conferences like this one will make it so.

To Boeing, the Northwest Minority Supplier Development Council, and every one in this room representing a minority and/or woman owned business, thank you. Thank you for working to release that tiger from the cage and for working to release that strength through diversity, which will keep Washington strong as we barrel forward into this exciting, brave new economy.

I know we're all looking forward to a day when it will not be such a big deal if the governor is Chinese American. Or female. But today, it still is a big deal. And I admire you all for recognizing and addressing our greatest social challenge. And I wish you all success in your endeavors.

Thank you all for everything you do to make Washington a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
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