Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Technology in Education Conference
June 26, 2000

Thanks for those thoughtful words.

I'm sorry I wasn't able to make it last week for your "Wildflower Festival." I'm sure it was great. I got a letter from Sharon Mehler expressing her hope that Darrington will someday be called the "Wildflower Capital of Washington State."

From the drive in, I can see that happening. The "Wildflower/Basketball Capital," that is! Second in the state. That's quite a feat.

And your tenth grade WASL test scores are 13th in the state. That's quite a feat, too.

I was invited here today to talk about the future of democracy. And to me, the future of democracy looks like this, at least here in Washington.

The future of democracy is a place where we are not divided by rich and poor, urban and rural, us and them.

The future is "One Washington." A Washington where we are proud of our diversity, and we celebrate it instead of letting it divide us. Where we protect the environment from greed and stupidity. Where there is freedom, and with it, the opportunity to become the best each of us can be.

Today, two keys to that kind of "One Washington" are education and technology. I've always said education is the great equalizer, and I'll say it again. Education is the great equalizer.

For all of us in this day and age, advanced telecommunications is critical to our economic health in a high-tech, global, 21st century economy.

Let me explain.

Here in Darrington, you're evolving from a timber-based economy and you're searching for a new or more diversified economic base. At Darrington High's graduation -- twenty, even just ten years ago -- when the graduates paused to tell the audience their aspirations, over and over again, those kids talked about working in the woods. It's not like that anymore. Now they talk about higher education and professional roles.

And our schools simply must prepare them for those options.

I'd first just like to commend you for the way you have sniffed out like bloodhounds, every grant -- every state and local dollar -- available for your schools.

I'm proud that my administration has been able to complete the K-20 educational telecommunications network, which provides every one of our school districts with high-speed data, video and Internet services. Now, every teacher, every student and every administrator has access to the educational resources that the Internet can provide.

Now, we need leadership at the local level. The network is there. Now is the time to step up and determine all you can do with this tool.

The Gates Foundation has started a new program of "teacher training grants" to train teachers in how to integrate technology in the classrooms and across the curriculum. The Foundation will reach 1,000 teachers in our schools through this program. And those teachers can come back and teach the other teachers in their schools.

The University of Washington has partnered with the Technology Alliance -- a group of high-tech executives -- to establish the Smart Tools Academy. This program wants to ensure that all Washington principals and superintendents, from public and private schools, share a vision and an understanding of the ways that technology can support and improve student learning and academic achievement. So far, more than 1,800 principals and superintendents have participated in this fantastic program.

Technology improves access to educational resources such as libraries, news media, scholars, universities and colleges. It shouldn't matter where you live. Your children should be able to learn anything they want to. And we're going to make that so.

Most of us here in this room graduated from high school and college without even using a computer. My Brother typewriter got me all the way through law school. But the world isn't like that anymore.

A few months ago, Joe Barnes from KOMO TV sent me a video about Darrington. The most striking part to me (other than Jacob's interpretive dance during the "Little Heroes" section) was the obvious love the kids and the parents feel for each other and this community, and the kids' awareness that logging can't support this community forever.

I know that some people are fearful of change. They tell me they don't want to be part of the global economy. They're not comfortable with technology. They don't want to lose the rural character of their communities. They want things to stay just the way they are.

But things won't "stay just the way they are." With global competition, our businesses and farms must become more efficient just to survive or our competitors who embrace technology will prosper at our expense.

You know the story of English King Canute. He placed his throne upon the seashore to show his subjects that even the king couldn't hold back the tide.

Well, the information-age economy is like the tide, and no mayor, no legislator, no educator, no U.S. senator, no community and no governor can hold it back. But we can channel the tide to our advantage. We can ride the wave. And I assure you we're not talking about surrendering the beauty or character of our rural communities.

We're not talking about losing our core values. Rather, we're talking about using telecommunications and technology to raise the bar on what we consider quality of life. We're talking about "One Washington" where everybody has a job they can be proud of and doors of opportunity are open for every child.

This month, high schools across rural Washington will graduate another senior class of bright young men and women -- your sons and daughters. Many will go off to four-year or two-year colleges, or military service.

Ask yourselves how many of your sons and daughters will return. Will the opportunities available to them in their hometowns be as good as those down the road, across the state or across the continent? And for those who don't go away to college, what kind of job opportunities will they have?

What kind of future will be available to them?

If we get all of our rural communities adequately wired, our kids won't have to leave home to be prosperous. They could stay right here and start their own company… say selling a video-game of basketball strategy over the Internet.

Hewlett-Packard started in a garage. So did much of "Infospace." But the garage businesses of the future require a robust telecommunications infrastructure. And I'm going to make sure you have one. I want your sons and daughters to choose their own futures. I don't want them to be forced to leave their hometowns because of the lack of professional opportunities. But I don't want low-wage or dead-end jobs to be their ticket price for staying in their hometowns with their families.

That's why we're aggressively wiring our rural areas to provide incentives for businesses to embrace rural Washington. So that new businesses can start here; established businesses can grow by selling to larger markets across the state, the U.S. and the world; and other businesses can expand or relocate here. So our kids can stay in our rural communities if they want to and raise their families surrounded by family and friends.

We can allow businesses to grow and prosper in rural communities. And we will. And thanks to conferences like this -- future-focussed conferences - our kids will be ready to invent and run those high-tech businesses, right here in their home town.

By working together, we can "get connected." We can build a 21st century infrastructure, and get the future ready for our kids. We can make advanced telecommunications services available to all our citizens. And use the technology to provide the best education -- one that meets the needs and interests of each of our students.

Thank you for everything you're doing to make Washington a better place to live, to work, and to raise a family.

Thank you very much.
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