Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Unity Day Remarks
March 5, 2003
I am honored to be here at Bellingham Technical College with President Humphrey to join the people of Whatcom County in celebrating this first Unity Day.
I want to thank Malcolm Oliver for his efforts in organizing this event, and for his ongoing work in diversity and improving race relations.
The strength of our nation and its communities comes from our diversity of people, cultures and religions.
We must always celebrate and protect that diversity.
Celebrating and protecting our diversity begins with our children.
We try to teach our kids to value differences and be open to others.
We want them to have a learning environment that is harmonious and healthy.
We want our kids to learn how to contribute to such an environment in positive ways.
We want them to learn to be good citizens of our state, our nation, and the world.
That’s why it is so important that we provide schools that are nurturing, supportive, and safe.
Safe from intimidation.
Safe from harassment.
And safe from bullying.
Traditionally, bullying has not been taken seriously enough.
Too often, bullies have been seen as a fact of life.
For too long, we’ve heard tired clichés like “boys will be boys,” or “it’s just a part of growing up.”
But we know better in this state.
We know that bullying is widespread and can have serious consequences.
This is especially true when children are bullied because of their appearance, race, ethnic background, disabilities, or sexual orientation.
And we know that intervention can be effective.
So we’ve taken the initiative in our state to make schools safe and to do something about bullying.
In 1998 I co-sponsored a Youth Safety Summit with School Superintendent Bergeson.
We met with more than 400 students, parents, educators and community leaders to identify what we needed to do to make schools safer.
Following the 1999 Columbine school tragedy, Attorney General Gregoire established a task force.
We explored the extent of the bullying problem, its impact on students, and the ways to combat it.
The task force findings led to a “safe and civil schools” bill, which was enacted and became effective last year.
This law requires each school district to adopt or amend an anti-bullying policy by August 1, 2003.
There is no single, once-and-for-all answer to this problem.
But we’ve taken an important first step in identifying and dealing with this threat to safety in our state’s schools.
And in taking this step, we’re also protecting diversity in our schools.
Our children learn life habits in school.
They learn about the world and the many wonderful people in it.
I want my Emily and Dylan to embrace a world of rich diversity and discovery, a world of limitless possibilities and opportunities to learn and grow.
It’s up to us to show our children the way to such a world.
The way to a future with room for all.
And it’s up to us to preserve and protect this same sense of open acceptance, peace and harmony in our own world today.
We live in the shadow of possible war.
And we know that there may be those who will use wartime as an excuse to lash out in bigotry, anger and hatred against innocent Americans.
We stand united, and we stand prepared.
We will not let hostilities abroad disrupt the peace of our communities.
We will no more condone bullies in our neighborhoods than we do on our schoolyards.
After September 11, we come together today to reaffirm our commitment to peace, justice and tolerance.
We reaffirm our rejection of intolerance.
We will refuse to condone stereotyping, ignorance and violence.
We will refuse to repeat the sins of a past national emergency.
We will stand up for our friends and neighbors as we stand today—united and unwavering.
Let us continue to stand together, and stand up for what’s right.
There is power in events like this.
We can feel it in the air.
It is the power of love over hate, virtue over violence, diversity over division, and good over evil.
Let’s continue to use this power to make the world a better place.