Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Washington Scholars Luncheon
May 15, 2003

Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be here.

It’s great to be in the presence of so much talent, promise, and dedication. I can practically feel the intellectual energy surging from this group.

I want to begin by congratulating all of our scholars. Your academic achievements are astounding. You are the best and the brightest of Washington state, and we are all proud of you. Congratulations on being named Washington Scholars.

I profoundly appreciate the accomplishments of this distinguished group of students. In fact, I am humbled. When I was a student, I often struggled. I worked very, very hard and didn’t consider myself among the best and the brightest. I was often one of the last ones to finish the test. I seemed always to need more hours of homework and study than some of my quicker classmates.

Your accomplishments are even more impressive because you’ve managed to balance exceptionally good grades with other important activities. You are student leaders, athletes, musicians, and community volunteers. You are making a difference in the classroom, in the community and in the world. You are living proof of Thomas Edison’s conviction that “There is time for everything.” Congratulations to you all. Be proud!

And to the parents, teachers, friends and relatives of these outstanding young people, congratulations as well. You’ve done a great job of nurturing, supporting and nagging these sons and daughters of our state. They are our future, and the future looks very bright indeed. Be proud!

They owe so much of their success and accomplishments to you. Scholars, let’s give the adults a round of applause!

This group of scholars is now about to embark on a new adventure—higher education. Your years at a college or university will be among the best years of your lives. I don’t have any scholastic advice for you—and besides, I doubt that you need it. But I would like to humbly offer a few suggestions about life after high school.

College is a collection of courses, curricula, credits and concepts. You’ll spend countless hours in the lecture hall, in the library, in the lab and at the laptop. Hours of reading and writing, testing and talking. Probably not enough time sleeping. And hopefully not too much time cramming.

But you know about this part of college life already, and you’ve shown that the life of the student agrees with you. You’re all accomplished in academics.

I encourage you to be open to other learning. Make the universe your university. Learn about other subjects besides your major. Consider life without a major for a while—it’s valuable to explore. Learn about the people with whom you share your college experience. Try new things and acquire new experiences. Learn about life.

And, especially, learn about yourself. Spend time getting a sense of who you are, who you’d like to be, and what you’d like to do. Not just in your chosen field, but in life generally. Explore your strengths, your weaknesses, your passions, and your interests. Stretch and grow.

Higher education does something much more important than just impart knowledge, as important as knowledge is. Higher education will help you further develop your own personal habits of mind and critical thinking skills. These habits of mind and ways of looking at the world become your equipment for living for the rest of your life.

Another suggestion: Commit with passion. Whether you already know what you’ll study, or whether it takes you a while to decide, when you do commit, do it with passion. Confucius advised, “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” Abraham Lincoln counseled, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” And Henry David Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” They were right.

College is a time of self-actualization. You can become anything you want to be if you work hard enough and you’re truly committed to it. That’s one of the most appealing things about a university. The air is filled with vitality and intellectual energy. There is a nearly tangible sense of dreams being realized.

You’ve already shown that you can achieve the highest goals. Take that same spirit of excellence with you into the years ahead, and commit with passion.

Another suggestion related to committing with passion: take some chances and don’t be afraid to fail. You’ll be stronger from your struggles. Albert Einstein once remarked, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Imagine how the world would be today if Einstein had never tried anything new!

And Robert Kennedy said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Reflect on the world’s great accomplishments throughout history. Can you name any that happened without risks, setbacks, failures or imperfections?

The renowned artist Pablo Picasso was not very highly regarded early in his career. He took a lot of risks, and his paintings were controversial. He was told by critics that he couldn’t do this and couldn’t do that. His reaction? He shrugged and said “I am always doing things I can’t do, that’s how I get to do them.” I don’t remember the names of any of his harsh critics, but I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard of Picasso.

Take a good look around. Take in this moment. Hold on to today. The memory of this afternoon will be a talisman for you later in life. When you meet the inevitable challenges and obstacles life will throw your way, remember this moment and what brought you here. Because those same qualities will get you through anything. Don’t be afraid to take risks, and don’t be afraid to fail. As ironic as that may sound, it’s a formula for success.

One final suggestion—have fun! College is a time of tremendous energy and freedom and change and growth, and campus is an environment like no other. Enjoy it! The colleges and universities of our state that you’ll be attending are richly diverse. They are unique communities of scholars. Take courses from the most exciting, engaging, entertaining professors! Our colleges and universities are wonderful places to get an education, find a future career, and, yes, learn the meaning of happiness. Take time to smell the roses, and have fun.

We wish you all the best of luck in the years ahead. You are an inspiration to others and a great credit to our state. We’ve seen amazing things from all of you. And we can’t wait to see what comes next!

Thank you.

Access Washington