Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund
April 26, 2004

Good evening. I am honored to be here. This is truly an important and historic occasion for all of us—and for future generations of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans.

First, it’s been a great honor serving as governor of the great State of Washington. It’s an honor to have been the first Chinese-American governor in U.S. history, and the first Asian American governor on the mainland. Mona and I thank so many of you here, and Asian Americans across the U.S. for supporting us, believing in us and helping us make history. By being a good, respected governor I hope I’ve encouraged more Asian and Pacific Islander Americans to run for office. And I hope I’ve made it possible for them to win!

We each have different stories, but we have all traveled the same journey. A journey fueled by opportunity.

Our families began this journey as immigrants. The early “opportunities” they seized may not seem like opportunities at all by today’s standards. But to our hard-working and determined ancestors, the door to the future began to open when they came to this country.

The key to success for so many of our families has been education. Education makes dreams possible. When I was growing up, my parents taught me that important lesson. They instilled in me a passion for learning. There was no question growing up that I would be attending college. The only question was how.

My parents gave me love and support and encouragement, but they were not affluent. They encouraged me and my brothers and sisters to work hard. Thanks to financial aid, scholarships and part-time work, I was able to attend college. I graduated, and went on to law school. Thanks to that financial generosity, I was able to choose my destiny.

That’s why I am deeply committed to the Asian and Pacific Islander Scholarship Fund—and to financial aid and scholarship programs for all students in need.

We all know how urgently this support is needed for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. The U.S. Census reports that nearly 13 percent of Asian Americans and nearly 18 percent of Pacific Islanders and Hawaiians live below the poverty level. Asian Americans with college degrees exceed the national average. But only 7.4 percent of Hmong, 9.1 percent of Cambodians, 19.5 percent of Vietnamese and 16.5 percent of Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians have attained a bachelor’s degree. This is in sharp contrast to 26 percent of all Americans who have earned a college degree. Clearly, we have a problem. There is an insufficient number of college degrees among more recent Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants.

Our community has lagged behind the African American, Hispanic, and American Indian/Native American communities. Each of these communities has established national scholarship organizations. The United Negro College Fund. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund. The American Indian Graduate Center Scholars. These are all familiar and respected organizations in American higher education.

And many corporations have wanted to contribute to a scholarship fund focusing on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Tonight, we join these organizations. Tonight, we inaugurate the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund. Tonight, we open more doors of opportunity for young Asian and Pacific Islander Americans.

I want to recognize and thank the members of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund partnership. This is a remarkable and pioneering accomplishment. I am very proud of your accomplishment, and grateful for your commitment. Together, you are making history. By helping young Asian and Pacific Islander Americans realize the dream of a college education, we will build a stronger community and a better America.

Thank you.

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