Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies
May 6, 2004
Thanks Daphne. Thanks for your great work as executive director of APAICS.
Good evening. I am honored to be here, and truly honored by this award.
Let me add my congratulations to tonight’s other honorees: Elaine Chao and Norman Mineta. I am deeply humbled to share this evening with you.
It’s been a great honor serving as governor of the great State of Washington. It’s an honor to be the first Chinese-American governor in U.S. history, and the first Asian Pacific American governor on the mainland. Mona and I thank so many of you here, and Asian Pacific Americans across the U.S. for supporting us, believing in us and helping us make history. My hope is that by being a good, respected governor I’ve encouraged more Asian Pacific Americans to run for office and made it possible for them to win!
Together, we have come a long way. And we have all traveled the same journey.
Many of you know my story. My family’s journey began when my grandfather came to the U.S. from China as a teenager more than 100 years ago. He worked as a servant for a family in exchange for English lessons. Today I live in the Governor’s mansion—just one mile from the house where my grandfather swept floors, cooked and washed dishes. We joke that it took our family 100 years to travel one mile.
Our family’s journey, like the journey of all Asian Pacific American families, has been one of hard work and hope. We have been sustained by a belief in the promise of America: freedom, equality and opportunity.
Our ancestors built the railroads, worked in the gold mines, logged the forests, farmed the land, and fought in world wars to keep America safe and free.
They gave their blood, sweat and tears to build and defend this prosperous America. Their sacrifices conferred upon us an important responsibility. A responsibility to be active politically. A responsibility to help shape America’s policies and laws.
We have struggled at times. We have persevered. And we have paved the way for others. We have shown that the glass ceiling can be challenged. It can be challenged through political involvement and empowerment. It can be challenged through excellence in the arts, sciences, business, technology and government. We have shown that not only can we challenge the glass ceiling, but we can shatter it!
And we must shatter it. That’s why I’ve made it a priority to appoint people of color to positions in state government.
I am proud that more than 20 percent of the judges I’ve appointed to the various courts in Washington state have been people of color.
I’m proud that my appointments have increased minority membership on Washington state boards and commissions by more than 500%. I’m proud that my cabinet is the most diverse in our state’s history.
All across America, we are making great progress. But we must never become complacent. We must remain constantly vigilant against injustice. This has never been more important than it is right now.
Those who question our government’s policies should never be called “unpatriotic” or “un-American.” Those who would silence such criticism have forgotten what democracy and patriotism truly mean. But we have not.
We have faced many hardships in the past. We have faced discrimination from immigration, ownership of land to the internment of Japanese during World War II. Now, as then, we must stand together and raise our voices, loud and proud. Asian Pacific Americans must unite in a single voice and proclaim: “We will never abdicate our basic freedoms. We will never tolerate injustices and discrimination against Asian Pacific Americans—or any Americans.”
America’s diversity of people, cultures and religions is our nation’s greatest strength. It is the source of our amazing progress. When our society embraces its rich diversity, we reach for the highest, best potential of our people. We must keep reaching for that highest, best potential.
We must continue our efforts. We must keep working until there are no glass ceilings. We will help ensure that there are ample opportunities for all. For us, for our children, and for generations to come.
Thank you to the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies for tonight’s award. But more importantly, thank you for your leadership in increasing the participation of Asian Pacific Americans in the democratic process.
Together, we’re making a difference. Together, we are helping to build a better, stronger America.