Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
J.A. Wendt Elementary Project Playground Dedication
May 13, 2004

Good morning. It’s great to be here.

I want to thank Senator Doumit for that introduction. Tomorrow, he will be hand-delivering a very special letter from Illwaco to Astoria. The letter will have the very first cancelled Lewis & Clark commemorative stamp marking the 200th anniversary of their historic expedition. This will be the very first use of that stamp anywhere in America! Our state will be making a little more Lewis & Clark history of our own! So good luck, Senator—and don’t lose that letter!

Speaking of firsts, before I go any further, I want to say that this is a great school and a great community. Congratulations on a stellar, all-world effort, and please give yourselves a big hand! [lead applause]

In a few minutes, we will be dedicating the new playground. And I am absolutely certain of one thing:

No playground in the world has ever been built with as much love and community effort as this one.

The hearts and minds and hands of the men, women and children of this community are there in every square foot of ground, every square inch of structure, every nail, every screw, every bolt and every saw cut. The playground is an eloquent statement about just how much this community cares about the kids and families of Cathlamet and Wahkiakum County.

You have set an example for everyone in our state. You’ve shown us all what is possible when a community dares to dream and then pulls together to make that dream a reality. The new playground is a powerful symbol of a community with a caring soul and a devoted heart.

When I read about all the work that went into this playground, I knew I had to come down here and see it for myself. I also knew that any community that can accomplish such a triumph must be a wonderful place to live!

For years to come, all of you will smile inside and walk just a little taller every time you hear the words “the playground.” From the youngest student here to the oldest citizen of Cathlamet, you will never forget what this playground represents. Nor will I.

You will never forget how badly a new playground was needed, how the old one didn’t meet the needs of disabled children, and didn’t meet safety regulations. And how you decided to do something about it.

You will never forget how hard the Project Playground Team worked for an entire year to organize this challenging undertaking. You will never forget how the community pitched in to finance the project. You will never forget how the kids of this community designed the playground both for fun and to reflect the culture and heritage of Wahkiakum County. And you will never forget how everyone here came together one remarkable week in September last year to build it.

For generations to come, people here will remember “build week.”

You will remember the determination and hard work of all those volunteers, some handling power tools for the first time—without anyone getting hurt. You will remember those stalwart construction captains, and the church volunteers who fed all the hungry workers. You will remember all the donated tools and material and the way the Cathlamet Fire Department and the Wahkiakum County Reserve Deputies helped out.

And the rain those first two days—you’ll always be talking about the rain and muddy ground. And how everyone pressed on in spite of it! After all, this is Washington!

The wonderful new playground we are about to dedicate will serve the kids and families in this community for decades to come. It is a monument to what a caring, spirited community can get done when it sets its mind to it.

And each of you here today will always have something else. Deep inside every one of you, you’ll know that when this community needed you, you were there. You did not look away, you did not stay away, you did not make excuses. You stepped up to an almost impossible challenge, and together, you got the job done. Together, you had an opportunity to do something great. And together, you did it.

Standing here right now, I feel very humbled and very inspired. Congratulations on this truly remarkable accomplishment. I hope you are all as proud as I am. You deserve to be.

Thank you for letting me share this important and inspiring day for your children, this community, and our state.

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