Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Spokane Area Annual Hispanic Graduation Reception and Celebration
May 20, 2004

Good evening. I am honored to be here.

I want to begin by recognizing all of our high school and college graduates, and the Young Scholars here this evening.

As I look out at you tonight, I see the future of our state. I see tomorrow’s medical professionals, scientists, law enforcement officers, diplomats, artists, business executives, educators, social workers, writers, engineers, computer experts, and lawyers. And maybe one of you will become Governor someday too! I’d vote for you!

The accomplishments we honor this evening are only the beginning, and there are great things ahead for you.

Congratulations to the parents, educators, friends and relatives of these outstanding young people. You’ve done a great job of nurturing, supporting and occasionally nagging these sons and daughters of our state. As I said, they are our future. And the future looks very bright indeed.

And thank you to this great community and the Hispanic Business Professional Association for showing such strong support of these graduates and scholars and celebrating their accomplishments tonight.

I am always impressed by academic achievement. When I was a student, I sometimes 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.

But I was able to make my way. Like you students here tonight, I had opportunities. Because this is a state and a nation of opportunities.

My family has lived these opportunities. A hundred years ago, my grandfather came to America from China when he was a teenager. He worked as a servant for a family in Olympia in exchange for English lessons.

Now I live in the Governor's mansion just one mile from where my grandfather swept floors, cooked and washed dishes—the first Chinese-American governor in U.S. history and the first Asian-American governor in the continental U.S. Our family jokes that it took one hundred years to travel one mile! But it’s been a heck of a mile!

I reflect on how my own life has gone. I wasn’t any smarter, any luckier, or any richer than you are now. But growing up, I had adults who cared about me. My parents and teachers. And I had opportunities.

You have people like that, too, in your families, in your community and in your schools. That’s what tonight is all about.

There were obstacles for me, as there probably are for you. One memory really sticks with me. When I was in the third grade, our teacher would ask each student what we ate for breakfast. If it wasn’t a traditional American breakfast, we would get our hands slapped with a ruler. And because I often ate a rice porridge with fish and vegetables, I got my hand slapped a lot. So did my Asian classmates—and even some Italian kids who were allowed to drink coffee! We were slapped for being "UnAmerican.”

But life involves obstacles, and success involves overcoming them. You are all making great progress in your own personal journey to success. You’ve worked hard, overcome obstacles, and seized opportunities. Congratulations on coming this far, and keep going until you reach your dreams.

I hope you are proud of the accomplishments that bring you here tonight. You deserve to be proud. Your families are proud of you. Your teachers and school administrators and communities are proud of you. Your friends are proud of you. And I am proud of you.

You are an inspiration to others and a great credit to our state. Tonight, we celebrate your achievements. And we can’t wait to see what comes next!

I urge all of you to continue your education. You can become anything you want if you work hard enough and you’re truly committed to it. Keep looking ahead, and reach for your dreams. Finish high school and earn your diploma. Go to college and pursue a degree. Consider an advanced degree if it will help you realize your dreams. And remember that learning is life long.

Education is the great equalizer. It helps us overcome the inequalities, injustices and adversity that might otherwise imprison us and limit our lives. A good education opens many doors of opportunity.

And it does more. A good education will help you develop personal habits of mind and critical thinking skills. These habits of mind and ways of looking at the world will become your equipment for living the rest of your life.

We must all continue to support education in our state. We must commit as a caring society to the proper funding of education.

This community understands the value of a good education. Let’s unite with other caring communities across our state to make this investment. Let’s make sure all of Washington’s daughters and sons get the high quality education they deserve.

I am deeply moved tonight to see how passionately this community believes in and supports its young people. And I ask that all of tonight’s graduates and scholars remember to return that faith and support by giving back to this community.

More than forty years ago, a young president stood before our nation and issued a challenge: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Even as you enjoy this celebration tonight, ask what you can do for your community. Volunteer your time and talents to help others and make this community an even better place to live.

Serve as a role model and mentor to those who come after you, that they too might know the inspiration of accomplishment you know now. Look around you and do the little things you can do every day to keep a friend in school, to encourage a working parent, or to make life easier for an elderly person. Help a neighbor. Help a stranger. Nurture the dreams of another.

And don’t stop there. Ask how you can help all communities in our state. Ask what you can do to make a better Washington. And ask what you can do for your country.

It has been an honor serving as the Governor of this state the past seven-and-a-half years. I love our state, and I am proud of all that we have accomplished together since 1997.

But I am most proud of the future we are building for our state. It is a future found in communities like Spokane, and in bright, promising young men and women like those we honor tonight. Keep up the good work. And together we will make sure our state will always be a great place to live, work and raise a family.

Thank you.

Access Washington