Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Governor’s Scholarship Reception
May 14, 2004

Good afternoon. I want to begin by congratulating our scholars. Let’s give them a round of applause!

And to the guardians, family members, friends, relatives, principals and teachers of these outstanding young people, congratulations as well. You’ve done a great job of nurturing, supporting and motivating these sons and daughters of our state. They are our future, and the future looks very bright indeed.

May is National Foster Care Month. So I’d like to ask all of our foster parents here today to please stand up and be recognized. Let’s give them a hand.

By now you’ve undoubtedly noticed all the blue ribbons. These ribbons symbolize our support of children in foster care, and our support of the parents entrusted with those children’s lives. I wear one proudly because I believe in our foster children and parents.

I want to thank the Washington Education Foundation for doing such a great job of administering the Governor’s Scholarship program. Thank you to Bob Craves, the co-founder, CEO and President of Washington Education Foundation, and Ann Ramsay-Jenkins, co-founder and the Vice-President and Treasurer of WEF. And thanks as well to Mary Anne Herrick, the Independent Student Services Officer at WEF. We greatly appreciate the dedication and hard work all three of you have shown in advancing foster care and education.

And I know we are all looking forward to hearing from Johnny Madrid. What a role model for foster youth! Johnny’s accomplishments are proof that the American Dream is alive and well for those who work hard and are given the opportunity to excel.

A college education is part of the American dream. Every young person, including students leaving foster care, deserves a real chance to have this dream come true!

I wish that we could support higher education programs for every single student leaving foster care and going out into the world. I won’t stop working to provide these scholarships until we get there.

This is a great day for 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. I hope a few of you become Governor someday too! I’d vote for you!

These scholarships are funded are almost entirely from the Governor’s Cup Golf Tournament that I’ve sponsored the past three years, with corporations and individuals donating money to participate. No state money is used.

To date, we’ve raised more than $800,000 to create these scholarship opportunities. And this year, we are awarding the highest number of scholarships yet—to 28 outstanding Governor’s Scholars.

There is a reason why I sponsor the golf tournament. And I assure you it is not to show off my golf skills!

The reason I believe so passionately in helping provide opportunities for a college education is because my family has lived these opportunities. My grandfather came to America from China more than a hundred years ago. He settled in Olympia. He worked as a servant for a family in exchange for English lessons. What may seem like hardship to some was in his mind an opportunity. And he used that opportunity to build a better life. The opportunities continued for our family.

Now I live in the Governor's mansion just one mile from where my grandfather lived — the first Chinese-American governor in the United States history. Our family jokes that it took one hundred years to travel one 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 I had adults who cared about me. People who believed in me. And I had opportunities.

You have adults like that, too, where you live and in your schools. And all around you today. You are the sons and daughters of Washington state. We are here today because we have faith in you. We believe in you. We care about you. And we are proud of you for taking this next step in your lives.

You have faced more obstacles than most teenagers. 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.

You are about to set out on a new adventure—a college education. Your years at a college or university will be among the best years of your lives. 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 probably know about this part of college life already.

But 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. And even after you choose one, take courses outside your major. 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.

A college education does something much more important than just impart knowledge, as important as knowledge is. A college 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 will become your equipment for living 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.
As Confucius advised, “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”

College is a time of self-fulfillment. 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 college or university. The air is filled with intellectual energy. There is a real sense of dreams coming true.

You’ve already shown that you can overcome obstacles to reach for your dreams. Take that same spirit 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!

Take in this moment. Hold on to today. When you meet the inevitable challenges and new 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, 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. Take courses from the most exciting, engaging, entertaining professors – especially outside your majors. 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.

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

We wish you all the best of luck in the years ahead. Congratulations

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