Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Promise Scholarship Ceremony - WSU & WWU
October 28, 2004

This is the sixth year for our Promise Scholarships! We launched the program in 1999 and the Legislature made it permanent a few years later. I am proud to say that we’ve awarded a total of nearly 35,000 Promise Scholarships!

When my brothers and sisters and I were growing up, our parents taught us an important lesson: Education makes dreams possible. They instilled in us a passion for learning. They gave us love, support and encouragement.

Our parents weren’t affluent. But, thanks to financial aid, scholarships and part-time work, I was able to attend college. I was able to choose my destiny.

A college education is part of the American dream. I believe with all my heart in that dream.

The reality is: low-income students have all kinds of access to scholarships and financial aid. And students from high-income families can afford the most private and expensive colleges in America.

But for students of working/middle-class families, it’s getting harder and harder to realize the American dream of a college education. That’s why I proposed the Promise Scholarships.

These scholarships are a “promise” to Washington’s young people: If you do well in school and need help to go to college, we will help you.

This year, some 7,500 students across the state are eligible for scholarships. 948 of those students attend Washington State University!

But we must provide even more financial aid opportunities for students, and we must ensure that there is room at our colleges and universities for every student who qualifies to attend.

It’s great to see such promising young minds making the most of this opportunity. I wish all of you an enriching and rewarding college experience. And I would like to offer a few humble suggestions if I could.

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 in general. Explore your strengths, your weaknesses, your passions, and your interests. Stretch and grow.

A college education does much more 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 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! Washington State University is richly diverse. Take courses from the most exciting, engaging, entertaining professors – especially outside your majors. This university is a wonderful place to get an education, find a future career, and, yes, learn the meaning of happiness. Take time to smell the roses, and have fun.

Behind every good student are many people who care, nurture, encourage, motivate and sacrifice. I want to thank all of you—to the mothers and fathers, the teachers and counselors, the family and friends who are here today—thank you.

And finally, congratulations to our Promise Scholarship recipients. You have worked hard. You show great promise. And our promise to you is that we will help you on your way to your dream. Because we believe in you. And we’re proud of you.

Thank you, and good luck!

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