On election night, 2004, my young son went to bed saying, “Wake me up when Chris wins!” referring to Chris Gregoire. As friends of Mike Gregoire’s family, my son felt connected to her given our paths had crossed a few times at weddings, funerals and birthday parties. She did not, however, gain his attention and support on these experiences alone.
“Mom, does Chris like kids?” he asked. This has been my son’s assessment question for all adults since he could perceive the power difference between “grown-ups” and kids.
I told him about Gregoire’s record as attorney general and her passion for doing what is right, even if that meant doing something difficult or controversial. I told him I believed as our governor she would continue to work hard for all people, especially people who did not have much power over their own lives, like children.
Not hours or days later, but several weeks and 128 votes later, Chris Gregoire was elected governor. And my son insisted she “needed” a gift from him. He insisted I make a December 24th trip to Wal-Mart because only there could he get what he wanted for her. He would not tell me what that was. And so because I like kids, especially my own, I followed his request.
He went straight to the toy area and I became suspicious. For whom was this gift? But he knew exactly what he wanted and he found it: a CareBear whose message was “Do your best every day.” The bear was delivered to the governor-elect and a thank you note was soon sent to our home.
Over the last eight years, Governor Gregoire did her best every day for all of us in Washington state. Listening to her final speech I found a theme: she opened doors. She opened doors to healthcare for those who struggled to receive basic, essential care; she opened doors to education for early learners, K-12 and college students who had the skills, but maybe not the means, to get the education needed for their dreams to become reality.
She opened doors to the Pacific Rim where we could trade our goods – food and products – with developing countries. She opened doors and boarded helicopters to survey flooded landscapes and she very quietly opened doors to board a military plane so she could visit our Washington troops serving in Iraq. She and First Mike opened doors and welcomed home our veterans who served our country. She courageously opened doors to pain and walked in when she represented all of us at funerals for fallen law enforcement officers, her compassion and empathy visible in the sorrow on her face. And perhaps most telling of her commitment to opening doors was the signing of the Marriage Equality Bill, allowing same-gender couples to marry. She credited her daughters for educating her and encouraging her to understand that separate-but-equal is not equal. I am certain they knew she would listen to them, because as her daughters, they have always known she not only likes kids, she listens to them and takes their ideas seriously.
As they move out of the mansion and back to our community, may Governor Gregoire and First Mike know of our gratitude for their commitment to serve our state with wisdom, courage, kindness, relentless energy and a willingness to do their best every day. Welcome home.