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Family experiences inspire Watt's early learning work

Published on: February 01, 2005

As
a Boeing Company executive, Bob Watt knows the value of well-educated
employees and how they contribute to a company's success. As a parent
and former head of two social services agencies, Watt also recognizes
the value of providing parents with the information they need to help
their children succeed in school.

That's why Watt, Boeing's
vice president of government and community relations, is committed to
the concept of early learning and is proud of Boeing's efforts to
promote early childhood education throughout the region.

"Investing our time and resources in early childhood education and
school readiness efforts is essential to building a stronger community
and maintaining a world-class region," says Watt, who has two grown
children and two grandchildren. "We also need to work extra hard to
make sure that all our children benefit from these efforts, because
right now it is sadly not the case."

Prior to coming to Boeing in 2002, Watt's career included leadership
positions in the private and public sectors, serving as president and
CEO of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, as managing
director/co-founder of PhyCom Corporation and as deputy mayor of the
City of Seattle under former Mayor Norm Rice. He also spent five years
as president of Family Services of Seattle/King County, and more than
12 years at Bellevue-based Youth Eastside Services, including five
years as the organization's executive director.

We asked Watt, ParentMap's hero for February, to share his thoughts on
how his personal and business experiences have shaped his views on
school readiness efforts.


Q. You have a long record of service with organizations that focus on families. How did you get involved in that type of work?

A.
I was very active as a young person (started at 8 years old) in
volunteering in the community. I also spent time (one year, full time)
as a VISTA volunteer in my early 20s. So my current involvements are
just part of who I am and have been for a long, long time.


Q. I understand that you are an adoptive parent. Has that influenced your work with families?

A.
I have two adult children. Our oldest child -- our daughter -- is a
child born to Juanita (my bride of 38 years) and me, and the second
child -- our son -- came to us when he was three days old, via
adoption. We are a thoroughly mixed-race family and that fact has
certainly influenced my life and work and understanding about the
world. Our son is African-American, Juanita is Puerto Rican and I have
learned many valuable lessons about life from her and both our children.


Q. Explain your commitment to Early Learning -- how are you involved and why is it important to you?

A.
I think it is increasingly clear that what shows up as the so-called
"achievement gap" is more accurately described as a preparation gap and
one that can be largely overcome with some extra support for those
children most likely to start school already behind their classmates.
Early learning support will help a great deal and so will continued
efforts to help all school children reach high standards of excellence.
I have learned via direct and painful experience that some teachers
hold very different thoughts in their hearts and minds about what a
"white" girl can learn versus what an African-American boy can learn.


Q.
Why do you think it's important for businesses such as Boeing to care
about issues such as Early Learning and other family- and
child-friendly initiatives?

A.
At Boeing, we're working with early learning experts and other
businesses to help create a network of support for parents that is best
in the world. By working together we can provide parents and caregivers
with the information they need to get children off to the right start.
Together, we have the ability to revitalize our economy and lead the
nation in international trade, cutting-edge technology and other
business areas. The key to making this happen is education. Our schools
need to produce skillful citizens who will become tomorrow's engineers,
surgeons, research scientists, teachers and entrepreneurs.

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