Politics & Government

As state celebrates 125 years of history, children commit to guarding its future

Tuesday marked the 125th anniversary of when Washington became a U.S. state, an occasion that brought square dancing, mariachi music and a giant birthday cake to the Capitol.

It also meant that a new generation was appointed to oversee the Washington Centennial Time Capsule, which sits at the south portico of the Capitol in Olympia.

The 135 children — all of whom are roughly 10 years old this year — took their oaths Tuesday to become capsule Keepers.

The swearing-in was a centerpiece of the state’s anniversary event, which also included a series of performances and historical exhibits.

“This year reminds us of our history, and the importance of passing that legacy on to our children,” said Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who swore in the new Keepers at Tuesday’s event.

The new Keepers will be responsible for adding to the state’s centennial time capsule in 25 years, contributing contemporary artifacts in 2039 that will ultimately be opened on the 500th anniversary of Washington’s statehood 375 years from now.

It’s the first time that the responsibility of being a capsule Keeper has passed from one generation of Washingtonians to another.

The first capsule Keepers, appointed as children during the state’s centennial in 1989, helped recruit this year’s group through schools and community organizations.

The group from 1989 continues to work to fill the capsule’s compartment for 2014, a process it will complete in February. Some of the items the older Keepers plan to include are an Amazon Kindle loaded with books from Washington state authors, as well as glass art from a local artist, said Erica Gordon, a 1989 Keeper from Spokane.

“It’s about encapsulating Washington state’s culture and traditions,” Gordon said.

Another 14 compartments will remain for future generations to fill, with responsibility for filling the 2039 capsule falling to the group of children sworn in Tuesday.

Some of the new Keepers already have ideas about what they’ll contribute 25 years from now.

“I’m going to be a robotics expert, and probably I’m going to put a robot in there. It’s going to be awesome,” said 10-year-old Arthur Bayer of Olympia, one of 25 new Keepers from the South Sound.

Other new Keepers weren’t sure what they’d want to add to the capsule in 2039, but said they have ideas about what they hope the state will look like then.

Several wrote their ideas down for future Washington residents, submitting them to be included in the 2014 capsule.

“I want it to still be green and be wildlife-friendly, and still have the Evergreen State for a nickname,” said 9-year-old Ezra Kemp of DuPont, a new Keeper who has a fondness for fishing.

Gov. Jay Inslee, speaking at Tuesday’s 125th anniversary event, said that Washington will face difficulties in its future, such as battling climate change. But he said he’s confident that the next generation — embodied by the new Keepers — will be ready to take on those challenges.

“Take a look at these children,” Inslee said. “I can tell you, we’ve got a bright century ahead of us.”