Public Papers - 1990
Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Award
Well, first, welcome to so many Members of Congress. Delighted to see you all here. And to all others, welcome to the White House. Of course, it's a great pleasure to be with Bill Reilly -- he's doing such an outstanding job at EPA -- and then, Mike Deland of the CEQ, right here in the White House -- the same. And they're both, I think, leading a really fine, renewed effort to protect America's environment. I'm delighted to see Duncan and Porter here -- Duncan Hunter and Porter Goss -- who, in a sense, organized this whole concept of these awards. And I want to thank all that have been involved in launching the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Awards. All of you here today, thank you for coming -- those of you who worked so diligently to protect the environment and make conservation more than just a word, but really, in a sense, a way of life.
You may remember a couple of years back when Time magazine named Earth the ``planet of the year.'' And Jay Leno said, ``What do you expect? All the judges came from Earth.'' [Laughter] Well, it was almost exactly 1 year ago that I met here at the White House with many of you all, many of the same Congress men and women, joining together to develop a program in the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt's historic commitment to conservation. And today it's a great honor to stand with you as we commemorate the great strides that these individual Americans have made towards preserving a clean environment for all Americans.
You represent a whole new breed of American heroes, people that are making investments in our environment today that are bound to pay dividends for the kids tomorrow -- people like Charles Caniff from Porter Goss's own district in Florida. Charles helped found the Port Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, a unique partnership between the private sector, local government, and public schools.
And, Charles -- where is Charles? Right here. Congratulations, sir. People like you do represent the power of voluntarism, the power of those that might be physically challenged and the power of an idea whose time has come -- the grassroots effort to build a better America, where the quality of our environment matches the quality of our dreams.
Already we've come a long way, not only as a planet but as a people. And in the not so distant past, the skies of our cities were being blanketed with clouds of pollution and American rivers were being filled with sewage and industrial waste, and we were squandering our vital natural heritage. But in recent years, we have seen a new attitude -- a return, if you will, to the conservation ethic of Teddy Roosevelt and the birth of a worldwide environmental movement that started right here in the United States.
The change has been both fundamental and pervasive. And many of you, in Congress and out, have been leaders in rekindling the flame of conservation in the hearts and the minds of the American people -- people like Bill Rutherford, Bob Michel's honoree from Illinois, who helps run the Wildlife Prairie Park without one single penny of tax support; or David Woodside, who we learned from Pat Saiki, who has helped save -- learned about from Pat -- he's helped save the endangered species in Hawaii; Mary Lou Ryan, a New York grade school teacher, who's cultivating character in her kids by cultivating concern about the environment.
Americans like you help keep our conservation ethic strong. And that enduring commitment requires sustained action from each of us. We've taken a series of actions to protect America's environment: planting trees and preserving wetlands; developing cleaner domestic sources of energy; working with our global neighbors to fight pollution that knows no boundaries, especially in the emerging democracies.
Bill Reilly, just back, wrote me a fascinating letter, and I'd hope that you'll share those views with all the Members of Congress about this new Budapest Center that we've helped set up. Americans, again, like you, have provided an extraordinary foundation for the efforts of our administration. The clean air initiative, just to cite an example, that we launched in the Grand Tetons over a year ago is a very ambitious and very aggressive piece of legislation. And it will sharply cut air pollution's big three: acid rain, smog, and toxic pollutants. And it respects another kind of delicate ecology: the ecology of jobs and opportunity. The bill has been 13 years in coming, but no American should have to wait another day for clean air. This Congress this week should send me a clean air bill that I can sign.
Our nation really has made great headway, but our mission is not just to defend what's left but to take the offense, to improve our environment all across the board. And some of today's winners, veteran foresters like California's Charles Colver or tree-planting teachers like Wisconsin's Ed Dietz, are doing just exactly that. And I've said this before: Trees can reduce the heat of a summer's day, quiet a highway's noise, help feed the hungry, provide shelter from wind and cold and habitat for wildlife. And every tree planted is a compact between generations.
Many challenges do remain, but thanks to you and to your congressional partners with you here the future holds great promise for our environment. All of you personify the selfless acts of thousands of concerned Americans who strive every day to leave a better world for our kids. And when I look out at the faces of Americans like those that we honor here today, I realize we've hardly begun to discover what God put on Earth and what God put in man.
Congratulations to all of you winners. Congratulations to each of you leaders from the United States Congress who are making this possible. Again, Porter, to you and Duncan, a special congratulations for bringing all this to fruition. And again, thank you, and good luck to each and every one of you. And God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at 3:07 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his opening remarks, he referred to William K. Reilly, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Michael R. Deland, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality; Representatives Duncan Hunter and Porter Goss; and comedian Jay Leno.