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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks at the Dedication Ceremony for the Centennial Grove in Bismarck, North Dakota

1989-04-24

I'm so pleased to be here. Thank you, Tom Kleppe. When Secretary -- and I say ``Secretary'' because North Dakotans know that Tom served so well as Secretary of the Interior -- former Congressman, but called me about this marvelous project of yours, he's right, I accepted in a hurry. And I'm very grateful to Governor Sinner and all involved in the preparations for this wonderful visit. I want to pay my respects not only to Governor and Mrs. Sinner, [former] Governor Link, Senator Conrad, Congressman Dorgan, and other distinguished leaders of the North Dakota Legislature. Thank you for inviting me.

It has been a very emotional day for me. I understand that lost on the Iowa was the grandson of a Bismarck family, and if that family didn't attend today's services, I can attest firsthand how moving it was and what a wonderful job our Navy did in holding the loved ones close to them, giving them comfort that I know all Americans would want given to these families. It was a very moving day. And the flags I see at half-mast here are appropriate tribute to those young men who lost their lives. I'm also proud to see that POW and MIA flag flying, Governor, right here at this magnificent State capital, because we must never forget the POW's and the MIA's.

When I accepted your invitation to come here, I had no idea that part of the program was to put me to work. ``A sapling,'' they said, ``all you'll have to do is to plant a sapling.'' No one told me that the sapling is about 12 feet tall over there. But I think we can figure it out. This hardy elm is a descendant of a tree planted on the White House lawn by John Quincy Adams. And now, its seedlings will be a part of North Dakota forever.

And just a few years before this State was carved out of the Dakota territory, a young man from New York City set aside a prominent career in politics to become a North Dakota rancher. Having lost his wife and mother in one single day, he came to these parts almost insane with grief. No tenderfoot, he worked the range in the harshest weather, always leading and never following. And he wore a sheriff's badge, and he roamed the Badlands to singlehandedly bring the worst characters to justice. And, in short, Teddy Roosevelt became a man in North Dakota; and he became something else, a guardian of nature. When he went back East and back to politics, Teddy Roosevelt took with him an understanding that the seemingly endless resources of the West were threatened by the unfettered exploitation of man. As President, Teddy Roosevelt wrote these words to schoolchildren on Arbor Day, 1907: ``A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as hopeless.''

So, let us honor the coming 100th birthday of North Dakota and the memory of the Nation's first true environmentalist by dedicating this centennial bur oak along with this White House elm. Before the year 2000, your State will plant 100 million trees, almost half as many new trees in one State as there are Americans in the Union. May each tree add to the abundance of the good life in North Dakota, cleaner air for North America. This forestation effort is just one of 600 ambitious centennial projects North Dakotans are taking on. You are fulfilling the spirit that I call One Thousand Points of Light: the spirit of voluntarism, from projects to help senior citizens, to the building of local and community centers, to a memorial for the North Dakotans who fell in the war.

This year you're also honoring those who settled here before North Dakota became a State by honoring their children: the sons and daughters of the pioneers, some 3,000 strong. And let us especially remember, in word and deed, those great peoples and great cultures here well before anyone else -- the Native Americans of North Dakota. These Americans knew the Plains when buffalo ranged in the millions. We can learn then from a special, poignant knowledge that they taught us, that nature once violated is forever altered.

Around the world there's a growing recognition that environmental problems respect no borders. In these first few months in office we've begun to act on our own and in concert with other nations to face up to this fundamental fact. We've agreed that all nations must get together to ban CFC's [chlorofluorocarbons] and to prevent global warming. And as the world wakes us to these problems -- and believe me, it is awakening -- North Dakota, you're already at work planting trees that exchange carbon dioxide for fresh oxygen. What a fitting way to celebrate this magnificent centennial -- by getting ready for the next 100 years.

As you've shown, we do not have to accept as inevitable the spoiling of our air, our rivers, our wetlands, and our forests. When North Dakotans celebrate their bicentennial, these 2 trees will be mammoth, almost 50 feet tall, as hardy and strong as the people they represent. Let them stand as a symbol of our commitment to a clean and healthy environment. May we always have the priceless resource of the outdoors for the enjoyment of our children and our children's children.

Thank you for asking me to be with you today at this wonderful celebration. I just can't tell you how moved I was when I came in from the airport to be greeted by so many of your neighbors, so many citizens of this great State. The respect for the institutions that we hold dear, in this case, the Presidency. It has nothing to do with the President -- the respect for the institution was clear and evident for all to see, and I am grateful for that warm welcome. And so, I will watch with interest and lend a hand where I can, as this tree grows and develops, just like the Peace Garden State.

Happy birthday North Dakota! God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 4:35 p.m. in the Great Hall of the State capitol. Following the remarks, he participated in a tree planting ceremony on the capitol lawn. Following the ceremony, the President traveled to San Jose, CA, where he stayed overnight.

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