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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks to Members of the Family Motor Coach Association in Richmond, Virginia


Thank you all very much. I'd like full credit for having cleared it up here. [Laughter] Thank you very, very much for that warm welcome. And Richard, thank you and Karen for your hospitality and for inviting us to come here today. I want to pay my respects to Senator Warner, an outstanding Member of the United States Senate, who you welcomed a minute ago, and my dear friend, the Congressman from this area, Tom Bliley. We've got two good ones with us here today.

You know, at the White House I hear a lot about technological achievements. Scientists tell me about our latest advances in electronics and computers and biogenetics. And that's all very interesting, but I still can't get over the fact that here in America we have houses that can do 55 miles an hour into a headwind. [Laughter]

You may remember in ``The Wizard of Oz'' how Auntie Em's house got lifted up and carried off by a tornado -- America's first airborne RV. But she had the advantage of a tailwind. Your mileage may vary. [Laughter]

It is wonderful to be visiting with such an outstanding group of Americans on the move. And I might say, I'm very pleased to see Derrick Crandall here, who has been a good friend of mine and who has shown me the wonders of some of our most beautiful parks, borrowing, I am sure, the vehicles to house us from some of you sitting right here. But nevertheless, welcome and thank you, sir, for your leadership in this marvelous recreational outdoors usage.

When this organization was founded by a handful of families in 1963, no one could have predicted that 26 years later you'd be 65,000 strong and still growing. But you're an example of a longstanding tradition in this country, and that began 150 years ago, when Americans set out to explore the lands west of the Mississippi River. And today you continually rediscover the miracle of America's abundance through the romance of the road. And every morning, when a convoy picks up and takes off, you give a happy new meaning to the phrase, ``There goes the neighborhood.'' [Laughter]

You've come to know the America that most of us only hear about now and then. You've traded in real estate for wheel estates, traveled to and through towns with names like Dime Box, Texas; Scratch Ankle, Alabama; Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico; Gnawbone, Indiana -- and one of my favorites -- Nameless, Tennessee. [Laughter]

And whether you escape for weekends or migrate for months at a time, all of you have found and fostered a special fellowship in the camaraderie of the road. And I saw it tonight, just as we drove into this park -- people out there in front of their homes giving us a friendly welcome, standing neighbor to neighbor.

You know, as those miles roll out beneath you, it seems that your ideals, traditional American ideals, become ever more firmly rooted. And they're the ideals of freedom, self-reliance, the love of nature and of this nation, and above all, the nurturing of family values. Today these fundamental American values must be reaffirmed. We're at a point in our history when there can be no standing still. We must either move forward or risk sliding backward.

And it's time to renew our commitments, both to nature and to our fellow man. The American spirit of exploration must be joined with the new sense of restoration. And the natural world that supports us and the society that sustains us both need our help. The natural beauty that you and I enjoy today is a sacred trust. So, we must do more than simply limit the damage that we've already done. We must work to preserve and restore the integrity and richness of this continent's natural splendor.

You never feel that more fully than when you see the great outdoors through the eyes of a child or of a grandchild. And I had the pleasure of seeing it once again in Lake Jackson through the eyes of our 13-year-old grandson just the other day. Barbara and I had been with him a year or two ago in the same spot. And that's one reason that I believe it's time to renew the environmental ethic in America.

Henry David Thoreau's ideal was that if you borrow an axe, you should return it sharper than when you got it. And President Eisenhower probably had that in mind when he decided to buy some farmland with rundown soil near Gettysburg to let nature's restoration take its course. And he lived to see his experiment working. ``There are enough lush fields,'' he said, ``to assure me that I shall leave the place better than I found it.'' And that must be every American's goal.

And that's why we need to do more for our national parks. The idea of a ``national'' park is an American original that the rest of the world has come to admire and to imitate, because those parks are wide open, for everybody to enjoy. And it was once said that ``The national parks are America's unique contribution to the democratic ideal.'' And it's true: Our parks are our most open institutions -- 80 million acres of the most spectacular terrain on the planet, open to the wind, the sky, and the stars -- and open to every traveler with the sense and spirit to stay a moment and appreciate nature's beauty.

We need to make that kind of experience available to even more Americans, in more parts of America. So, I've proposed to Congress an increase of nearly 0 million a year for recreational land acquisitions in 27 States through the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service and BLM -- the Bureau of Land Management -- and the Forest Service. And these funds will go for everything from ``Parks for People'' in urban areas to valuable habitats as close by as the James River and the Eastern Shore here in Virginia. Some of the other acquisitions range all the way out to Big Hole River in Montana, the Bizz Johnston Trail in California, Pelican Island in Florida, Mount Baker in Washington. And many of you will see those places. Take a few pictures for me, if you will -- they don't let me out enough. [Laughter]

But I want to preserve our scenic byways, those picturesque roads that offer powerful views of the Nation's natural splendor. These are the roads that Americans love, and such scenic roads can and should be designated for the enjoyment and the convenience of travelers. And we've already designated 43 national forest scenic byways in 25 States. And the Chief of the Forest Service expects to set aside many more. By the end of this week, the Bureau of Land Management expects to identify about 25 new back-country byways nationwide, and we will do more.

As I look around this crowd, I recognize the profile of some that might fit the description of hunters. I'm one -- hunted and enjoyed the outdoors all my life, and I'm interested in the wetlands. And to protect our wetlands, we've set up a Federal task force to deliver on my pledge of no net loss of wetlands, no net loss of these precious habitats. And we've asked for nearly 0 million in new funding for acquisitions under the Land and Water Conservation Fund. And I'm looking to Congress to provide a comprehensive wetlands bill that I can sign this year.

Ten days ago, I outlined badly needed reforms to the Clean Air Act. And if Congress will pass that legislation, the degradation to our lakes and streams caused by acid rain, and the damage to our forests caused by windblown urban ozone will stop by the end of this century. All categories of airborne industrial toxic chemicals will be cut by three-quarters by the end of this century. And 20 years from now, every American, in every city in America, will breathe clean air, and that should be a national goal.

And it's good to hear that so many of you are reaffirming the ethic of conservation by getting involved in the Take Pride in America program, promoting the careful stewardship of our public lands and resources. I know that Barbara is delighted to be chairing a panel of judges for that program. And we need to get the word out that our national parks and other Federal land management agencies depend on volunteers. This is just the kind of voluntary local effort that it will take to bring us into a better partnership with nature.

Many of you are already involved with voluntary environmental efforts, so let me pay my respects to a great group of rambling recyclers out there, the San Diego Can Crushers -- let's hear it for the San Diego Can Crushers. [Applause] Now, we can do better than that. [Applause]

But I mentioned a second commitment a few minutes ago -- to our fellow man. We must take that commitment to heart as well. For even as we work to restore nature to its balance, we must also restore the fabric of our society, reweaving the threads of lives torn by poverty and despair and alienation. And that means renewing our neighborhoods; restoring shelter to those who have lost it; providing the power of literacy to those who lack it; and offering support and an example to children who need it; and lending a hand to the vulnerable, the infirm, the forgotten.

Many of you have already put your belief in the value of shared strength and strong family life -- put it to work, reaching out to help the homeless through the Better Homes Foundation with transitional housing, day care, medical care, counseling, and job training. And out there I know today that there are members of Achievers International, who do outstanding work with the disabled. And other FMCA members have joined forces with the Literacy Volunteers of America -- one of Barbara's very special programs that she does so much to help with -- that program in a ``Roundup of Literacy'' campaign is getting your help, provides tutoring through 350 community programs in 38 States. And I'm told that in the past 2 years alone the numbers of students and volunteers grew by 47 percent. One former student said, ``I see the world in a totally new way.'' And another said, ``I feel as though a light has been turned on in my life.'' As good as that student felt, imagine what it felt like for the tutor -- there is no greater feeling than to have someone depending on you and to live up to their expectations.

Your involvement makes you part of a constellation of concerned citizens committed to building a better America, both in her natural beauty and in the qualities of her citizens. And so, let me add my voice to those thanking you, and let me encourage you to do even more. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.

And many of you have probably read the book about life on the road called ``Blue Highways.'' It's written by a man who travels all over America, avoiding the interstates, deliberately taking the older, smaller roads -- the blue ones on his map. And there's a lesson there that so many of you have already learned and are living, a lesson that more Americans must heed. More of us must feel ourselves compelled to look beyond the wide and easy path, to follow a less traveled, perhaps older route. And sometimes it's more difficult. It's often more time consuming. But it's always more rewarding.

It's a path where progress is measured by the good we do for others. On that score, many of you are like Vena Hefner, who is with us today, a great lady -- 76 years old. She served as a driver for Secretary Marshall during World War II, and after suffering a motorcycle accident, she helped found the Paralyzed Veterans Association and has been a key member of the Disabled American Vets. And since her accident, she has found time to drive over 1 million miles, in every State in the lower 48. By her tough, inspirational example, Vena has helped disabled Americans across the country, sharing her strength along the road.

Those who have traveled widely and have seen America's broad expanses know how much we have been given as a people, and their spirits have grown accordingly. The expansive spirit of America has boundless capacity to do good. And so, I'll leave you with a simple request. In whatever effort you make to restore this country's natural beauty or to help other Americans in need, make it a pilgrimage with a purpose -- work to make a difference. And I'd ask you that you stop not simply to smell the flowers along the way but to help them grow. We are privileged to live in the greatest, freest, most inspirational country in the entire world. Let's make it all a little better.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:41 p.m. at the Virginia State fairgrounds. In his remarks, he referred to Richard H. Hammann, president of the Family Motor Coach Association, Inc.; Mr. Hammann's wife, Karen; and Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Association.

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