For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 18, 2002
Remarks by the President at 2002 President's Environmental Youth Awards Ceremony
The Rose Garden
10:25 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the Rose Garden, and thanks for coming. And congratulations on what you've done for our country. I know you're proud to be here, and I know your moms and dads are proud that you're here, too. And I want to thank your teachers that are here with you, as well. Teaching is a noble profession, and we appreciate your care for the country and the future of our country. So, welcome. The Rose Garden really is a fitting place to honor people who care about our environment. As you can see, it's a really beautiful place.
I want to thank so much the award winners for turning idealism into action; for taking a great spirit and love for our country and doing something about that spirit and love for our country. Communities are better as a result, but as importantly, you're providing a really good example of service. You're showing other people that people can make a difference in people's lives. And that's really important.
I want to thank Christie Todd Whitman for being such a great Administrator of the EPA. You know, she and I were governors together; she was the governor of New Jersey and I was the governor of Texas. And I got to know her well as a great governor. I knew that when I picked her she'd be really good at this job. And I want to thank her for her service.
I want to thank the members of the Congress who are here. We've got a Senator here today, Senator Specter is here. We're pleased. Zach Wamp and Rob Simmons and Jeff Flake from Tennessee, Connecticut and Arizona -- I want to thank you all for coming, as well. I want to thank the regional administrators of the EPA for being here. I want to thank you for your hard work and appreciate your dedication to the country.
You know, America has learned a lot about ourself in the last seven months -- we really have. We've seen the unity and public spirit of our country. We've seen a great good that can come out of a terrible, terrible evil. And we've rediscovered the importance of taking a stand, of serving something greater than ourself. It's a really important lesson of September the 11th, that in order to fight evil, you can do so by doing some good.
I've asked Americans to dedicate 4,000 hours, the equivalent of two years of your lives, to serving your neighbors and your nation. As part of joining the war against terror, dedicate 4,000 hours to help somebody or some cause or some community.
Our winners today have gone a long way toward meeting that goal already. I may have to assign you another 4,000 hours here pretty soon. (Laughter.) You've developed the good habits of service, and you're making a big difference in a very important area, and that's our nation's environment.
Good stewardship begins with the simplest of things. That's what interesting about the environmental movement. What may appear to be a small act is really important: cleaning up a park, or recycling, or encouraging people and showing people how to conserve energy. Good stewardship means understanding the consequences of our actions, and convincing others to not needlessly destroy our environment.
A good steward also understands that we share this Earth with other creatures, and we have a responsibility to provide them places to live and areas to roam.
In serving others, I think you've shown good works don't have to be these huge projects. What may seem like a small act when taken alone can produce tremendous results when combined with the efforts of others.
Thirty young Americans are going to receive an award today. And if you multiply their works by a hundred or a thousand or a million, you've got more than just projects, you've got a movement. When citizens take responsibility for our environment, there's no limit for the good they can do.
The federal government has got responsibilities, as well, to protect the environment. America's experience with environmental protection really makes me optimistic about our future. The modern environmental movement was born in America, born right here in our country. And we've made tremendous progress since its birth.
Since 1970, we've reduced emissions of six key air pollutants by 29 percent. That's significant progress, but more significant, given the fact that our economy grew by more than 160 percent. We've shown that you can grow your economy so people can work and, at the same time, be better stewards of the environment.
Some problems such as lead emissions from automobiles have been virtually eliminated. In 1970, that wouldn't have been the case. Kind of hard for some of us to remember back to 1970; some of you weren't even born. The Administrator and I, we were born then -- (laughter) -- well, it might have been a little bit before then. (Laughter.) So we remember. Not only do we have a better economy, the world's strongest economy, but we have significantly cleaner and healthier air. We've got better water. And our land is better protected and better managed, and more accessible to more Americans.
And we can do more, and we will do more. We're promoting the development of cleaner fuels and new technologies. We're supporting conservation efforts in order to use our resources more wisely. We work with Congress to improve our laws so more brownfields will be cleaned up and redeveloped, and more communities can be revitalized. Our clean -- our Clear Skies Initiative would improve air quality by dramatically cutting power emissions -- emissions from power plants.
Our Global Climate Change Initiative commits our nation to significantly reducing greenhouse gas intensity. And last week, I sent to the Senate legislation necessary to implement a global treaty to control the worst environmental pollutants, in order to reduce air, land, and water pollution around the world. I'm confident the Senate will act.
Stewardship is the calling of government, and it is the calling of every citizen. In my inaugural address, I urged Americans to act as citizens, not as spectators, in building communities of service and a nation of character. You each shown us the way by your own example. I hope that in the years ahead you'll never lose the idealism we honor today. Your communities need it, and your country needs it.
And now, I'd like to welcome back Administrator Whitman to highlight this year's winners of the presidential -- of the President's Environmental Youth Awards. Congratulations. (Applause.)
END 10:31 A.M. EDT