For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
October 15, 2007
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at the National Park Foundation Leadership Summit on Partnership and Philanthropy
University of Texas Alumni Center
8:41 A.M. CDT
MRS. BUSH: Thank you, Daniel, and thank you for being such a great example for your fellow Junior Rangers, and for young people across the United States.
I want to acknowledge Bill Powers, the President of the University of Texas. Thank you very much for letting us have this summit here at my alma mater. Just like Warrie, I was here for graduate school, not undergraduate school. But I'm so glad to be here.
I also want to recognize Secretary Hank Paulson, who's in the audience and who will be one of our speakers later; Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior, whose job includes the purview of the National Parks; Governor Linda Lingle, Governor of the state of Hawaii -- thank you so much for joining us today; and Mary Bomar, of course, the Director of the National Park Service -- thank you, Mary; Vin Cipolla, who you heard from earlier, the President and CEO of the National Park Foundation; and Warrie Price, the President of The Battery Conservancy.
Warrie talked about her Mrs. J, and actually, it was Mrs. J who wrote me and asked me to meet with Warrie. We had a chance to meet, first at the White House and then I got a tour of the Battery Park, with Warrie as my tour guide. And if you ever have a chance, do that. Call Warrie when you're in New York and look at the way she's led the beautiful restoration of Battery Park and made it into such a wonderful place for people from all over the world to be at that end of New York.
I also want to acknowledge all the board members of the National Park Foundation, the business leaders, the philanthropists, the government officials, the scientists, Park Rangers, educators, community leaders, and distinguished guests. Welcome to the National Park Foundation's Summit on Partnership and Philanthropy.
Today, we honor the Foundation's 40 years of outstanding service to our country. And through this symposium, we'll determine how the National Park Foundation -- and citizens across our country -- can make sure our national parks are enjoyed by our children and grandchildren.
All of us can remember the first time we were amazed by a national park. And just like Daniel, my love of the parks began when I was growing up in Midland, and visited nearby Carlsbad Caverns with my Girl Scout troop. My mother drove my Girl Scout troop there, and George's mother drove his Cub Scout troop there, as well, for our very first -- both of us -- visit to a national park.
I never imagined then that one day I would live in a national park. The White House reminds us of the diversity of our park system. The parks preserve both our breathtaking natural landscapes and our most sacred historical sites.
Every year, I hike in a national park with friends that I grew up with in Midland. We've visited some of our country's most magnificent parks -- the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier, and Denali. We remember rough hikes in Yosemite rewarded with cold dips in the Merced River. We recall nights spent reading poetry in our tent, and then building fires at daybreak to warm up in the chill morning air. On almost every trip, one of us wakes up in the middle of the night, and then gets everyone else up to look at the stars.
We've also had some memorable close calls. Once, we were riding along the Yellowstone River on horseback when a huge storm blew in. The lightning and the thunder spooked the horses and they started running. It was a good thing they knew their way back to our camp because we surely didn't. We arrived soaking wet, but dried off in our cabin, lit a fire, and played bridge the rest of the rainy afternoon. On Peale Island, in the middle of Yellowstone Lake, we were reading short stories to each other one night when a storm knocked down a huge pine tree -- missing our cabin by about a foot. We were definitely startled, but not as startled as our Secret Service agents. (Laughter.)
We've also had some wild times. And I mean "wild." We've seen bears and wolves. Once, our hiking group was joined by a special guest -- when a huge moose wandered right through our campground.
On every trip, my friends and I have a "personal challenge": When we're hiking and we come across any body of water -- river, lake, stream, or pond -- we have to go in for a swim. When you come across Yellowstone's warm springs, it's great. But the snowmelt in Glacier National Park is a different story.
But the best part of our trips is just being together, laughing and enjoying our friendships among some of the most beautiful places in all creation. When you go to a national park with your family or your friends, especially as a child, you remember everything: the look of the sky, the sound of the birds, the smell of the air. There's nothing like being awed by the grandeur of Denali, overwhelmed by the vastness of Crater Lake, or humbled by the centuries of human history in the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde.
We want everyone to have the opportunity to make memories in our national parks, especially children -- with the hope that someday, as Daniel said, they'll bring their own children. One of my children has already discovered that the national parks are also a great place for romance. My daughter Jenna was proposed to in Acadia National Park. She can't believe I actually announced that to everyone. (Laughter.)
Through its 40 years of stewardship, the National Park Foundation has helped preserve these magnificent places for future generations. Through educational programs and public awareness campaigns, the Foundation has encouraged millions of Americans to discover our natural and historical treasures. The Foundation has brought together corporations, nonprofit groups, and philanthropic organizations to launch major park improvement and conservation projects.
In 1967, the Foundation was launched with a $1 million gift from philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller. Last year, the Foundation received contributions from tens of thousands of donors, yielding more than $35 million in grants and program support for our parks.
Through these grants, the Foundation encourages schools to partner with their local national parks, turning the parks into a classroom resource. The Foundation has made park enthusiasts out of hundreds of thousands of children through the Junior Ranger Program. During their park visits, Junior Rangers learn about our country's history, our spectacular landscapes, and our wildlife. Some, we hope, will even be inspired to grow up and become real park rangers.
The National Park Foundation has contributed more than $2.5 million dollars to the Junior Ranger Program in just the last two years. These resources have established or improved Junior Ranger programs in 90 of our national parks. These programs help children discover positive new interests and discover healthy alternatives.
Children who live in cities can become Junior Rangers at many of our urban national parks -- like Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Martin Luther King Historic Site in Atlanta, or the Missions in San Antonio. And children who can't get to parks can still experience them online, through the Web Ranger program. Web Rangers was launched in August 2005, and the site has already had millions of visitors from more than 80 different countries.
Last year, nearly 400,000 children were sworn in as Junior Rangers. Across our country, I've seen the delight on children's faces as they discover our national parks through programs designed just for kids. In Miami, I watched students use shells and nest replicas to learn about sea turtles at Biscayne National Park. At California's Balboa Magnet School, the Junior Rangers were amazed by the antlers, arrowheads, and deer hides found in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
In Boston's National Historic Park, children explored Carlsbad Caverns through the Internet, as part of a Junior Rangers Electronic Field Trip. The Boston kids were joined online by the Junior Rangers in Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, and together, all the children built caves out of Play-Doh. This summer, in magnificent Grand Teton National Park, I helped to swear in 12 proud Junior Rangers -- after we all built a model bison.
Junior Rangers highlights the Foundation's success in getting Americans of all ages to invest in our national parks. Over the last 40 years, these investments have helped publish the Complete Guide to America's Parks, and supported fire recovery in Yellowstone. Through the Proud Partners program, the Foundation has launched a recycled lumber initiative that now benefits more than 200 national parks. Close to a hundred parks have been able to analyze the impact of visitor traffic on the natural environment with Foundation help.
The Foundation has restored trails in more than 40 parks, and produced thrilling visitor center films for nearly 100 sites. Through Foundation volunteer programs, park lovers donate more than 200,000 hours of service each year.
The Initiative's Centennial Challenge calls on businesses, individual citizens, and philanthropic organizations to match the federal contribution for signature park projects. These projects can help eradicate invasive plant species, and restore native plants to our national parks. Centennial Challenge projects will also enhance our large national parks, improving habitats for local wildlife, especially birds --and improving the natural environment for human beings.
Already, the Park Service has identified more than 200 projects that will be eligible for Centennial Initiative funding next year. Four are right here in Texas. These resources would add a multi-use hiking and biking trail to Big Bend National Park. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park would add a trail reconnecting Mission San Jose with the San Antonio River. Big Thicket National Preserve would be part of a huge nationwide biodiversity study. And Padre Island National Seashore, Centennial Challenge resources would re-establish a nesting colony for the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle -- the world's most endangered sea turtle species.
Improvements to our national parks and historical sites benefit every state -- and we'll hear more about the Centennial Challenge from Secretary Kempthorne in just a few minutes. In the meantime, I urge Congress to support
-- and that means fund -- this very important initiative.
Giving citizens a sense of responsibility for our shared national treasures is central to the National Park Foundation's mission. And it's vital to the health of our national parks, because even though all parks receive federal funding, they've always relied on the support of private citizens.
In 1832, it was a private citizen -- painter George Catlin -- who first articulated the idea of a national park. After traveling up the Missouri River, amazed by the bluffs and the grasslands and the wide-open sky, Catlin realized that the steady march of time -- and a rapidly expanding nation -- threatened these natural spaces. Catlin climbed a hill, spread out a map of the United States, and wrote: "Why could not the buffalo, and their wild homeland be protected in a magnificent park, a nation's park, containing man and beast, in all the wild freshness of their natural beauty."
Forty years later, George Catlin got his wish. In 1872, it was the work of individual Americans -- gold prospectors, fur trappers, journalists and a Jesuit priest -- that led President Grant to set aside 2.2 million acres of western wilderness as -- and I quote -- "a pleasuring ground for the benefit and the enjoyment of the people." This act created Yellowstone, our nation's first national park.
Ever then our park system has expanded and been maintained and improved through the support of the government and private donors. Names like Rockefeller and Mellon have become synonymous with enormous gifts to our parks. But citizens' contributions come in all shapes and sizes. This summer, the Loyal Order of the Moose and the Women of the Moose challenged each lodge to give "93 for 93": $93 to support the Flight 93 National Memorial. Members went above and beyond the Order's request, designing their own neck ties and scarves that still are being sold in honor of Flight 93. With overwhelming support from members and individual lodges, the organization has raised more than $420,000.
Their contribution will help the National Park Foundation meet its goal of raising $30 million from the private sector for this memorial. Thank you to the Foundation for taking a leading role in this effort to honor the heroes of Flight 93.
In the 1980s, the most famous symbol of America's freedom got a facelift, with help from private citizens. In New York, individual philanthropists, businessmen, corporations and non-profit groups secured hundreds of millions of dollars to renovate Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. This campaign was the largest park fundraising effort ever -- yet it was pennies contributed by schoolchildren around the country that helped pay for Lady Liberty's platform.
For 40 years, the National Park Foundation has encouraged private citizens to fulfill their obligations to our parks however they can -- through pennies from schoolchildren, contributions from private companies, and the very personal gifts of time and hard work from park volunteers.
Through this summit, you'll build on this legacy by determining how private citizens can best contribute to our parks in the years ahead. You'll discuss how to make the parks sustainable, securing access for visitors while protecting our natural resources. You'll determine how our historical parks can tell the stories of all Americans. You'll assess the parks' influence over American arts, literature, and culture, and work to develop a new generation of park stewards. I thank you for leading the effort to make sure our parks will be enjoyed by all future generations.
Now I'd like to introduce an outstanding steward of our natural resources, and a champion of our national parks: Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne. (Applause.)
END 8:58 A.M. CDT