The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
October 20, 2005

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at a Junior Rangers Luncheon
Phipps Mansion
Denver, Colorado

1:45 P.M. MDT

MRS. BUSH: Thank you so much, Secretary Norton. Thank you for everything you do. It's great to be in your beautiful home state today. And it is magnificent today in Denver. The weather is so perfect, and the leaves are really, really unbelievable, so I'm so glad I got to be here right now on this day.

I've been really looking forward to coming to see everyone here in Denver. I haven't been to Denver very often since George has been President, just a few times. So I've been looking forward to this chance to get to be with all of you and meet new friends and see some old friends, as well.

As I flew over here and -- flew from Washington this morning, and looked out of the window to our beautiful country, I was reminded again how it's so important that we introduce America's young people to our national parks and to the outdoors. And you're right, Madam Secretary, kids in Colorado have parents who let them play outside and take them to ski and do all the other things that you all can do. But not every state is like that. In fact, more and more research shows children stay inside. They stay inside in front of the computer, or they stay inside in front of the television. And it's really important for us to let young people know how magnificent our world is and our country is, and how important it is for them to be outside and to experience nature, like all of us got to when we were children, and still get so much inspiration and sense of peace from.

I'm proud to be the Honorary Chair of the National Park Foundation. The Foundation has been a very trusted partner of our national parks for almost four decades, and the Junior Rangers program, and the way they want to expand the Junior Rangers program, is the latest example of a public/private partnership that helps Americans appreciate our history and our natural resources.

I want to thank the Anschutzes, Phillip and Nancy. Thank you so much for being our hosts today. And Dan Ritchie, thank you very, very much for everything you've done to put this great event together, and for everything you've done for the National Park Foundation and for our country.

And to Vin Cipolla, our new President and CEO of the National Park Foundation, thanks so much. And then to my best friend, Regan Gammon, who is on the National Park Foundation. You might wonder why I'm so interested in Junior Rangers, but Regan and I visit a park every summer. We travel with a group of women that we grew up with in Midland, five of us. We've hiked in all of -- not all, but a lot of our beautiful national parks, and as soon as we finish a hike, we think about what our next one is gooing to be. And we're actually alr! eady in the planning stages of our hike next summer.

This year -- 20 years ago, we did the Colorado River trip through the Grand Canyon and hiked out, and sso this year we thought we'd do it again and ask our daughters. So this time, it was the five mothers and the -- and all of our daughters who did the great trip through the Grand Canyon. It's one of the most magnificent trips of all the national parks, I think, and then a very difficult hike out. And it was a lot more difficult 20 years later than it was the first time. (Laughter.) But we've hiked in Yosemite and Yellowstone -- and where else? Glacier. We love Glacier. It's so really beautiful. But all of these parks are such an important part of our country and such a very important part of our special treasures that we have. And all of these trails and places to bike and hike are really, really important to people who want to be outside.

But, of course, our national parks, as Dan said, aren't just found in the wide, open spaces. In fact, the President and I live in a national park. The White House is considered one of our national parks. Our grounds are kept by national park employees. The gardens -- which, by the way, are open this weekend -- this is the fall garden tour of the White House, so people can come see how preetty they are. And they don't look -- the leaves haven't changed like they have here, but they do look really pretty.

And, of course, other major national parks are located in cities throughout our country. In Philadelphia, visitors can explore Independence National Park to learn about the foundation of our country. In Atlanta, visitors can go to the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site to learn about how one of America's heroes struggled to achieve the promise of equal rights and liberty for all Americans. Earlier this year, I participated in a Junior Rangers swearing-in ceremony at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, and then another one, another swearing-in, at the Mississippi National River and Recreation area in Minnesota. And it's really fun to see all these new young rangers who are very excited about their honor.

At many of the parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park in this state, an official ranger will announce over the visitor center loudspeaker when a new Junior Ranger gets his or her badge. The father of nine-year-old twin boys, both Junior Rangers in Wisconsin, wrote to the National Park Foundation to tell them about a project that his little boys undertook. Each of the boys has earned 23 Junior Ranger badges, and the boys love the Junior Rangers and they wanted to do their part to help the program. So they sold popcorn and soda at a community event in their hometown, and they raised $158 to donate to the Junior Rangers. (Laughter.)

As Secretary Norton said, young people can participate in Junior Rangers -- actually I don't think you said this -- without actually visiting the park in person. ; Children who live far from a park or who have a disability that prevents them from going to a park can log on to the Junior Rangers website and become Web Rangers. They learn about the history and the resources of our national parks, just as if they were in the parks themselves. And for children who can see the parks in person, Web Rangers provides supplementary material to enhance their visit. It's also great for teachers, for teachers who are teaching geography or other things! and want children to know where our parks are.

The newly updated Web Rangers site is drawing great reviews, from children and from parents. And more people are logging on during the weekend, which indicates that children are using the website in their spare time for a fun activity. Children have great enthusiasm for the Junior Ranger program, and we want more children to be able to experience the fun and the education found in our national parks. Ultimately, we hope that many Junior Rangers will actually grow up to be real park rangers, dedicating their lives to caring for America's parks. Right now, children don't really know what park rangers do, and people aren't applying to become park rangers or going to school to study to become park rangers. It's really important that we get the word out, because it's a wonderful life, to be able to live in all the different types of great national parks we have.

The best part of the Junior Ranger program is that whole families can go together to explore national parks together. A week from today, I'll be hosting a White House Conference on Helping America's Youth at Howard University in Washington. It will be on C-SPAN all day, so I hope you'll tune in to some of it if you can. The Conference is to encourage adults to become involved in the lives of children, and to find solutions to the many challenges that young people face in our country. And introducing boys and girls to the magnificence of nature, and encouraging them to spend time with their parents and their brothers and sisters and their! loved ones is an important contribution to helping America's youth, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to travel with Regan and talk about the Junior Rangers program, because I think it's a very effective way to help young people be involved with their own families and have family outings into parks, but also to -- for their own self-esteem and their own self-worth.

The Junior Rangers program enhances the life of every child who participates, and I want to thank each and every one of you for coming today to listen to this, because I think you can help make that experience possible for hundreds of thousands of children each year. And I know that's what the National Park Foundation's goal is, and that is to really give children all over our country a chance to participate in all of our national parks, from our historic sites to our magnificent, beautiful national parks.

So thank you all very, very much. Thank you for being a friend to America's national parks. (Applause.)

END 1:56 P.M. MDT

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