Nathaniel P. Reed on May 15, 2010 in East Brunswick, New Jersey
Mrs. Harris George: President of the Garden Club of America, Mrs. Gongaware, Members of the Awards Committee, Distinguished Members of the host Zone 4 Clubs and my sponsors and supporters, members of this distinguished club of clubs.
My grandchildren are at the stage were ‘awesome’ is a common expression. I echo that word – that expression of awe combined with delight as I stand before you. The citation and the Elizabeth Craig Weaver Proctor Medal are breathtaking.
I am rarely ‘overwhelmed’ and as I am at a stage in life’s mysterious journey where accolades usually mean that one is finished with their work and that they have accomplished some goal. In my case, although the last chapter’s pages may be turning, I feel energized with multiple projects that fascinate me and are worthy of long days of sometime tiresome work. The Everglades Restoration effort alone is a monumental task, as great an effort as building the Panama Canal. Progress has been slow, but now, suddenly, with extraordinary vigor the federal and state agencies are working as one and great progress is being made. I have never been more excited or energized. Yes, there will be stumbles but if the project is funded, we will live to see a revitalized everglades ecosystem.
I am the most fortunate of a cadre of environmental leaders who worked during a period where the administration and the Congress agreed on a multitude of laws that literally changed America and gave the rest of the world ethical targets to attempt to achieve.
The Clean Water, Clean Air Acts alone where monumental achievements, but add to that list the national forest acts, the land management acts, the great expansion of the system of national parks and national refuges in Alaska, think of it 95 plus million acres forever protected. Let’s not forget the all important National Environmental Policy Act or the Marine Mammal Act! There were many decisions that have shaped our national environmental foundation representing eight magnificent years of progress.
We added thousands of acres of wetlands for waterfowl production areas and thousands more for wintering grounds. The numbers of birds, far beyond waterfowl that utilize these areas are countless.
Working with one of the greatest groups of women and men ever assembled by an administration, we secured presidential executive orders banning the use of the terrible poison, 1080, that was designed to kill coyotes, whether or not any of them had ever killed a sheep. 1080 indiscriminately killed thousands of non target animals and nearly decimated the western Bald and Golden eagle populations. We worked collectively to obtain a ban of the use of DDT just in time to stop the doomsday prognostications of eggs shell thinning so brilliantly explained by Rachel Carlson.
Perhaps the most lasting, the most important legislation that passed with hardly a whimper was the Endangered Species Act. Dr. E.O. Wilson and many others of our nation’s most prominent ecologists have declared the Act the most important environmental action of the 20th century. The hours spent negotiating and word-smithing every word, every sentence and every paragraph was worth the toil. We ended up, those of us that had a hand in its creation, as a Band of Brothers.
We shared Teddy Roosevelt’s strongest belief that ‘humans should never take more from the earth than they put back’.
The most amazing part of these historic, far reaching efforts was the incredible era where Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate could disagree, often vehemently, but always with a sense of responsibility and admiration for the other members’ points of view. Yes, there were compromises, now a seemingly detested word that allowed these sweeping changes for a new more responsible American environmental ethic.
I am the beneficiary of that period because except for a very few individuals in Congress, whose attitudes were Neanderthal, we worked together in surprising harmony. Members listened to each other, cared about each other and worked collectively with each other and those of us who managed the key environmental agencies.
I pray that after this current period of constant controversy another era will begin that brings educated and well meaning men and women together in our legislative halls to work for the betterment of our beloved country.
Working with Secretary Salazar and his staff gives me great hope that his leadership can bridge the great divides that are now common in the halls of our Capitol.
The Garden Club of America has championed the vast majority of the objectives that are the foundation of our country’s environmental ethic. Each of you and your predecessors are partners in cultivating a lasting vision of an America that we can be jointly proud of.
That vision, those goals must never be lost and should be a driving force behind you: you, who are an extraordinary membership of caring, resourceful, knowledgeable, energized and caring individuals working together to improve the quality of life for our fellow citizens.
I reiterate: I am honored by this prestigious award and promise you that I will attempt to continue that great observation from Gone with the Wind: “What better way can an old man die than doing a young man’s work.”