Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Kempthorne Presents the 'Best Remedy': During the Opening General Session, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Moves the Audience with a Pledge to Get America Outdoors

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Kempthorne Presents the 'Best Remedy': During the Opening General Session, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Moves the Audience with a Pledge to Get America Outdoors

Article excerpt

The focus of an excited crowd of attendees turned to the Opening General Session stage on Wednesday evening of the 2006 NRPA Congress & Exposition. After the opening entertainment of the tribal rhythms of the Sharimba Youth Marimba Band had ceased, NRPA Chairman of the Board Ron Lehman gave a hearty welcome to all in attendance, followed by opening remarks by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.

"What really makes Seattle special is our parks; our relationship to nature, the mountains, the sound," Nickels told the audience, explaining that Seattle's beauty shows the importance of conservation and preservation in city parks. It is important that Seattle has a role and a commitment to fighting global warming, he explained.

A surprise for attendees of the opening session was the unveiling of a new U.S. Postal Service stamp by Katharine Nash, U.S. Postmaster of Seattle. The "Longest Hiking Trail" stamp features the Pacific Crest Trail that spans nearly 3,000 miles from Mexico to Canada, running through the Pacific Northwest. Nash unveiled a large print of the colorful stamp.

Soon after Mayor Nickels made his warm introduction to the city, former National Park Service Director Fran Mainella introduced the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. "Secretary Kempthorne has been a true friend of parks and recreation as the Mayor of Boise, Idaho, the governor of the State of Idaho, and as a two-term U.S. Senator," Mainella said. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne took the stage among a vigorous round of applause.

Kempthorne spoke with a voice of concern, recognizing the negative effects of people not enjoying the out doors. "A health crisis is approaching like a tsunami," Kempthorne said. He said that inactivity will lead to an epidemic of heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis.

But he also spoke with a voice of hope, giving human interest examples that span generations, illustrating how the outdoors could alleviate impending problems. He detailed the life of former President Teddy Roosevelt, brought back to health from a childhood bout with asthma by experiencing the fresh air of the great outdoors. Kempthorne quoted Anne Frank's diary, which reads "The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God."

He stressed that local communities and the federal government can be "vital partners" in providing recreational opportunities such as these, specifically stating that he was an advocate for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) that seems to be in constant jeopardy in Congress. Kempthorne, to thunderous applause, pledged support for the program. "I know how important [LWCF] is to providing recreational opportunities for local communities. As a senator, I supported full LWCF funding. In my current position, I am an advocate within the administration for more funding under the program," he said.

He explained that investing in parks and recreation isn't just about dollars, but also that is an "investment in our economy ... an investment in our children ... and an investment that will benefit future generations."

"Together, we can re-ignite America's passion for the outdoors," he said. "We can help families and children become healthier and live fuller lives. We can help raise up a new generation of conservationists, dedicated to preserving and celebrating 'America the Beautiful.'"

It is important to "plant seeds" of interest in children so that later in life, they may have an appreciation for the outdoors, he said. He challenged park and recreation professionals to provide the opportunity for those seeds to grow. …

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