Week Ending Friday, February 9, 2007

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Author: George W. Bush  | Date: February 7, 2007

Remarks in a Discussion on the National Parks Centennial Initiative in Luray, Virginia,
February 7, 2007

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. Mr. President and First Lady Laura Bush, on behalf of all of the wonderful people of the National Parks Service, it is such an honor to have the First Couple here at this wonderful national park. And, ladies and gentlemen, those of you that are here at the roundtable, we look forward to this opportunity to have some discussions with you.

But we’d be very honored, Mr. President, just to get initial thoughts from you. As I introduce our President, let me just put it in this perspective: Two years ago, my wife, Patricia, and I had the great opportunity to spend 3 days with the President and the First Lady in Idaho, to see this couple, what the outdoors mean to them, how they recreate, how they replenish their energy. I just saw their connection. We went fishing, hiking, biking. I went home tired. [Laughter] They went home with renewed energy. [Laughter]

The First Lady. Refreshed.

Secretary Kempthorne. And I think that you see that same sort of approach—their love of the outdoors—in this President’s Centennial Challenge Initiative.

So, Mr. President, thank you for all you’re doing.

The President. One of the reasons I asked Dirk to be the Secretary of the Interior is because I knew that he knew how important parks are to the country. And I want to thank you and Mary for taking on your big jobs. Our national parks are really one of America’s great treasures. And the fundamental question is, are we going to be wise enough to treat them as such?

When I first came into office, I was worried about a significant backlog of maintenance projects. And I want to thank Dirk for seeing through the completion or near completion of about 6,600 such projects.

And in our discussions, we talked about how to make sure the 100th anniversary of our parks, coming in 2016, really celebrates the National Park System. And so today we’re going to talk about an initiative called the National Parks Centennial Initiative. And I’m looking forward to hearing from our fellow citizens about ways to make sure this initiative fully honors the Park System.

It is one thing to talk; it’s another thing to act. And I’ve just submitted a budget to the United States Congress. In it, we’ve got a billion dollars new money for operating expenses. And that really helps to honor thosewho work hard in our Park System. I really love being with our park rangers. These are dedicated people who have got a pretty cool job, when you think about it. [Laughter] I just want to make sure that they got the money able to do their job.

As well, we look forward to having a public-private partnership. The Federal Government will match monies raised in the private sector up to a billion dollars. Our idea is to have $3 billion new money available for this important initiative. And I know that Dirk is going to work hard to make sure that people have their say as to how this money is spent.

And one person who has got a lot of say about the parks, in our family, is Laura. She is very much involved in our parks. She loves the outdoors. She takes a hike with her old high school buddies once a year to herald the Park System. If my entourage wasn’t so big, I’d be with her. [Laughter] But it’s big—[laughter]—so I stay at home.

But I really do appreciate Dirk and Mary and you all joining us. I’m looking forward to our discussion.

[At this point, the First Lady made brief remarks.]

The President. Yes, thanks.

[Secretary Kempthorne made brief remarks, concluding as follows.]

Secretary Kempthorne. With that, I’m going to introduce the other members at the roundtable. Mary Bomar, who is our National Park Service Director. She is the first naturalized citizen in the United States to become Director of the National Park Service. In just a moment, Mary, I’ll ask you for some comments.

Vin Cipolla, who is the president of the National Park Foundation. And he’s been there for just a couple of years. And his leadership which he has brought to the foundation is just getting such high marks.

Derrick Crandall, who is the—and I look at this—the president and CEO of the American Recreation Coalition. He’s been called, interestingly enough, the "recreation guru" by USA Today. He has been able to bring about organization of over 100 different entities that all believe in the outdoors and his advocacy of the outdoors.

Gene Sykes, who is the champion of the National Parks Conservation Association. Gene is a managing partner of Goldman Sachs. I know of your love of the outdoors, the backpacking that you do repeatedly, and your particular love of the parks in Alaska.

Fred Andreae, who is a trustee, Shenandoah National Park Trust. Fred is one of these examples that—as you look at the 90 years of the National Park Service, the reason they have been able to achieve greatness is because of the partnership with philanthropic communities, with friends of the parks. And, Fred, you have established that here at Shenandoah Park. We truly appreciate that.

Chas Cartwright, who is the superintendent of this magnificent park. And you just say the name "Shenandoah," and it’s so historic, and it conjures up so many great things. I also noted that in the seventies, you were a river ranger on the Salmon River in Idaho. [Laughter]

Chas Cartwright. I remember it fondly.

Secretary Kempthorne. Yes, I knew that we would bond. [Laughter]

With that, let me turn to Mary Bomar for her comments.

[Mary Bomar made brief remarks.]

Secretary Kempthorne. Thank you, Mary.

Mr. President, you mentioned—but I thought this would be of note, because really, it builds upon an initiative you started 5 years ago—and the President referenced the 6,600 projects that were a backlog of deferred maintenance. And here they are. These are the projects. And it just shows you what has already been underway during these last 5 years. I mean, this is significant. Now we can build upon this.

And this initiative which you have launched is not partisan; it is American. This is something that all of America can rally around, and I think this will be the reaffirmation of the parks being one of the greatest gifts to the American family.

Chas Cartwright, would you make a few comments, please, about the new perspective?[Mr. Cartwright made brief remarks, concluding as follows.]

Mr. Cartwright. So I just wanted to say, it’s great having everybody here today. And thanks to the employees of Shenandoah National Park for doing such a great job.

The President. Particularly the guy who cleared the road. [Laughter] Listen, we want to thank you for your contributions here. We’ll hear from the other members here in a second. I do want to say something to follow up on this—and Congress needs to hear loud and clear how important this initiative is. And I fully hope the citizens groups who are concerned about the parks beat a hasty trail to the Congress and remind the Congress about what we have done and what we need to do as good stewards of the parks.

Anyway, thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:59 a.m. in the Harry F. Byrd, Sr., Visitor Center at Shenandoah National Park. Secretary Kempthorne referred to Gene Sykes, director and chairman of the board of trustees, National Parks Conservation Association.

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Chicago: George W. Bush, "Remarks in a Discussion on the National Parks Centennial Initiative in Luray, Virginia, February 7, 2007," Week Ending Friday, February 9, 2007 in United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, February 9, 2007 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2007), 43:134-136 135–136. Original Sources, accessed May 27, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=XDNSFWM8E62QV2J.

MLA: Bush, George W. "Remarks in a Discussion on the National Parks Centennial Initiative in Luray, Virginia, February 7, 2007." Week Ending Friday, February 9, 2007, in United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, February 9, 2007 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2007), 43:134-136, pp. 135–136. Original Sources. 27 May. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=XDNSFWM8E62QV2J.

Harvard: Bush, GW, 'Remarks in a Discussion on the National Parks Centennial Initiative in Luray, Virginia, February 7, 2007' in Week Ending Friday, February 9, 2007. cited in , United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, February 9, 2007 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2007), 43:134-136, pp.135–136. Original Sources, retrieved 27 May 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=XDNSFWM8E62QV2J.