Secretary of the Interior Udall, Mr. President, members o/the National Wildlife Federation, Members o/the Congress, ladies and gentle men:
Twenty-five years ago Franklin Roosevelt-speaking to the first wildlife conference--expressed his desire "to bring together individuals, organizations, and agencies interested in the restoration and conservation of wildlife resources," so that all concerned groups could "work together cooperatively for the common good."
As a result of this speech the National Wildlife Federation was formed--an organization now affiliated in 50 States, with over 2 million members--with a long record of accomplishment in the protection of our natural, national wildlife resources "for the common good."
I believe it is significant that I, as a citizen of Massachusetts, now address a society devoted to a program which received its' greatest support from two New Yorkers, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, housed in a building provided in part through the generosity of a citizen of my own State of Massachusetts, Louise Ayer Hatheway of Boston. It is significant because it dramatically illustrates that the development of our natural resources is not a Western opportunity or a Western problem, it is a national opportunity not bounded by geography but common to us all in whatever States we may live.
At the inauguration, Robert Frost read a poem which began "the land was ours before we were the land's,"--meaning, in part, that this new land of ours sustained us before we were a nation. And although we are now the land's--a nation of people matched to a continent--we still draw our strength and sustenance in this city and in every other city across our country from the earth.
Throughout our history our soil and water, our forests and minerals, have provided the resources upon which this country grew--and our power ascended. Today, this great gift of material wealth provides the foundation upon which the defense of freedom rests, here and around the world. And our future greatness and our strength depend upon the continued abundant use of our natural resources.
Thus it is our task in our time and in our generation, to hand down undiminished to those who come after us, as was handed down to us by those who went before, the natural wealth and beauty which is ours. To do this will require constant attention and vigilance--sustained vigor and imagination.
No governmental program will be effective--our resources will not be protected--without the concern and help of every private citizen. By mobilizing private effort through this organization you are helping not only to develop the wildlife resources of our country--but you are helping to create the kind of America that is our common goal: an America of open spaces, of fresh water, of green country--a place where wildlife and natural beauty cannot be despoiled--where an increasingly urbanized population can still go to the country, can still turn back the clock of our civilization and find the material and spiritual strength upon which our greatness as a country depends.
More than one hundred years ago, a Senator from the East, speaking with prophecy, as Senators from the East frequently do, said that "to talk about constructing a railroad to the western shores of this continent manifests a spirit of wild adventure which I never expected to hear broached in the Senate of the United States." But that spirit prevailed, just as it has prevailed in your organization--and this country grew--and that railroad went West. Today we once again call upon that "spirit of wild adventure" and once again act to develop those resources which lie beneath our earth, in our mountains, in our rivers--and lie most of all in our people.