Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at a Breakfast for Participants in a Junior League Conference in Chicago, Illinois

October 29, 1970

Madam President, all of the distinguished officers of the Junior League here at the head table, and our guests and the representatives from, I understand, 44 States, and from Canada. And Mexico? Viva!

The environment is something that, it is interesting to note, was very little touched upon in the campaign of 1968. Some were speaking of it; there were people in local areas.

I remember even in 1962 and 1963 in California, I found many people as I traveled through that State, who were enormously concerned about what was happening to the beautiful beaches and the great parklands of California that might come into public use.

But now the environment has become a subject that is very high in the consciousness of most Americans and particularly in the consciousness of young Americans, and it should be, because the environment that we pollute today is the one that they are going to have to live in tomorrow.

As we think of the air and the water and the beauty of this country, we are thinking not just of our generation; we are thinking of what it is going to be like.

I don't want to put it too far forward. You will be here to celebrate that wonderful 2000 millennium new year. I might be; I will be a little old.

But, nevertheless, when we stop to think what America will be like what the world will be like--30 years from now, if we just go on doing what we are doing in the great industrial nations, can't you imagine? Not just here. I am glad to note there is somebody from Mexico here and somebody from Canada. I have been to all the great cities of the world. They all have smog problems. They all have traffic problems. They all have crime problems. They all have pollution problems.

Do you think there is pollution in Lake Erie? You should see the Bay of Naples, or you should see what the situation is with that magnificent beach around Rio--completely polluted.

So, my point is this: that what you are talking about is not just an interesting subject to discuss with your various groups when you go home, your 100,000 members, but it is one that is of vital concern; it is one on which we must act now or it may be too late to act ever.

I was very interested to talk to one of the representatives from Erie, Pennsylvania, last night, and she says Lake Erie is not dead.

Well, now, that means that she still believes it can be saved, but it will not be long. Because, you know, there comes the time--you have heard all this--when the ecology of a lake, a body of water, when it goes beyond the point of no return and then it is almost impossible to bring it back.

So, you want to bring Lake Erie back and you don't want Lake Michigan to get that way.

Of course, we could talk about the oceans, the sea waters; we could talk about the fresh waters; we can talk about the Nation generally. I am not going to go into those subjects. I am simply saying this: You have all come a long way to this conference. You wonder if it is worthwhile. You wonder if the subject is worthwhile. It is. It is vitally important.

Government has great responsibilities here, and I know that probably what you have been hearing about mostly is what can you tell your Congressman, your Senator, your Governor, or your President to do. Fine. You tell us and we will try. But let me say: Just as important is what you can do.

Remember, 80 percent of our environment is in our homes, in our offices, and in the places in which we work, and on the roads in which we go from home to work. And that is why when you look at a littered parking lot, that is why when you look at the places of work that are not properly, of course, kept up for those who work in them, when we consider the environment that we ourselves create, we can see that those are things that government can't do a great deal about.

We can help. We can help where the air is involved, where the water is involved, where parklands are involved and public lands are involved, in decisions with regard to airports. That is a government job. But, also, there is an enormous responsibility on the part of individuals in their communities to get people to be proud of their homes and proud of their cities, and clean them up and make them look like they should look. This is something that must come from people themselves. It has to be educational.

I know it is all right in your family. I think of my own little area of southern California where I grew up. There is a great beach, Huntington Beach. I remember what a beautiful beach it was in the old days.

Now of course, it has some oil Wells. It still has some good beach, but there is one part of the beach that is not yet properly policed in which--I went by them the other day and there were literally thousands of beer cans and litter and so forth---completely destroyed.

Government can come in, policemen can come in. They can put in all the receptacles for handling that thing and unless the attitude of people changes, the attitude of young people, the attitude of all people, it is still going to be that way.

So, as leaders of your community--and you are---as people who have had a better advantage than most of the people in your community, I know you come from the better educated people; you have the good Fortune of living in what we call part of what the American elite is in your community; you can be leaders, leaders in getting public consciousness aroused with regard to what government can do, but also public consciousness aroused with regard to what individuals can do.

So, I tell you, this job is worthwhile. It is enormously important. You have the complete dedication and commitment of the Federal Government to this proposition, of most of the State Governors to whom I have talked, and we also have yours. And with this, we can do the job.

America can be, in the year 2000--it can be a place where the air can be clean, where the water can be pure, or at least most of it. And, finally, it can be a place where we will have the open spaces, not only out far away where most of the people in the cities have never seen them, but those little parks down in the towns, and particularly in the poorer areas of our country that need to be developed so that hundreds of thousands--yes, millions--of children that are never going to get to Yosemite or Yellowstone and the rest, at least will have a little time when there is a place of beauty in their lives.

These are some of the things we have been thinking about and some of the things that I know you, too, have been thinking about. And we urge your cooperation and we urge also your support.

Now, one final point: I have emphasized the problem. There is a tendency on any kind of a problem to go overboard and say, "The problem of all this is our great industrial society. If we just didn't have these factories, if we just didn't have these jet airplanes, if we just didn't have all this progress and all this industrialization, what a wonderful country this would be." It wouldn't he a wonderful country. Let me tell you, I have been to countries that don't have industrialization. I have been to countries that do not have progress. I have been to countries that are basically living not much differently from the way they did 3 or 4 thousand years ago.

And these are countries that are primitive; these are countries, in many cases, that are uncivilized; and they are countries in which life isn't all that good. Man in his natural ravage state isn't a particularly attractive person. Don't knock this great industrial society of ours. It is something that has created the problem, but the genius that created the highest standard of living that the world has ever seen also has the genius to clean up the problems of a high standard of living. So, let's remember that particular point.

I must leave to get on to my schedule and be sure that our airplane doesn't leave too much jet noise at the airport.

I just want to say that it has been a very great pleasure to stop by for a few moments to see you. I wish I could talk to each of you from each of your States. And I can only say that you are very fortunate to be so young, to have the opportunity to be contributing to the future of this country, to have faith in the future of this country.

Just let me give this final thought to you: Tell your children--most of you have children--tell them that what they see on the television screens night after night, usually a group of people trying to shout down speakers with their four-letter words, or engaging in violence, or burning, and casting out their hatred of the United States--the impression that these are the majority of America's young people, the teenagers and the college people, the impression that they are going to be the leaders of the future--I will tell you, I have been around this country and that is not true.

They are not a majority of America's young people, and they are not going to be the leaders of America's future.

I hope you tell all of your members that we have great problems in this country, but we can be proud of the fact that in our foreign policy we are a nation, the strongest in the world, that no other nation fears in terms of the fact that we aren't trying to dominate anybody else. Our power is kept for the purpose of protecting freedom, never to destroy it.

And also at home, we can be very proud of the fact that in this country there is more freedom; there is more opportunity; there is more progress; there is more hope. Let's just stand up 'and say it. There are a lot of things wrong about America, but let's not overlook the things that are right. And let's remember that this is a great land and a good land and a beautiful land, and we are part of a great people.

We, all of us, we share a really great future.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 8:47 a.m. in the Airport Marriott Inn to women attending a conference on "Strategies of Environmental Control," sponsored by the Association of the Junior Leagues of America, Inc.

The president of the association was Mrs. William H. Osier.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a Breakfast for Participants in a Junior League Conference in Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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