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Remarks in a Telephone Conversation With the Earth Day 20 International Peace Climb Team

April 22, 1990

The President. Hey, Jim, can you hear me okay?

Mr. Whittaker. Hello, Mr. President, I sure can.

The President. Well, listen, I think back to our meeting in January, and here you are back at extraordinary heights. But listen, I wanted to simply send greetings on Earth Day to you and, frankly, to all the climbers with you from the United States, China, and the Soviet Union. And you know, reaching the top of Mount Everest in the name of peace and understanding reminds all of us on this special day that there is no task that's too great for the human spirit; and that means, as you reminded me when I last saw you, working together to help the environment.

So, thank you for what you're doing. I also want to congratulate your team on its very practical goal of cleaning up the debris that's been left by previous expeditions. That will set a great example for the whole world, especially from your unique vantage point there. So, we wish you well. In a sense, I wish you were here as one of the great leaders to help celebrate Earth Day. But I think what you're doing is significant and important, and I think it will send a great signal to all of us wherever we may be on the blessings of a sound environment. So, keep it up, and please give my best to everybody that's with you.

Mr. Whittaker. Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. You put it very well. We're celebrating Earth Day here on the mountain with a great cleanup effort, and especially on this Earth Day.

We've got camp 6 in. We're about ready to push to the summit. So, I figure about the first week of May we'll be standing -- the climbers from each country -- on the summit. And so, we'll be celebrating that event as well.

The President. Let me ask you a practical question. When I was flying airplanes a thousand years ago, they made us put an oxygen mask on at 10,000 feet. And here you are at what -- right this minute -- 17,500? Question: How are you breathing?

Mr. Whittaker. That's correct. We're at 17,500. We've been climatized quite well to this elevation, but we've got some climbers now at the camp 6 at 27,300 feet without bottled oxygen.

The President. Oh, for heaven's sake!

Mr. Whittaker. It's amazing what the body can do.

The President. Well, it certainly is. Well, listen, keep up the great work, and thank you for taking time for this little interlude. But I hope it sends a message worldwide, not only the significance of what you're doing but of the importance of Earth Day.

Mr. Whittaker. Thank you very much, Mr. President. And thank you for being part of the team, and we'll sure tell everybody here how much you support us.

The President. Okay. And you come back to the White House and let me know how it was in reality there.

Mr. Whittaker. You bet. We'll come back and have a nice chat in the Rose Garden at a good, low elevation.

The President. Okay. Good luck. Over and out.

Mr. Whittaker. Thank you very much, Mr. President. This is base camp, Mount Everest. Over and out.

The President. Loud and clear. That's wonderful. Well done, men.

Note: The President spoke at 4:15 p.m. from Tarpon Flats in Islamorada, FL.

APP NOTE:  Jim Whittaker, expedition leader, was in 1963 the first American to Summit Mt. Everest.

George Bush, Remarks in a Telephone Conversation With the Earth Day 20 International Peace Climb Team Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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