George Bush photo

Remarks at the Great Outdoors Award Dinner

June 19, 1990

Thank you all very much for that warm introduction and that special honor. And thanks -- I think it's the Marines I see down there in the glow. [Laughter] I thank them especially for providing the music tonight, and David Humphreys and Galey Coleman here and Sheldon. I understand we have some distinguished Senators or Congressmen. Every time you announce them, somebody says, "Oh, they're not here. They're off voting someplace." [Laughter] But Senators Burns and Roth, Ron Marlenee, Congressman Hiler and, of course, my friend Derrick Crandall and Stu Northrop and Dick Nunis over here and Jeff Napier.

Look, it's a great pleasure for me to be with you tonight, and I will be relatively brief, speaking before the broccoli. I've got to get out of here and get back home. [Laughter] But really, what an honor to accept this Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award. He was a great friend, I bet, to everybody in this room and to many others across the country -- a great friend of nature, and his influence is still with us today in so many ways: in partnerships for the outdoors that he encouraged throughout his entire life. And like the lanterns that bear his name, glowing beside the tents and RV's across this country, those partnerships do shine bright with promise for the environment -- the precious environment we share.

I am deeply honored that you consider me worthy of this award, and I imagine there was some controversy. [Laughter] Some might say that the award should have gone to a more accomplished outdoors-person. It probably should have gone to the only person I know who can fish and read at the same time: Barbara Bush [Laughter]

Look, there's some fishermen out here. Please understand my frustration. [Laughter] We're looking for these damn bluefish, and -- [laughter] -- Barbara's reading away, studying, reading -- "Oh, I've got a fish." And I'm out there working and studying and changing bait, and nothing happens. [Laughter] But I don't worry when somebody reaches into the tackle box and pulls out a lure like a Mepps Spinner or a Johnson Silver Spoon, because I've got the Silver Fox. [Laughter]

And like every pursuit in the great outdoors, fishing is a great equalizer, whether you're out there with a friend or a head of state or one of the grandkids. You get out there; and you just simply love it, just like the other 60 million American men, women, and children who fish from boats and beaches and bridges and riverbanks all across this great country.

I remember, fishing off the Saco River in Maine, there was a guy with a belly that made one of these sumo wrestlers, or whatever they are, look skinny, you know. [Laughter] And he's standing out there, fishing with his grandson; and I come by in our cigarette [boat] with our couple, trolling, I admit, nice and slow. And the guy yells out, "Only in America." [Laughter] And you know, he was absolutely right. [Laughter] Here we were. It was just very special, and all of us have our own tales to tell. [Laughter]

But all of you understand how time spent in nature, in camping or hiking or fishing, frees up the mind, restores the soul, and makes memories -- tranquil, peaceful, wonderful memories that stay with you the rest of your life. Among the greatest joys that Barbara and I have ever known have been exploring the outdoors with our kids and our grandkids. You saw George P. here with us. Look at the majesty, then, of the Grand Tetons through the eyes of a 13-year-old grandson, teach a grandkid a few mysteries of the ocean, and you're powerfully reminded that our kids will truly inherit the Earth.

You don't even have to leave home. Every summer on vacation, up at our house there at Kennebunkport, we put up a tent -- I don't want to prejudice any other vendors here or manufacturers. [Laughter] But I call Sheldon Coleman and say, "Hey listen, I need a tent." This was several years ago. And I get a tremendous kick out of -- that same tent goes up every year -- and I get a tremendous kick -- you don't have to leave home -- hearing the nighttime giggles of the grandchildren out there. It's wonderful. You see them reading by a lantern and telling stories, hear them whispering to each other before they drop off to sleep with the sea pounding away in the background.

These are special moments, moments in the outdoors, and they are all very, very special. So, preserving nature for future generations demands special effort. And I've been very happy to support the public-private partnerships like this Wallop-Breaux -- was Dingell-Johnson -- but the Wallop-Breaux Trust Fund to protect our wetlands and preserve and enhance the boating and fishing, and by encouraging private partnerships like Ducks Unlimited and groups like the American Recreation Coalition and the Recreation Roundtable to engage this nation in a new spirit of renewal. I want to try my very hardest to do my part to help build that spirit.

In this year's budget, we included funds to help save the Everglades and to implement the historic North American Waterfowl Management Plan, to stop the tragedy of thousands of birds dying at the Stillwater Wildlife Refuge. But the cornerstone of our program was something called America the Beautiful, to expand our parks, our forests, and wildlife refuges; to promote recreation; and, yes -- one of the ones that I'm most interested in -- to plant a billion trees a year in America.

Tonight I want to ask for your help. I've seen too many budgets frittered away on other priorities. We all agree that trees are good for our water and good for air, good for our communities. So, take this message with you, please, to the legislative branch: Don't leave our tree planting initiative out on a limb.

Groups like this one are helping us build a new ethic of stewardship in America. And you know, I do believe that we have reason to be hopeful. This year, in a tradition that dates back to President Taft, I was presented with the first salmon caught in the 1990 season in the Penobscot River in Maine. It was a tradition that died back in the 1950's because the river had deteriorated so much. But this year, a State fisheries spokesman said they had the biggest opening day that he could recall. Right here in Washington, DC, the once-polluted Potomac River is now a site for first-class bass fishing tournaments.

I was fishing in Pintlala, Alabama, with Ricky Clune, a kid from Montgomery, Texas, one of the great bass fishermen in this country. And Rick -- I'll never forget his winning a bass tournament. If you haven't been to one of these weigh-ins, you ought to go. Four or five thousand people in a stadium when these guys come trailering their fishing boats in and bringing out the bass. And I'll never forget Rick Clune, when he won Bass Masters Championship, saying that he learned to fish when he was in his underwear following his dad in the creeks of Oklahoma. And he said, "Isn't it great to live in a country with no limits." And I like that, and I think he's right.

He was telling me in Pintlala this winter, he said, "You don't have to come all the way down here to Alabama to fish." He said, "The Potomac River is back. You can go right across from the Pentagon and get good 5-, 6-, 7-pound bass out there." And he was right. I think it's an exciting thing that you all are doing for this country, helping us bring back these fantastic resources that regrettably we took for granted maybe 10 or 20 years ago.

So, I'm honored that you'd grant me the Great Outdoors Award, in the memory of Sheldon Coleman. He was a great inspiration to me. I knew him personally. I loved that remarkable spirit that you all remember, and I salute his memory. I'm also here to tip my hat to all of the individuals in America, like yourselves, who are raising awareness, raising money, and sometimes raising hell to preserve -- [laughter] -- our natural heritage for future generations. Sometimes that does mean conflicts, but I believe that the efforts we put into finding constructive partnerships will take us much farther than debate and contention. We need to spend less time arguing and more time working on solutions.

All of you here tonight have the creativity, the will, and the love of the outdoors to create new private partnerships to protect this nation's natural beauty. So, let me encourage each of you: Help us build momentum for a new spirit of American stewardship. As your President, I will not ever miss any opportunity at all to go fishing, to go hiking, to go camping -- [laughter] -- to go out in my boat. I want to do my part. And so, I'll go to work early in the morning and sometimes go home late at night, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let anybody keep me from the great outdoors.

Thank you all very, very much. I'm honored to be with you. Thank you so much.

Note: The President spoke at 8:23 p.m. in the ballroom at the Vista International Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to David Humphreys, chairman of the board of the American Recreation Coalition; Galey Coleman, the widow of Sheldon Coleman, Sr.; Sheldon C. Coleman, Jr., chairman of Sheldon Coleman Enterprises; Representative Ron Marlenee; Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Association; Stuart Northrop, chairman of the executive committee of Huffy Corp.; Richard Nunis, president of Walt Disney Attractions; and Jeff Napier, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

George Bush, Remarks at the Great Outdoors Award Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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