George Bush photo

Remarks at the Washington Centennial Celebration in Spokane

September 19, 1989

The President. Thank you very, very much. Thank you, Tom, thank you, Speaker Foley, for that very kind introduction. Please be seated -- sorry about that. [Laughter] Oh, heavens, what a day! And thanks to the magnificent performances and performers on the Opera House steps over here. You added considerably to this. Thank you all very much.

Let me say at the very beginning that Washington State is very lucky to have a friend like Tom Foley in the Nation's Capital. He is a man of integrity, decency, fairplay, and -- okay, he's a Democrat, but -- [laughter] -- he's a man I'm very proud and honored to work with. And you should be very fortunate to have him as your Congressman, just as I am to have him as the Nation's Speaker.

Mrs. Foley -- --

Audience member. Yea, mother! [Laughter]

The President. See, she brought the family. [Laughter] And my old friend, Joel Pritchard, the Lieutenant Governor. Thank you all for your warm welcome. My congratulations to cochairmen Ralph Monroe and Jean Gardner, Washington's first lady, on a great centennial. And Mayor pro tem Higgins, you've got a beautiful city here to be proud of. And then I'd like to just say hello all the way across the country to Senator Slade Gorton, thanking him for all his work on behalf of the people of this great State.

You know, back in 1889, when President Harrison sent a letter -- telegram, rather, to the first Governor of Washington to tell him that Washington had become the 42d State, he sent the telegram collect. [Laughter] Well, that's one way to balance the budget. [Laughter]

It's a pleasure to be here at the dawn of a second century of statehood, here in the Evergreen State. I'm not going to give you, you can be pleased to know, the usual stump speech. And I may be going out on a limb here, but I think most of America thinks of you as the real Washington. Yours is a land of rich resources and resourceful people. Salmon, gold, timber in abundance brought us here, as the promise of the Pacific brought the railroads west. There has always been, and will always be, a sense that the future is being decided here in this gateway to the Pacific.

Here in Washington you're doing well, living in a State with exports that went up nearly 40 percent last year alone, leading the Nation in exports per capita, and cutting unemployment from 10 percent to 6 percent over the last 5 years, during a time of rapid population growth. And last month you held a Pacific summit that reminded America how crucial the interrelations between nations are for our future. Even now your able Governor is in Japan -- Governor Gardner. Last Thursday he attended groundbreaking ceremonies for Washington Village, a housing development in Kobe, Japan, using Washington-finished forest products and U.S. construction methods. And that means $10 million for the State of Washington and a great American export to Japan.

Washington has had a wonderful 100 years, and you deserve a great centennial celebration. But it's the future that I'm here to talk to you about today. I took this trip out West because I'm concerned -- as I think we all are -- about the future of the planet we share. You see, it won't be enough to restore our balance of trade if we throw off the balance of nature.

In South Dakota, I talked about the need to restore the balance of nature here at home and how each of us can begin by planting a single tree. In Montana, I talked about interdependence, how the actions we take and the pollutants we create have consequences that are being felt the world over. And today I'm asking all Americans to join in the renewed spirit of conservation, a new commitment to a more careful stewardship of the natural world. And at my side I'm glad to have such an able and sensible Environmental Protection Agency -- EPA -- Administrator, Bill Reilly, with me here today, a man in whom I have a great deal of confidence and trust.

You see, I think many of us are beginning to understand something that native Americans understood long before we got here. When it comes to preservation of our precious environment, there's a connection between the smallest individual action and widespread global consequences. No words convey that better than a legendary speech given in the 1800's by an Indian chief named Seattle. "The Earth does not belong to man," he said, "man belongs to the Earth. Whatever happens to the Earth happens to the sons of the Earth. The sky, the lands which appear changeless and eternal may change. Continue to foul the Earth and you will achieve an end to living and the mere beginning of survival. You must teach your children that the Earth is rich. Teach your children that to harm the Earth is to heap contempt upon its Creator."

Chief Seattle understood what it has taken us a century to learn. Our material prosperity and economic growth have served us well. But now, together, we must find new ways to apply the creativity of the marketplace in the service of the environment. Sound ecology and a strong economy can and, indeed, must coexist. I am convinced that we need not yield to the extremes. We must and will protect the environment, and we must and will protect the jobs of the working men and women of the State of Washington. There is no question in my mind: We can do both.

We have an opportunity to renew the environmental ethic in America and to reassert U.S. leadership on environmental challenges around the world. And that's an opportunity that we simply cannot afford to miss. In the 8 months since I was sworn in as President, we've moved fast and hard to make the environment a priority. We're seeking a worldwide ban by the year 2000 on CFC's [chlorofluorocarbons] which destroy the ozone layer. We've prohibited imports of ivory, and prices have dropped by 50 percent, making elephant poaching less profitable. And we're working for a policy that would ban the export of hazardous wastes unless we're sure they'll be disposed of safely. We've proposed tougher laws to eliminate medical waste on our beautiful beaches. And we want to expand dozens of forests and parks and refuges across America. We've announced a national goal of no net loss of wetlands. And we've laid out detailed proposals to stem acid rain, cut urban smog, clean up air toxics, and encourage the use of alternative fuels with a clean air bill that achieves 95 percent of the smog-causing VOC [volatile organic compounds] reductions sought by competing legislation at a cost of $6.5 billion less.

And that's just in 8 months. And as your President, I plan to stay involved, helping to protect our precious environment. As long as I remain President, I will do that. When it comes to clean air, we need action on the legislation that we've proposed -- now. Every day that passes is another day that we are postponing progress on clean air. And we've brought people together and put a sound proposal on the table, and now it is up to the United States Congress to pass this clean air legislation and pass it this year.

But if we really hope to recover, restore, and preserve our natural heritage, that other Washington can't do it alone. And the answer can't simply be limited to new laws. It must be more fundamental. It lies in a shared sense of personal responsibility, a new environmental awareness on the part of all Americans. Through millions of individual decisions -- simple, everyday, personal choices -- we are determining the fate of the Earth. So, the conclusion is also simple: We're all responsible, and it's surprisingly easy to move from being part of the problem to being part of the solution.

So many of the big problems -- coastal water pollution, pesticides in ground water, urban smog, and municipal garbage -- aren't simply caused by large power plants and refineries; and many can't be solved by national legislation alone. Millions of small, diverse sources contribute to these problems, including the everyday behavior of people at work and at home. And such overwhelming environmental challenges can be solved by individual determination that we can do better. Local communities; businesses, large and small; individual families -- all can learn to generate less waste, recycle more of the waste that is generated. In fact, those that do have discovered that there are sound economic side-effects. Environmental protection makes economic sense.

The people of Washington State, in fact, have a history of showing the rest of the Nation the way. Back in the 1940's, J.P. Weyerhaeuser moved the lumber industry from simply harvesting forest resources towards comprehensive management of tree farms that could endure indefinitely. And after research into product development, Weyerhaeuser began introducing marketable products made from what was once treated as waste.

The 3M Corporation announced last spring that since starting their pollution prevention program in 1975, the company has saved $408 million and prevented 111,000 tons of air pollutants, 15,000 tons of water pollutants, and 388,000 tons of solid waste from being released into the environment. And they've done it by rewarding employees for coming up with good ideas.

In the city of Seattle, fees for waste disposal have been an incentive for businesses and households to reduce the amount of waste produced. And I understand that over the last several years, waste has been cut here by nearly a fourth.

So, the power of the marketplace can encourage conservation with spectacular results, results that need to be duplicated everywhere in America. I am delighted to be able to make these comments about your city in your city, so they'll be heard across the rest of the United States.

You know, 15 years ago, when Spokane invited the world over for a visit at 1974 Expo, it became the first World's Fair to put the focus -- the world's focus, if you will -- on the environment. It was a good beginning, and we've made progress since then. And perhaps nothing better symbolizes that than the surging river that pulses through Spokane, a river that first lured men here as a source of protection, transportation, and sustenance. Such damage was done to this river by the early part of this century that by 1938 the Spokane River was called a serious health hazard. And over the past few decades, you have restored and reclaimed this magnificent river. The damage has been reversed, totally turned around. Nature's balance has been restored, and the river had been reborn.

The ethic of native Americans like Chief Seattle must also be reborn on this continent. His was a religious understanding: that the whole Earth has a soul that can be destroyed by man. He saw the world as a spiritual place of precious but fragile beauty. Over a century ago, he said: "Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it was when you found it. And with all your strength, with all your mind, with all your heart, preserve it for your children and love it as God loves us all."

That is a challenge to us all. The American people -- all people -- need a fuller relationship with the world they live in, a better understanding of causes and effects. And if the Earth is an altar, we must make it an altar not of sacrifice but of celebration, a place where our commitment to restoring its natural beauty is felt in a thousand everyday decisions. You've made one of those decisions today by deciding to plant a centennial tree. May it grow, flourish, and symbolize the hope of a new century: that man will one day be reconciled to nature once again.

What a spectacular day in the State of Washington! Thank you for inviting me. God bless you, God bless this State, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:02 a.m. in Riverfront Park. Following his remarks, he returned to Washington, DC. A tape was not available for verification of the contents of the remarks.

George Bush, Remarks at the Washington Centennial Celebration in Spokane Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives