THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release January 17, 2001
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON DESIGNATION OF NATIONAL MONUMENTS
The East Room
10:15 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, and good morning. I want to
welcome you all here, but especially I would like to acknowledge Secretary
Mineta; Senator Conrad Burns of Montana; all the descendants of Lewis and
Clark; representatives of Sacagawea and York; Stephen Ambrose, from whom
you will hear in a moment. And I also want to recognize my friends, Ken
Burns and Dayton Duncan, who did such a wonderful job on the Lewis and
Clark film; and members of the Millennium Council who have supported this
project with the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial and Trails groups. I thank
you all for coming here.
And I would like to especially acknowledge and thank our
administration's environmental team, including Secretary Babbitt; EPA
Administrator Carol Browner who is here' Chief of Staff John Podesta;
George Frampton, the head of the Council for Environmental Quality; and Bob
Stanton who has led our Park Service so ably. Thank you all for your good
I am especially grateful to these people today, obviously, but every
day because, thanks to their work, our air and water are cleaner, our food
is safer, we've cleaned up twice as many waste sites in these eight years
as in the previous 12. We've protected more land in the lower 48 states
than any administration since that of Theodore Roosevelt, and have
supported research, development and deployment of energy conservation,
technologies and clean energy sources, demonstrating, I believe
convincingly, that we can have environmental protection and economic growth
hand in hand.
We believe that our future and our land, air and water are one; that
we must preserve not only our historical treasures, but our natural
treasures, as well.
Today's ceremony is the last I will host as President here in the
historic East Room, where First Lady Abigail Adams hung up the laundry to
dry. (Laughter.) Where Union soldiers lived during the early days of the
Civil War. And where a young idealist named Meriwether Lewis, summoned by
President Jefferson to serve as his Secretary, first unpacked his
traveler's trunk and set up quarters in 1801.
The room looked quite different back then -- no chandeliers, no
parquet floors, no silk drapes, just the rough siding of walls awaiting
plaster, and two stone hearths to ward off the winter chill.
But what the East Room then lacked in grandeur was more than atoned
for by the ideas that filled it. For it was here that Jefferson and Lewis
first unfurled an unfinished map of a great continent and planned a bold
expedition of discovery.
So it is fitting that we meet once more in this room, at the dawn of a
new century and a new age of discovery, where a few months ago we announced
the very first complete mapping of the human genome. We gather here to
honor pathfinders of our past and protect their precious legacy.
Most of the landscape Lewis and Clark traversed nearly two centuries
ago is changed beyond recognition -- forests cut, prairies plowed, rivers
dammed, cities built. That is the march of time. But still there are a
few wild places left, rugged reminders of our rich history and nature's
enduring majesty. Because they are more important than ever, after careful
review and extensive public input, we protect them today by establishing
them as National Monuments.
The first of these monuments covers a remote stretch of the Missouri
River and central Montana, now known as the Upper Missouri River Breaks.
If you canoe these magical waters or hike their weathered cliffs, you may
still encounter elk or bear, wolves, mountain lions, even big horn sheep,
just as Lewis and Clark did in 1805.
The second monument we designate is also in Montana. It is Pompeys
Pillar, the sandstone outcrop named after the newborn son of Sacagawea, the
expedition's Shoshone guide. Archeologists say this monolith has been a
religious site and natural lookout for nearly 12,000 years. It bears the
markings of many ancient travelers. Clark, himself, carved his name into
the rock, and it's still there today.
Some years ago, Wallace Stegner observed that America has a
fundamental interest in preserving wilderness because the challenge of
wilderness forged our national character. He wrote that the wild places
give us a "geography of hope" that sustains us in our busy lives, even in
the largest cities.
Today we protect this geography of hope not just along the Lewis and
Clark Trail, but across our nation, and six other National Monuments which
Secretary Babbitt will discuss shortly. We have another purpose here
today, as well -- righting some wrongs that have lingered about Lewis and
Clark for 200 years now.
The first concerns William Clark. When Lewis recruited Clark to help
lead the Corps of Discovery, he promised him the rank of captain.
Unfortunately, issues of budget and bureaucracy intervened -- some things
never change. (Laughter.) And Clark never received his commission. A
natural leader, great frontiersman, Lt. Clark risked his life across a
continent and back, all for the good of this nation. Today we honor his
service by presenting his great, great, great grandsons, Bud and John
Clark, with the late William Clark Certificate of Appointment to the rank
of Captain in the United States Army. (Applause.)
We also have descendants of Meriwether Lewis here today -- Jane Henley
and Elizabeth Henley Label. I'd like to ask them to stand, as well. Thank
you and welcome. (Applause.)
The journals of Lewis and Clark record that the expedition's success
also hinged on the courage and commitment of Sacagawea, an extraordinary
15-year-old Shoshone guide who made most of the trip with a baby on her
back. Time and again her language skills, geographic knowledge and tribal
connections saved Lewis and Clark from disaster, even death. Despite her
quite heroics, Sacagawea received no formal recognition after the
Last year we put her likeness on our new dollar coin. Today I am
proud to announce her honorary promotion to the rank of Sergeant in the
United States Army, so that all Americans might recognize her critical role
in Lewis and Clark's journey to the sea. Accepting her citation is Amy
Mossett, a leader of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation, and Rose Anne
Abrahamson, a leader of the Shoshone Nation. I'd like to ask them to come
Finally, I want to recognize York, the slave who accompanied Lewis and
Clark to the Pacific and back. Like Sacagawea, he shared all the risks,
but none of the reward. And while the rigors of the wilderness fostered a
certain equality, camaraderie, and respect among York and his fellow
explorers, that did not translate into freedom upon his return. Only years
later did he finally gain his liberty before fading into history.
Today, in recognition of York's selfless contributions to the Corps of
Discovery and to his service to our country, he also receives an honorary
promotion to the rank of Sergeant in the United States Army. Accepting the
citation on his behalf are York scholar, Jim Holmberg, and York sculptor,
Ed Hamilton. I'd like to ask them to come up and receive the citation.
As we finally right these wrongs and celebrate the legacy of Lewis and
Clark we recognize the irony inherent in their expedition. Their historic
journey of discovery opened up the American West, a mythic frontier that
even today endures in the American mind as a symbol of freedom. But York
was anything but free, and Sacagawea's people, like her neighbors, would
eventually be swept away by a flood of American settlers determined to
claim the Great Plains and the land beyond.
These hard truths do not fit comfortably within the narrow rhetorical
boundaries of manifest destiny, or square with modern notions of democracy
and diversity. But as our nation has grown physically, so we have grown as
a people, and I believe the capacity for growth as a people, for deepening
the bonds of community and broadening our vision of liberty and equality,
has been just as important a voyage of discovery as the physical one Lewis
and Clark took so long ago.
Nearly two centuries ago, Lewis and Clark used this compass -- this
very one -- to navigate a continent of possibility. Now America is setting
out to navigate a century of possibility, determined to explore the far
frontiers of space, the ocean depths, the tiniest of genetic structures.
But we must not forget our obligations to live in harmony with the Earth.
In the years to come, more areas will doubtless require our common
protection. I'd like to mention just two, for example. First, the Owyhee
Canyonlands in Idaho. This fractured maze of ancient canyons is a rugged
paradise of leaping big horn sheep and soaring birds of prey. Second, we
must continue, I believe, to safeguard the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,
one of the last truly wild places on Earth -- the Serengeti of the
Some of you and others around the country have urged that I declare
this a monument as well. I have declined because current law actually
provides legislative protection for this refuge, identical to that which an
executive order would provide. But I still believe that those who propose,
and who would now have to get legislative authorization to do so, to drill
in the refuge are in error. In 1995, I vetoed a bill that would have
permitted such drilling, and I believe we should continue to work together
to meet the nation's energy needs while we protect this environmental Eden.
I hope in the years ahead we can reach agreement on a policy of
environmental protection and sustainable development appropriate to this
new age in which we live, and to the real condition of our natural
resources. I hope it will unite Republicans and Democrats. Even more
difficult, perhaps, I hope it will unite Westerners and Easterners --
(laughter) -- people who live in the North and the South; people who make a
living from the land and those who feel more alive when they're on it.
Senator Burns, I'm glad to see you here today in support of this. We
are making some progress. After years of squabbles, this year by a huge
bipartisan majority, the Congress for the first time set aside a committed,
dedicated stream of funding, year in and year out, to preserve the natural
legacy of America, from vast open spaces to small urban greenspaces. It is
a very hopeful beginning, and perhaps the most important congressional
conservation move in many decades.
So I hope, as I leave, that we will be able to continue to build on
this and return to the point where the environment is not a point of either
partisan or geographic explosion, but a point of shared values and shared
For eight years I have done my best to prepare America for the 21st
century. I have been, critics and supporters alike have acknowledged,
virtually obsessed with all things modern -- with trying to make sure
America was at the center of all new trading networks; trying to modernize
our economic and social policies; trying to alter the framework of global
financial institutions so that everyone had a chance to participate in the
best of what the future holds; trying to make sure that we stayed on the
cutting edge in all areas of science and technology. This has occupied
much of my time and attention.
But I grew up in a national park, and I have never forgotten that
progress uprooted from harmony with nature, is a fool's errand. The more
perfect union of our founders' dreams will always include the Earth that
sustains us in body and spirit. Today we have honored three who made it
so. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Now I would like to ask Stephen Ambrose to come to the podium. But as
I do, I would like to thank him for many things -- for teaching America
about World War II; for, most recently, making sure we know how the
railroad was built across the country; and for all the works in between.
But I rather suspect, having heard him talk about it, that nothing has
quite captured his personal passion and the story of his family life like
the odyssey of Lewis and Clark, and the beauties that they found -- that he
and his family later discovered for themselves.
END 10:40 A.M. EST