Illinois Senator Barack Obama deserves some kudos from Great Lakes advocates of every political persuasion. Of all the presidential hopefuls, he is the only one to respond to the invitation to speak to the coalition’s annual conference. During the presentation, Obama, a democrat, committed to working for the passage of the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act. Although, he didn’t appear himself, he sent his words and sentiments with a local politician, Debra Shore.
Shore, a self-described gay, Jewish, conservation advocate, representing a skinny, black man with a funny name – cheerfully and with humor brought Obama’s message to the HOW coalition. Obama’s words follow:
“Good afternoon everyone, I want to welcome you to Chicago, my hometown, America’s heartland center.
You know my family and I live just over a mile from the Lake Michigan shoreline, just outside the watershed boundary. My two daughters and I have enjoyed the lake I many seasons, to ride our bikes, swim, and play.
The Great Lakes sustain us – literally.
When I served in the Illinois State Senate, my district extended east to the lake and south to the state line, so I was well aware of issues involving beach closings, water quality, and the health of this precious resource.
As a member of the board of directors of the Joyce Foundation for five years, I learned even more about Great Lakes issues and the important work the philanthropic community has done, in partnership with so many fine and ardent advocacy groups, to educate people in and out of the basin about Great Lakes issues, to support innovative projects involving restoration and to bring sometimes contentious groups together to find common cause in protecting these great lakes. I want to thank the Joyce Foundation, the Wege Foundation and others for their support of this conference.
Protecting and restoring the Great Lakes is not merely a matter of sound environmental policy. It is the key to a robust regional economy and it is a matter of national security. Our posture with respect to the rest of the world has got to be one of sound stewardship of this precious, irreplaceable resource.
I am running for President because I believe Washington’s agenda should be the people’s agenda. And you all know, too well, that politics as usual in Washington has failed the American people, especially in our desire for a clean and beautiful environment. That’s why, earlier this week, I laid out my plan to make our government more transparent. We can’t have Dick Cheney writing our energy policies behind closed doors with oil and gas executives anymore.
It’s time to renew a people’s politics in this country – to ensure that the hopes and concerns of average Americans speak louder in Washington than the hallway whispers of high priced lobbyists.
As a senator I have fought to protect and restore the Great Lakes, securing stop-gap funding for barriers to block invasive species and strongly supporting the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration and the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act. As president I will work with you to restore these lakes, which old a fifth of the world’s surface freshwater, so that they are clean and usable for generations to come.
I hope you will join me.”
Thank you, Senator Obama for taking the time to address one of our nation’s most pressing needs: saving the Great Lakes.