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Odenton Elementary School, Odenton, Maryland

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
at the
Odenton Elementary School
Odenton, Maryland

April 23, 2001

Thank you, Mr. Wagner, for welcoming us to Odenton Elementary.

It’s great to be here with your students to help celebrate Earth Day.

I’m also glad to be here with your outstanding Congressman, my friend Wayne Gilchrest.

I hope everyone enjoyed our mobile lab. At the Environmental Protection Agency, we believe that a big part of our mission is helping children (and their parents) learn about how important it is to protect the environment.

Each of you can make a real difference in promoting environmental protection.

Tomorrow, at the White House, President Bush and I will be presenting this year’s Presidential Environmental Youth Awards.

Some of the winners are your age. So don’t let anyone tell you you’re too young to make a difference.

Someone who works with me at EPA told me that when he was in seventh grade he helped start an ecology club at his school. Now he helps me do my job at EPA.

So you never know where your interest in the environment might take you.

Every one of us has a responsibility to the Earth. We have to do our best not to pollute.

That includes everything from making sure we don’t litter, to recycling paper, bottles, and cans, to making sure we don’t put things in the water that can harm fish and plant life.

At EPA, that responsibility is also our job, and I’d like to tell you a little bit about it.

Some of you may have been camping or hiking in the woods. One of the things you learn when you do that is that you should always leave the places you go cleaner than they were when you got there.

That means if you’re on a hike and you see some trash on the trail, pick it up. If you canoeing down a river and you see a bottle floating in the water, take it out. Or, if you’re just playing in the park and see some garbage, put it in a trash can.

That’s kind of what we do at the EPA for the entire country, but on a larger scale.

If we see a factory that’s emitting dangerous things into the air, we make them stop. If we find a company that’s putting toxic chemicals into a river, we make them stop. If we discover that someone’s building something where it will hurt the environment, we make them stop.

But we also work with people who want to do the right thing for the environment.

We help cities and towns clean-up polluted places so they won’t harm the people and animals who live nearby. We do scientific research on new ways to help prevent pollution from things like cars and factories.

And we help people learn more about the things they can do to protect the environment.

All of these things are important – but none of them are more important than what you can do in your own homes, school, and neighborhood.

All of us who are here today – your teachers and Mr. Wagner, your parents, Congressman Gilchrest, my friends Secretary Veneman and Secretary Norton, and I – want to make sure that when you grow-up, the air, water, and land are cleaner and better protected than they are right now.

And I know that all of us consider that to be more than just our job – it’s our obligation to you. You also have that same obligation to protect the Earth. It’s never too early to start.

Thank you, and happy Earth Week.

Now I have the honor to introduce to you someone with whom I work on President Bush’s cabinet. She has responsibility for America’s farms – a very big and important job.

Please help me welcome the Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman.