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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks to the Student Environmental Development Program Class of 2009, As Prepared

Read the blog post and see pictures from this event.

As prepared for delivery.

I’m happy to welcome you to EPA headquarters. Congratulations – a day early – on your graduation. I’ve been told that your class at the SEDP program is by far the best group of students EPA has had in the 16 years since this program started. And that is good news because we need you.

Our mission at EPA is to protect and preserve the planet for your generation. And that’s a responsibility that we’ll eventually pass to you. Having you involved is so important because the decisions we make, and the path we decide on today will have profound impacts on your future.

But let me put that into a little bit of perspective. I was your age not all that long ago, and even in a short period of time things have changed dramatically. We did a lot of the same things, but how we did them was entirely different.

If I wanted to call my friends, I had to go into the kitchen to use the telephone, which was attached to a wall. If I wanted to type up a paper for class, I went to the closet and got out a typewriter. No one I knew had a computer at home. If I had to do research, it came from a book because there was no internet and no Google. There was no email. No Twitter. No texting.

And in a short time, it all changed. I just got an iPhone. That’s something I would have never dreamed of in high school.

Right now, we are getting ready for a revolution of the same kind. Only this revolution will change the ways we use energy and treat our environment. In the time between now and when you are my age, your world is going to change like mine did. You’re going to do a lot of the same things. But you’re going to do them differently.

You may drive a car. But instead of pulling over to fill up the tank with gasoline, you might pull over to change out the electric battery. You may turn on the heat at your house, but rather than running off the energy from a coal burning power plant, it will be powered by solar panels on the roof of your house. If those solar panels are generating more power than you need, you may be able to sell that energy back to your utility company, or to your neighbor.

The SEDP program is a unique opportunity for you to learn about things that will benefit you for years to come – for you to be part of the changes coming. You are already ahead of the curve.

Most students your age don't get the chance to work in an office building and to interact with scientists, engineers, toxicologists, computer specialists and others who are helping to protect our environment. We’re hard at work to protect the planet for your future, but you have a role to play as well.

The advances like cell phones, the internet, and social media that I talked about earlier have given you the ability to change your world unlike any generation before. It’s up to you to decide what the years ahead are going to look like.

I hope you will take some of the things you learn here as part of this group and – starting now – help us lead the way in confronting these critical environmental issues.

I’m proud of you – for your concern, your dedication, and your hard work. Congratulations again on your coming graduation, Class of 2009. I look forward to seeing where you will take us next.