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Presidential Classroom Executive Branch Seminar, Washington, D.C.

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
at the
Presidential Classroom Executive Branch Seminar
Washington, D.C.

February 10, 2003

Good morning and welcome to Washington. I understand you have an interesting and exciting week ahead of you. I want to assure you that while the threat level was raised on Friday to "orange, @ there = s no reason why your week here shouldn = t be as much fun and productive as you expect it to be.

All of you are here because you = re interested in government and interested in leadership. And I hope you = re here because you believe in something important, because you want to be part of a cause greater than yourself, which is what being a leader is really all about.

You qualified to come to Washington and participate in this program because you are among the best and the brightest of your generation B the people who will one day lead our country, from Main Street to Wall Street and from City Hall to Capitol Hill.

Many of you already are leaders in your schools and communities. As you have probably already found, being a leader is not easy. It means taking a stand, subjecting yourself to criticism and second-guessing, trying to meet often unrealistic expectations others have for you B and you have for yourself.

But when you believe in something B really believe in it B the sacrifices are worth it. At the end of the day, you will know that you = ve made a difference, that you were willing to put yourself on the line for something important. For leadership without a cause is empty. Those who seek leadership for their own glory are pursuing it for the wrong reasons and won = t find satisfaction. Glory is fleeting B accomplishment is not.

In ancient Rome, when a general would return from an important military victory, a great parade would be held for him. He would be drawn through the city streets in a chariot, cloaked in purple robes, his face painted red, the crowds cheering B their version of a ticker tape parade.

Standing right behind the general in his chariot was a slave. Over the general = s head, he held a golden laurel. In the general = s ear he whispered, again and again, A Sic transit gloria mundis, worldly fame is transitory, worldly fame is transitory.@ This was supposed to keep the general 's ego from getting out of control.

Today, of course, very few of us remember the names of any of these generals B in fact, few of us remember the names of the generals who led us to victory in World War II. But what really matters is not so much what their names were (except, perhaps, on a test), but what their deeds were. And those deeds were not the general= s alone. There isn = t a single general in history who won a battle by himself B they all depended on the soldiers under them.

All of you here today will live most of your lives in the 21st century. The years and decades ahead will offer you incredible opportunities to help literally re-make the world in which you will live, whether at the head of a great undertaking or as one of the people who helps makes things happen. Leaders aren= t just the people in charge B they = re anyone who steps forward to make a difference.

As the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, I can tell you that we are looking for leaders all across America B people who want to make a difference for the health of our environment. The future of our planet depends on people like you stepping forward to be part of a cause larger than yourself. Let me tell you about one of them.

Last week, President Bush and I participated in an event not far from here to promote the development of hydrogen fuel cells B a clean, limitless source of energy that will probably fuel the first car your children will drive.

Hydrogen-fueled cars sound like something out of science fiction B a car that runs on the most abundant element in the universe, which produces absolutely no pollution B just water vapor. Imagine, 20 years from now, standing on a street corner when a hydrogen-fueled bus drives by. Instead of a face-full of diesel exhaust, the only thing you = ll notice is a gentle mist, no thicker than the thinnest fog.

Right now, it costs four times as much to produce hydrogen fuel as it does gasoline and ten times as much to produce a hydrogen fuel cell as it does a traditional car engine. This puts such cars out of the reach of everyone but all-star athletes and top movie stars.

That = s why President Bush wants to invest $1.2 billion over the next five years to help develop an affordable, efficient hydrogen fuel cell car and the infrastructure needed to support it. We want to make it possible, one day, for every American garage to hold a hydrogen-fueled car.

This is an exciting investment in the future B and one that will help make the air you and your children breathe much cleaner and healthier than what we breathe today.

While this new technology takes leadership from the top, it also takes lots of work on the ground. The hundreds of scientists, researchers, and engineers who will bring this idea to fruition won = t get their names in the history books B but the results of their efforts will be gratefully remembered for generations.

Among you may be the future scientist who will, in a few years, make the critical discovery that takes hydrogen-powered cars off the drawing board and into the driveway, from a futuristic concept to everyday reality. And while you may not be the one who gets to drive the first mass-produced hydrogen-fueled car off the assembly line for all the world to see, you will know that you helped lead a true environmental revolution.

But no matter what field you enter, the choices you are making today will prepare you for the rest of your life. Even if that doesn = t happen, I hope you will keep in mind the words of Lt. Col. Michael Anderson, one of the crew of Columbia who lost his life last Saturday in the service of his country and of all mankind. At the Memorial Service held in Houston for the crew, President Bush recalled something Lt. Col. Anderson used to tell students when he would visit their schools. He said, "Whatever you want to be in life, you're training for it now."

That = s good advice. Leaders are not born, they = re made. Maybe even more to the point, they make themselves. The choices you are making now will mold the adult you will become tomorrow. Finding a cause greater than yourself in your school or neighborhood today will prepare you for even bigger things in the years ahead. It = s nice to be chosen as a leader, but first know why you want to lead B and what you want to accomplish B before you seek a leadership role. That will not only make you a better leader, it will make you a better citizen and a better person.

You have busy week ahead of you. I hope you will not just enjoy your time here but will be inspired by it. And when you return home from this conference, I hope you will do so with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to find the cause greater than yourself of which you want to be a part. Those of us who have spent most of our lives in the 20th century are counting on you to make the 21st century a time of peace, prosperity, and progress for all the people of the world.

Thank you.