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Remarks of Secretary Salazar at the Opening Reception of the Parks in Focus Exhibit at the Department of the Interior Museum on April 20, 2009 (As Prepared for Delivery)

Posted: 5/31/2009

Almost exactly three floors above us, there is an office once occupied by a biologist and writer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Her name was Rachel Carson. In an essay published in 1956, she wrote the following words about the importance of getting children into the great outdoors.

"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder," she wrote "...he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."

Today, it is my great pleasure to celebrate National Parks Week by opening the Parks in Focus exhibit here at the Department of the Interior Museum. These beautiful photographs demonstrate what happens when you combine a child, a camera and our national parks - you have a recipe for a lifelong love of the outdoors and a commitment to conserve them for future generations.

I salute the Morris K. Udall Foundation for creating the Parks in Focus program and working with local Boys and Girls clubs and individual national parks to give youngsters who might never have the chance to get out into the great outdoors the opportunity to explore a national park. You can tell by the photographs that that these children had their eyes opened. They did not miss a thing.

It is hard to imagine a program that more embodies the life and spirit of Mo Udall.

I am especially moved by these photographs because one of President Obama's and my highest priorities at the Department of the Interior is to increase the involvement of America's youth in outdoor recreation and conservation. You can teach a child a great deal in a classroom, but there are certain lessons about life that can only be taught in nature's classroom.

Today's exhibition also celebrates an important anniversary this year for the Parks in Focus program. The Department of the Interior has partnered with the Udall Foundation and the Boys & Girls Club for 10 years. In that time, the program has expanded to include trips to parks in New Jersey, Michigan, Maine, and Washington state.

I am pleased to have with us Maria Del Carmen Lopez- Velasquez from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson. Maria has been involved with Parks in Focus since its inception. She is now the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson. She represents the many people who have worked to make this program successful.

We are also excited that we are expanding opportunities for the children of the Boys & Girls Club. In early 2009, the Parks in Focus received a significant boost for its Grand Canyon program. The National Park Foundation awarded an "American's Best Idea" grant to the Udall Foundation to run a special Parks in Focus trip to the Grand Canyon this summer.

The extra trip will give 10 Tucson kids a meaningful outdoor experience, including photography lessons with Grand Canyon photographer Gary Laad and the opportunity to hike, camp, and explore the canyon.

I am certain that "the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in" will indeed be written on their hearts.

It is now my pleasure to welcome to the Department of the Interior Museum Congressman Raul Grijalva from Arizona.

Congressman Grijalva is not only an enthusiast for the Parks in Focus Program and the Udall Foundation, but also a true friend of our National Parks. He has championed efforts to advance the National Landscape Conservation System, protect wilderness areas and endangered species, advance the National Parks Service Centennial Fund, protect the Grand Canyon from the threat of expanded uranium mining, and promote ecological restoration on federal lands.

Furthermore, he has served for his entire tenure in Congress on the House Committee on Natural Resources where he is Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

Congressman Grijalva, we are honored to have you with us today.

Parks in Focus

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