|Downtown Berkeley, California|
January 25, 2013, Berkeley, CA: Friday morning, on my way to work, I was pleasantly surprised to quite literally stumble upon this engraving on a city sidewalk: “1903 President Teddy Roosevelt Speaks.”
It inspired me to do a little homework: Roosevelt was friends with then UC Berkeley President Benjamin Ide Wheeler and had promised to visit the campus on a whistle-stop speaking tour of western states. After speaking in San Francisco on May 13, Roosevelt crossed the bay to Oakland on a tugboat and, at midday on May 14, 1903, swept into Berkeley on a special train. The San Francisco Chronicle described it this way: “As the President appeared and made his way out under the cloth canopy at the front of the stage, the vast audience rose in a body and sent up mighty cheers which rolled back and resounded through the ravines of the hills.”
The next day Roosevelt met writer and naturalist John Muir in nearby Oakland and they traveled together by train and stagecoach to Yosemite.
|Roosevelt with UC Berkeley President|
Benjamin Ide Wheeler, 1903
And they talked, and talked, late into the nights.
Prior to their trip, Roosevelt and Muir didn’t always see eye to eye. Muir, a founder of the Sierra Club, valued nature for its spiritual and transcendental qualities and was more of a preservationist. Roosevelt, an avid hunter, pushed for the sustainable use of natural resources and was more of a conservationist. But both men strongly opposed reckless exploitation. So the two set aside their differences, focused on their common love for the wilds and not only became lifelong friends but, together, became an even more potent force for the protection of wildlife and wild places – including, of course, many of the places where I now love to hike, camp, backpack, fish, hunt and explore.
|Roosevelt with John Muir, Yosemite, 1903|
We can learn a lot from Roosevelt and Muir.
Right after his trip with Muir, before heading back to D.C., Roosevelt stopped and gave a speech in Sacramento urging the citizens of California to do everything in their power to use forests and streams wisely and “preserve the natural wealth.” He ended with this: “We are not building this country for a day. It is to last through the ages.”
And Friday morning, on January 25, 2013, after I serendipitously stumbled upon a Berkeley sidewalk, Roosevelt helped renew my enthusiasm for and dedication to my work – to continue doing my small part to help protect and advance this great American conservation legacy.
We can sometimes find inspiration at unexpected times in surprising places.