It’s easy being green — and Republican!
By MARTHA MARKS
AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: Martha gave this speech at the moderate Republican Tuesday Group’s forum in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on September 1, 2008.
Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me to speak today.
Republicans for Environmental Protection —or simply REP—was founded in 1995. From the very beginning, we’ve looked up to the moderate Republicans in Congress as champions of a great conservation tradition that REP aims to restore and reinvigorate throughout our party.
Time after time, we have honored members of the Tuesday Group for your gutsy actions to protect our country’s great natural heritage, which we believe is a core tenet of true conservatism. Many of your members are also members of REP’s Honorary Board. We thank you for all you’ve done, and we will continue to work with you in the future.
I’m especially pleased to be here today with two of my personal heroes. Christine Todd Whitman was a champion of land conservation as governor of New Jersey and a bright light of environmental integrity during the first term of President George W. Bush. We at REP were honored to have her give the dinner address at our 2005 conference in Chicago.
And Mark Kirk holds the distinction of being the first candidate for office that Republicans for Environmental Protection ever endorsed. We recognized him as a kindred spirit during a wild-and-crazy 11-person primary in the spring of 2000, and we have never regretted making that endorsement. Congressman Kirk earned a perfect 100 on our 2007 Congressional Scorecard. His record of accomplishment proves that we were right in selecting him for our first endorsement.
Some of you may have laughed, or maybe rolled your eyes a bit, when you saw the title of my talk today:
“It’s Easy Being Green—and Republican.”
But you really shouldn’t laugh, because that’s a true statement.
And the name of my organization, Republicans for Environmental Protection, shouldn’t be a source of laughter either. It shouldn’t be mocked as an oxymoron, yet it is mocked almost everywhere I go. “That’s an oxymoron!” is often the first thing out of a new acquaintance’s mouth. And frankly, between you and me, that’s a sad statement on the reputation that our party has earned among the American people during the last few decades.
Many people don’t know, or don’t choose to remember, that it was a Republican president—the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln—who was the first president in history to set aside land for conservation and public enjoyment. The land that Lincoln protected from development on June 30, 1864 — at the height of the Civil War — and gave to the State of California ultimately came back to the American people as Yosemite National Park. He was our first Republican president, and he left us one of our greatest natural treasures.
But the tradition didn’t stop with Lincoln. President Dwight Eisenhower was the one who first protected the magnificent coastal plain that today is part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Congressman John Saylor of Pennsylvania was the driving force behind the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.
The landmark environmental laws of the 1970s were passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities of Congress and signed into law by Richard Nixon, who also established the EPA. Ronald Reagan left us a fine legacy of protected wilderness areas. George W. Bush is leaving us a marine sanctuary like none else in the world.
I’d like to take you back in time a hundred years, to 1908. Our party’s convention was held in Chicago in July of that year, just as our President, Theodore Roosevelt, was in the middle of the greatest burst of conservation action ever seen in our country, before or since. The GOP platform in 1908 celebrated TR’s amazing conservation accomplishments. That year, TR established more than 100 national forests and created nearly two dozen wildlife refuges and national monuments. One of those monuments was the incomparable Grand Canyon.
A hundred years later, we are about to nominate another champion of the Grand Canyon as our candidate for president. John McCain doesn’t just talk about conservation and environmental protection. He has a strong record of leadership. From protecting the Grand Canyon to safeguarding wilderness, from defending wild rivers to fighting global climate change and for a better energy policy, John McCain has spent political capital making tough decisions, tough votes.
It’s easy to give speeches and tell adoring crowds what they want to hear. It’s hard to do the right thing when you know that will make your political allies mad at you. But John McCain fights for the environment anyway, because he knows that protecting our country and our world is part of what it means to be a true conservative.
Today, we confront challenges on a scale that President Roosevelt never imagined, such as energy security and global climate change. We Republicans must take the lead on those issues if we hope to build a safer, cleaner, more prosperous future for ourselves and our children.
We Republicans should own “the environment” as an issue, not run away from it as we often have in the recent past.
We should own “the environment” as an issue, because our party is the one best equipped to lead effectively and solve environmental problems. It really should be easy for us to be green.
We should be this nation’s acknowledged environmental leaders, because we know how markets work.
We know that business enterprise, not bureaucratic red tape, will deliver the innovation needed for Americans to be better stewards.
We know that we owe our children a country and a world that are at least as clean and healthy as those we inherited from our parents.
We know that managing our resources wisely will strengthen our national defense.
We know that there can be no greater cause than securing a safe and prosperous future where freedom can thrive and free people can pursue their dreams.
So why do I say “It’s Easy being Green—and Republican!” ?
Because all we have to do is follow the greatest Republican leaders of history, and when it come to protecting our beautiful country and planet for future generations, just do the right thing. As we at REP like to say— because it’s our trademarked slogan— Conservation is Conservative.
I’m going to ask you to please see me later if you’d like more information about REP or if you’d like to attend the reception that we’re hosting on Thursday afternoon. Theodore Roosevelt IV will be our special guest speaker there.
I also have a flier—Why REP Endorsed John McCain—that I’ll gladly share with you.