I want to share with you in part what I heard him say. He reflected on a time when he was 11, after his uncle President John F. Kennedy had been killed, and his family went to Europe for a memorial at Normandy in France and traveled on to Poland, a communist country with a total news blackout of their visit. They brought toys to deliver to an orphanage and the government had removed all the children before they arrived. But word of mouth, as they were leaving 250,000 people had gathered to try to see his dad. The countrymen cried as they sang the banned Polish song and literally lifted and carried their car through the streets.
His uncle and his father aspired to protect our national security with a generous hand and the kind face of America. Bobby considered an objective way to measure Kennedy popularity abroad would be to count the number of people and thousands of schools, bridges, hospitals or stadiums in every capitol in the world named after them.
Bobby went on remembering the train ride across the states bringing his dad to Arlington Cemetery, passing two million people who came to stand by the tracks as the train passed, hippies in tye-dye, priests, black militants with their fists raised and poor people. He went on to reflect the change that happened 4 years later, when so many of the white voters cast theirs for George Wallace. He continued that it had occurred to him that every nation has a darker side and a lighter side. His father appealed to the lighter side and hoped people would find the hero inside of us and rise and transcend to the larger ideas of the broader community and propagate democracy.
As a founder and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance he explained that good environmental policy is identical to good economic policy and that we must behave responsibly for the future generations, save our earth's assets and cease our pollution based prosperity. He said our children are going to pay for our joy ride.
He grew up surrounded by extended family and often near water and nature and believes we need that link between wilderness and nature, reflecting most people live in cities and most cities were build near rivers. We need to protect our waterways and our rights to be spiritually renewed out on our rivers.
Let democracy flow again through nature, find spiritual renewal and open the wilderness so people have access. Eliminate the pollution and allow people to catch that fish and experience that excitement.
I'm going to take this little piece of creation, the little stretch of river and I'm going to make sure this is here for our children.
This, he said, is a moral choice. And I am choosing it.
And quite humbly was acknowledged for latching onto that little piece of creation, the little stretch of Tar Creek with one of the few awards the Waterkeeper Alliance presents, the Terry Backer Award. Earl Hatley, our Grand Riverkeeper and I both were recognized at the end of the conference and were really shocked by it. Many of the people in the room had much bigger programs, like the Mobile Baykeeper, and the hundreds of wide and long rivers around the country and actually around the world, including the Lake Victoria Waterkeeper, the largest lake in Africa.
There are a few things I have learned about Bobby Kennedy, Jr. He will speak out and the listeners will be moved by what he says and how he states it. He is blunt about polluters, "fat cats taking a free ride." But speaking is hard for him as he has a rare voice condition called spasmodic dysphonia. If you ever listened to NPR you might have heard Diane Rhem's program, who also has this affect her speech. Bobby mixes spiritual messages in with basic history as he illustrated when making us aware that in 1600 England it was a capital crime to burn coal. But that it has always been illegal to pollute, it is simply immoral.
As the Waterkeepers retreated to their watershed, I went on to Dallas to the heart of the EPA Region 6 Environmental Justice Forum and was empowered by the people who spoke there about how lonely places in New Mexico can come together to get clean drinkable water for their desert communities and how a community took on an air polluter, proved the air was tainted and got the industry to provide the real time air monitoring. They learned that odor was not just a bad smell, it had a first and last name and a standard that could be measured because people had known a long time that the odor was more than a nuisance. Perhaps we need an air-keeper that might latch onto this little piece of creation and choose it.
Respecting the High Ground ~ Rebecca Jim