Driving through the Berkshires on a magnificent summer day was exhilarating as I realized “Passages to Yosemite” was now a real experience. After two wonderful send-offs at the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, I was now truly ‘on the road.’ My mind recalled the large number of young people, along with the support of deeply caring adults of all ages, who were enthusiastic about working in the outdoors, and inspired my spirit. The skies were blue; Nature was glorious all across the Commonwealth. I rejoiced in our mission to bring the words of Olmsted to preserve National Beauty of all people.
My mind and heart went back to 1962 when I was leaving about the same time for travels around America to try and understand conditions in this very conflicted world. At the time, in 1962, the Civil Rights Movement was beginning to grip the consciousness of the Nation. My path of travel was headed South to see for myself; I left Boston to try to understand American society and how I might choose to work to help in a small way to build a better society for all people.
As I set off to the South, the Civil Rights Movement was building in strength, and conflicts were growing both in intensity and violence. My journey would cover over 20,000 miles, and these travels would change the path of my life. I distinctly remembering the impact of spending time at Ole Miss with James Meredith, the first black person to enter this segregated school. The campus was literally on fire. People had died. The deeply rooted conviction of James Meredith struck me at the center of my being.
Now, I headed West, and the circumstances are radically different. Today, there is an explicit purpose. I have been asked to be at Yosemite National Park by the National Park Service to participate in a program with youth who will read portions of the statement of Frederick Law Olmsted’ s report, “Yosemite and Mariposa Grove.” This report reveals the great visionary contributions of Olmsted for the future of America.
The idea was simple: to introduce a new direction for civilization. Great opens spaces with beautiful scenery had always been the privilege of the well-off citizens. Olmsted, though, thought differently, stating it was the absolute duty of the government of a republic to preserve these precious spaces for all people. Driving across Massachusetts this morning, I felt incredibly proud of the work of the conservation community in the Commonwealth. In Massachusetts, we have been blessed with the creation of a large number of natural resources in special places, all of which are open for all people. However, there is always pressure to preserve these valuable resources, and as importantly, to maintain and manage these resources, which are constantly in need of maintenance.