Monday, February 20, 2006

Presidents and Birding

Many presidents have been interested in the natural world, none more so than Theodore Roosevelt, president from 1901-1909. Despite his bad eyesight, he was known to spend free time searching for birds on the grounds of the White House. To compensate, he learned songs and calls intimately. Here is what he had to say about them:
It is hard to tell just how much of the attraction in any bird-note lies in the music itself and how much in the associations. This is what makes it so useless to try to compare the bird songs of one country with those of another. A man who is worth anything can no more be entirely impartial in speaking of the bird songs with which from his earliest childhood he has been familiar than he can be entirely impartial in speaking of his own family.
- quoted in An Exhiliration of Wings, ed. Jen Hill
For Roosevelt, birds meant more than a hobby. He was one of the first presidents to endorse the idea of conservation, and he tried to put conservation into practice. He praised the efforts of the Audubon Society, one of the first environmental organizations.
I hope that the efforts of the Audubon societies and kindred organizations will gradually make themselves felt until it becomes a point of honor not only with the American man, but with the American small boy, to shield and protect all forms of harmless wild life.
- quoted in An Exhiliration of Wings, ed. Jen Hill
Would that the current president would put more energy into environmental issues.