May 06, 2011
On April 15, 1907, Theodore Roosevelt sent off this press release “to the school children of the United States.” He wrote to them on the occasion of Arbor Day, which in North Dakota, is celebrated today this year.
A devoted conservationist, Roosevelt shares his hopes with the children of 1907 that they realize their dependence on the forests of the country to keep producing wood for their generation and the generations to follow, not simply for their use alone. He hopes that the message of the holiday helps children learn the benefits of a healthy national forest network. It reminded me of Arbor Day activities I did in elementary school including planting a tree outside my school in kindergarten.
Detail from Transcript of Press Release, April 15, 1907. From the Papers of Theodore Roosevelt, Library of Congress Manuscript Division
Transcript of press release, April 15, 1907:
To the school children of the United States:
Arbor Day (which means simply “Tree Day”) is now observed in every State in our Union – and mainly in the schools. At various times from January to December, but chiefly in this month of April, you give a day or part of a day to special exercises and perhaps to actual tree planting, in recognition of the importance of trees to us as a Nation, and of what they yield in adornment, comfort, and useful products in the communities in which you live.
It is well that you should celebrate your Arbor Day thoughtfully, for within your lifetime the Nation’s need of trees will become serious. We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed; and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used, but for what we have wasted.
For the nation as for the man or woman and the boy or girl, the road to success is the right use of what we have and the improvement of present opportunity. If you neglect to prepare yourselves now for the duties and responsibilities which will fall upon you later, if you do not learn the things which you will need to know when your school days are over, you will suffer the consequences. So any nation which in its youth lives only for the day, reaps without sewing, and consumes without husbanding, must expect the penalty of the prodigal, whose labor could with difficulty find him the bare means of life.
A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as hopeless; forests which are so used that they can not renew themselves will soon vanish, and with them all their benefits. A true forest is not merely a storehouse full of wood, but, as it were, a factory of wood, and at the same time a reservoir of water. When you help to preserve our forests or to plant new ones you are acting the part of good citizens. The value of forestry deserves, therefore, to be taught in the schools, which aim to make good citizens of you. If your Arbor Day exercises help you to realize what benefits each one of you receives from the forests, and how by your assistance these benefits may continue, they will serve a good end.