[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[June 5, 1998]
[Page 899]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 899]]

Question-and-Answer Session With Students at the Thoreau Institute in 
Lincoln, Massachusetts
June 5, 1998

Writings of Henry David Thoreau

    Participant. I'm Liz Coogan from Concord 
Middle School here in Massachusetts, and this question is for you, Mr. 
President and Mr. Henley. What do Thoreau's writings and Walden Woods 
mean to you?
     The President. To me they mean two things. First, when I was very 
young and was first exposed to Thoreau's writings, he crystallized the 
feelings that I had when I was in nature and awakened in me a sense of 
profound obligation to respect and to preserve the natural environment.
    The second thing that impressed me about Thoreau from the very 
beginning is how much he learned about himself and about human nature 
and society by living apart from it for a while, how much, in effect, he 
learned about life by being a solitary person living alone for an 
extended period of time.
    It made a huge impression on me because most people wouldn't think 
that you could learn that much about life living alone. But when I saw 
what he wrote about solitude, for example, he persuaded me that you 
could learn quite a lot.

[At this point, musician Don Henley, founder of 
the institute, responded that Thoreau had helped him discover 
spirituality in nature, as well as a sense of place. Hillary Rodham 
Clinton said she also appreciated 
Thoreau's emphasis on the importance of nature, calling him one of the 
founding fathers of the Nation's environmental movement. Russian 
students at the Municipal Children's Ecological Center in St. 
Petersburg, Russia, who participated by live video hookup, then 
presented Mrs. Clinton with a copy of an artwork they had previously 
presented to the Thoreau Institute.]

Environmental Issues Education

     The President. I would just like to say that I very much appreciate 
the work that you're doing at the institute to teach the Russian 
children about the environment and how we have to preserve it.
    Most adults in all industrial countries were raised to believe that 
in order to have a strong economy you have to destroy part of the 
environment, and we have to change that. We have to raise a whole 
generation of young people who believe that the only way to preserve the 
economy over the long run is to take care of the environment. And if we 
all work at it together, we'll be successful.
    Russian Participant. I think, Mr. President, that we cannot only be 
hopeful that everything will be the way you said right now, but we can 
be positive that it is going to be like that in the future.
    The President. Spacibo [Thank you].

Note: The President spoke at 4:34 p.m. in the Education Center. 
Participants present at the institute were students from Boston Latin 
School, Lincoln-Sudbury High School, and Concord Middle School. The 
Russian video participant spoke in Russian, and his remarks were 
translated by an interpreter.