Al Gore, Grand Canyon, Italy, Theodore Roosevelt

To Be Thankful

Grand CanyonA Grand Canyon

Looking for something to be thankful for this holiday season?

Lift a glass to the memory of the 26th President of the United States. He saved the Grand Canyon – saved it, I’m convinced, so that I could have the marvelous experience of standing at its rim on a cold, clear Christmas Day knowing that there are some things too perfect to let the heavy hand of man intrude.

Theodore Roosevelt called the Grand Canyon “the most wonderful scenery in the world” and compared it to “ruined temples and palaces of bygone ages.” It is a temple and thank God Roosevelt had the vision and grit to protect it from the zinc and copper miners who were – its hard to believe today – determined to exploit the Canyon in the early days of the 20th Century.

On May 6, 1903, as part of his celebrated “loop tour” that took Teddy to Yellowstone, Yosemite and eventually the Grand Canyon, Roosevelt stood at the south rim and spoke words that still ring with universal truth and his vision. TR’s trip, the longest and most ambitious ever taken to that point in presidential history, is recounted beautifully in Douglas Brinkley’s fine book The Wilderness Warrior.

Reflecting on the majesty of what the locals called “the big ditch,” Roosevelt said simply, “You cannot improve upon it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. Keep it for your children and your children’s children and all who come after you as one of the great sights for Americans to see.”

When Congress failed to act on his request to protect the Canyon as a National Park, Roosevelt took his own action on January 11, 1908. Now, there’s something to be thankful for.