Remarks by the Vice President Cheney at Dedication of the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitors Center

Aug 11, 2007, 01:00 ET from White House Press Office

    WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a
 transcript of remarks by the Vice President at Dedication of the Craig
 Thomas Discovery and Visitors Center:
     Grand Teton National Park
     Moose, Wyoming
     10:49 A.M. MDT
     THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Distinguished guests, friends,
 and fellow citizens: It's great to be with you on this perfect summer day.
 I very much appreciate the warm welcome, and bring greetings to all of you
 from the President. While I'm up here in the Tetons, he'll soon be down
 enjoying the charms of central Texas in mid-August. (Laughter.) I think
 I've got the better end of the deal. (Laughter.)
     I was remembering this morning that soon after we came into office, the
 President loaned me a painting of The Three Tetons that's been in the White
 House collection for a long time and hung in the Oval Office for many
 years. It's an original work by Thomas Moran, the great artist for whom one
 of the mountains in the park is named. For nearly seven years it's had a
 prominent spot on my office wall, as a daily reminder of my favorite place
 in the entire world. To see this range and valley even once is an
 experience never to be forgotten. But the chance to return here often, and
 to encounter these natural wonders in every season, is a joy and a
 privilege beyond compare.
     I'm delighted to participate in this dedication, not just in my
 capacity as Vice President but as one with the good fortune to call this
 valley home. On behalf of all of us, I want to welcome our distinguished
 guests -- especially Congressman Zach Wamp of Tennessee, and Wyoming's
 Senator Mike Enzi, our fine Interior Secretary and neighbor from Idaho,
 Dirk Kempthorne, Park Service Director Mary Bomar. Let me also thank the
 Grand Teton Park Superintendent, Mary Gibson Scott. She does an outstanding
 job. And of course all of us are delighted to see Sue Thomas -- Susan
 Thomas here today, by blessing us with her presence.
     Special thanks, as well, to the people of the Grand Teton National Park
 Foundation, who raised a good deal of money for the project from many
 donors of all ages, the youngest being a six-year-old boy named Luke Hohlt.
 I also want to thank all the Park Service employees who serve here at Grand
 Teton. They work very hard and do an outstanding job for all of us.
     In Wyoming, we take real pride in being home to America's first
 national park, in Yellowstone. We're pleased this morning to dedicate the
 National Park System's newest visitor center. It will surely enhance the
 experience of visiting the Tetons for a good many years to come. More than
 that, I believe it'll be a model for future projects, because we have here
 an example of excellent design and well crafted presentations. It's a
 credit to the country -- and all the more so because of the fine name
 that's been placed upon it by an Act of Congress.
     I was fortunate indeed to have known Craig Thomas for many years. First
 he was my constituent, and used to lobby me when I was a Congressman, then
 my successor in the House of Representatives, and then my comrade on the
 Senate side. Always and above all, he was a friend. The sudden passing of
 Senator Thomas left an office interrupted, but it marked, as well, a duty
 fulfilled and a life very well lived. When illness caught him he fought
 very hard, as you would expect from an old Marine. He willed himself to
 carry on, and he stayed at his post until the very end of his strength.
 This, obviously, was a man of rare commitment and character. We feel his
 loss acutely, both here at home, as well as in the nation's capital.
     Our late senator was universally well regarded. There was nothing of
 the cynic about him -- nothing world-weary or self-satisfied. People of
 both parties liked and trusted him because he spoke honestly and plainly,
 held his ground, and kept his word. You could search Washington, D.C. --
 and for that matter, all of Wyoming -- and likely never find someone to say
 a bad word about Craig Thomas. As our friend Ambassador Tom Stroock said:
 "If you didn't like Craig, you had a serious psychological problem."
     Craig was also the very ideal of a senator from the West. He grew up
 close to the land, he loved the outdoors, and he understood life as we live
 it here. He had a practical, reasoning mind. He had a perfect instinct for
 fairness. And all this, taken together, made him a superior voice on
 Western issues. As chairman of the Subcommittee on Parks, and later as its
 ranking member, he was a true friend to the national park system. He
 believed deeply in the Park Service's mission as the guardian of our
 national treasure and the keeper of our national memory.
     Senator Thomas was a strong supporter of President Bush's Parks
 Centennial Initiative, as Secretary Kempthorne has noted. Craig shared with
 the President a belief that stewardship of the parks should engage not just
 the government, but the private sector and the individual citizen. And the
 history of this very park is the best evidence as to why that is the case.
 We wouldn't have this broad stretch of 310,000 acres, as we do today, had
 it not been for a series of affirmative steps, over many years, by the
 government, by the private sector, by volunteers, by philanthropists like
 John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his son, Laurance.
     Six years ago I had the honor of accepting Laurance Rockefeller's gift
 to the country of the JY Ranch -- a tremendous addition to this park, which
 will be a major attraction for generations to come. The President's
 Centennial Initiative will encourage more acts of philanthropic support
 throughout the national park system. At the same time, it will add
 resources that are clearly needed to place the system on course for another
 century of conservation, preservation, and enjoyment. We hope Congress will
 soon pass the President's initiative into law. It's a project worthy of a
 country that leads the world in our regard for the environment, and in the
 care we extend to the wonders of nature.
     Today begins another proud chapter for America, and in particular for
 the American West. As a people with a frontier heritage, Americans have
 always seen the West as a young man's country -- where ambition is welcome;
 where hard work is rewarded; where the possibilities are endless, and the
 world is still in the making.
     All of that rings true, and that is the character of the West. Yet
 there is another tradition found here -- a tradition of respect for
 creation, and humility before the Creator. We know and we appreciate
 natural beauty. We stand before it with awe. And we hear the call of
 stewardship for the land and life around us, just as our grandparents did.
 Those earlier generations carefully tended to our landmarks, and vistas,
 and habitats. Gathered in this incredible corner of the world, we cannot
 help but feel grateful for their foresight and good sense. And we want our
 grandchildren to feel that way about us.
     For the time given to us, the citizens of today hold the national parks
 in trust. Their long-term condition, and the ability of future generations
 to enjoy them as we do, will depend largely on decisions we make in our own
 time. This new facility shows that we take that responsibility very
 seriously. It's a symbol of our commitment to thinking ahead, keeping right
 priorities, and choosing wisely. Today we can say with confidence that
 we've done something good for our country.
     And so I'm honored to join in this official opening of the "Craig
 Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center" at Grand Teton National Park. I
 dedicate it to the good of this park, to the service of our nation, and to
 the memory of a fine man.
     Thank you.  (Applause.)
     END          10:58 A.M. MDT

SOURCE White House Press Office