President Obama Speaks to the Horace Kephart Legacy

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Today my cousin Libby sent me the transcript of a talk recently delivered by President Obama—a talk centered around America's Great Outdoors Initiative.  Tucked within those remarks are these words about my great grandfather, Horace Kephart, about whom I have written here many times on this blog, as, for example, here.

President Obama's words, which I reproduce here, make me, might I say it, proud?  They also make me hopeful.  (Added as a postscript, in my bronchitis haze:  I allude to legacies here, but I don't make a very persuasive link to the photograph.  And so, a correction:  In addition to the land my great grandfather helped to rescue from plunder, he sired the children depicted here.  The young, soulful-eyed man on the left was my grandfather, who sired my father, who is a continuing great dad to my brother, sister, and me.)
So conservation became not only important to America, but it became one of our greatest exports, as America’s beauty shone as a beacon to the world.  And other countries started adopting conservation measures because of the example that we had set.

Protecting this legacy has been the responsibility of all who serve this country.  But behind that action, the action that’s been taken here in Washington, there’s also the story of ordinary Americans who devoted their lives to protecting the land that they loved.

That’s what Horace Kephart and George Masa did.  This is a wonderful story.  Two men, they met in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina -- each had moved there to start a new life.  Horrified that their beloved wilderness was being clear-cut at a rate of 60 acres a day, Horace and George worked with other members of the community to get the land set aside.  The only catch was that they had to raise $10 million to foot the bill.

But far from being discouraged, they helped rally one of the poorest areas in the country to the cause.  A local high school donated the proceeds from a junior class play.  Preachers held “Smokey Mountain Sunday” services and encouraged their congregations to donate.  Local businesses chipped in.  And students from every grade in the city of Asheville -– which was still segregated at the time –- made a contribution.

So stories like these remind us what citizenship is all about.  And by the way, last year Michelle and I, we were able to walk some of the trails near Asheville and benefit from the foresight of people that had come before us.  Our daughters, our sons were able to enjoy what not only Teddy Roosevelt did but what ordinary folks did all across the country.  It embodies that uniquely American idea that each of us has an equal share in the land around us, and an equal responsibility to protect it.


Maya Ganesan said...

Wow! How exciting this must be for your family--and how proud you all must be of him.

p.s. Hope that bronchitis clears up soon!

patti.mallett_pp said...

Thanks for sharing this, Beth. What a wonderful legacy you have been given, and you have done so much to pass it on.

Anna Lefler said...

Oh, I love this. I'm so proud for your family.

That part of the country is very special to my family, too.

What a lovely honor this is!

:-) A.

Beth F said...

And you should be proud. As I've told you before, Mr. BFR is a great admirer of Horace Kephart.

Dottie Jo said...

Beth - I've just recently discovered Horace Kephart while researching my family tree. My great-great-grandmother was Susanna Amanda Kephart - she was Horace's aunt, and the sister of your great-great-grandfather Isaiah Lafayette Kephart. Guess that makes us cousins!
Horace was an amazing man, and I look forward to researching him, and to reading about him on your blog!

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