I think what’s been misunderstood in this entire fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico is the spiritual factor. People in our country are heartsick over this. They sit and watch our natural birthright, this “gift outright” that Robert Frost called North America, being disfigured. And there’s nothing that they can do. There’s nothing that their kids or parents or anyone that they know can do. It’s as if we’re all a bunch of by-standers, watching part of our country get destroyed. I have a small recommendation that could fill a big part of our national heart. Put out an offer to the people of America – not just to the youth, but to anyone who can participate. Create a modern Civilian Conservation Corps, and deploy it in all the states of the Gulf. Invite any American who wants to join to come down south this summer and to clean up the beaches and wetlands of the Gulf. I know that there will be those who warn you of the hazards in this, of the possibility of people getting hurt. Let people sign releases if it’s necessary – but give Americans the chance to do something. I got this idea from the headmaster of Choate Rosemary Hall, the school in Connecticut that John F. Kennedy attended back in the 1930s:
“It is now June 3 and millions of high school boys and girls, college men and women, are finishing up their academic work,” he wrote me, “some of them with jobs, many of them no doubt without jobs. Is it not within the purview of any of our many federal agencies to mobilize a national ‘peace corps’ or national environmental protection corps for the next three months, for the purpose of capturing the oil that is already beginning to cause irreparable harm to our environment and to those who live in the Gulf area?”There’s a wonderful story behind this. When he was a student at Choate, young Jack Kennedy organized a group of trouble-making classmates, whom he christened “The Muckers.” He gave each member a little shovel in order to show that he belonged. Maybe you could give that nickname to the huge brigade of people whom I predict will join you to clean up the Gulf this summer. Maybe the best thing that you could do right now – while slapping BP with the bill for all of this – is to let the American people regain the spirit of young Jack Kennedy and reclaim this America the beautiful of ours.
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An extraordinary proposal to the President of the United States