Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tahoe Summit 2013 - Harry Reid introduces Al Gore

You've been welcomed, I welcome you again.  Especially I want to acknowledge Dianne Feinstein, who has been a partner in this operation since she came to the senate.  Dianne Feinstein has had a love affiar with this great lake since she was a child.  Her visits here those many years ago recognized the quality of this natural resource, the beauty of nature.  I acknowledge governor Brown and governor Sandoval and I've said this before and I'll say it again: they've set an example with this beautiful part of the world in acknowledging that a progressive governor and a conservative governor can work together for the good of the people of their states.  So, thank you very much, governors.

We didn't get a confirmation of this until the last minute, but I'm so thankful and we're all fortunate to have with us today the Russian ambassador to the United States, ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and I'm sorry because we didn't know he was coming but I would like somebody to escort the ambassador up here... [applause] I've had the good fortune and I appreciate very much the many courtesies he's extended to me.  He's always available, always returns his phone calls, even though sometimes the subject of the conversation isn't the most pleasant.  We work together and I have great admiration for him because he and I do our best working for the betterment of our two sovereign nations.  Thank you very much for being the first Russian ambassador ever to see Lake Tahoe.

You see, one reason that he's interested in this beautiful lake is that in his country, they have the other lake.  There are only two alpine glacial lakes in the world, Lake Tahoe and Lake Baikal.  Now, I told him today that he is not to boast about the size of Lake Baikal. [laughter] We love this lake that we share with California.  It is a beauty of nature.  Lake Baikal is interesting: it's 400 miles long and 50 miles wide, and that lake has more than 20% of all the fresh water in the world in that one lake.  They have freshwater seals and all kinds of unusual animals.

 Now, we have done some really good things: we have now the Tahoe-Baikal institute that has been going on for a significant number of years. [applause] It's a program of cultural and environmental exchanges between students and academics.  It's a wonderfull organization.  I've been to Lake Baikal: it is stunning, and if Mark Twain could've seen that he would've said the same thing about Lake Baikal that he said about Lake Tahoe "the fairest place in all the earth."  and I'm confident that these two places, Lake Baikal and Lake Tahoe are two of the fairest places in all the earth.  We should all be proud that we have done so much to preserve both these lakes.  We can criticize the former Soviet Union and russia all we want, but we should acknowledge that they have done a great job of protecting that great lake.

See more pictures of Sand Harbor on Google+ 

So, let's talk a little bit about really how this summit came about, how the first one came about.  I was a junior senator and I had been coming to the lake for a long time.  I was elected to my first statewide office in 1970 and everyone complained about Lake Tahoe.  The quality of the lake wasn't what it used to be, and so I was up here and the press said "What are you going to do about it?"  and what I wanted to say was "How the hell am I supposed to know?  I don't know." but, what I did say is this: "I think the only thing left is a presidential summit."  Now, folks, I'd never been to a presidential summit, I frankly didn't know they existed.  [laughter]

But I called my friend Al Gore.  Al Gore and I have known each other since 1982.  If there were ever two non-blood brothers in the world it's him and I.  I just think so much of him because he's been so good to me and I've tried to reciprocate.  And I said, "Mr. Vice President, here's what we have, and what I've asked for is a presidential summit.  Will you help me?"  and he said "Yes."   Now, as I look back at how I felt about this 16 years ago, I knew this basin was at risk: I knew that algae was growing, I knew that lake temperatures had increased, but I thought 'well, maybe we'll have a good photo op.' but that isn't how it worked.

Gore and Clinton, they weren't going to settle for a photo-op.  They had four cabinet officers come here, not only for a visit but to do hearings with the people here.  Environmentalists, developers, state and local government and more than 50 organizations participated.  It was really something.  Now I can look back, and, actually, we spent two days that first summit, it wasn't something that was good for our states from a public relations perspective for one day, not just for our nation, but it was an international event for two days, and people focused on this great part of nature that was being hurt.  And, it was a wonderfull event.  And we finished this event with speeches that were given, but as soon as we finished it, there was a presidential executive order designating this lake as a national priority; and that's the main reason that we've been able to spend here since that time $1.8 billion dollars.  Pretty good, huh?

I had the good fortune about a month ago to go to the renaming of the Environmental Protection Agency complex in Washington, DC, Named after President Clinton; and that speech he gave was a typical Clinton speech. He pretended it was unprepared, but it was prepared.  [laughter] and he started by saying (and this is paraphrasing but pretty close to every word) he said "I'm gonna lay out the things that we've done for the environment during my 8 years as president..." and he said "We've done a lot, but I want everyone here to understand that everything I'm going to talk about could never have happened without Al Gore."  and he said "Al Gore was the quarterback of the things I'm going to talk about."

Well, I have already told you how I feel about this good man.  He has been a member of the congress of the United States, where we first met, a United States senator, Vice President of the United States, ran for president twice (I supported him both times) but the most significant thing he has done was to alert the world to what's happening to our world. He's been tireless.  He devotes the vast majority of his time to explaining to the world, not just the United States, the world, what's happening to this world.  Now, when the history books are written about this era and other eras; when they're written about this era they're going to talk about the most important messenger that has existed for saving this Earth: it's my pleasure to introduce Al Gore.