Though Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was probably preaching to the choir, his words appeared to reach both the minds and hearts of a very receptive audience at the Sun Valley Inn's Limelight Room on Friday night.
As keynote speaker for the 2007 Sun Valley Wellness Festival, Kennedy's speech, "Our Environmental Destiny," focused on the interconnection between the environment and American democracy. With no notes or papers, Kennedy reminded the audience of his legacy as a Kennedy and expressed pride in being an American citizen despite actions of the current administration.
Kennedy's connection to Sun Valley goes back many decades. He noted that not only did Averell Harriman convince his father, Robert Kennedy, to run for the New York Senate, but his youngest brother, Douglas, was given the middle name of Harriman.
However, Kennedy's evening agenda was to speak out on the damage caused by the environmental policies of President George W. Bush.
"This is the worst environmental president we have had in our history," Kennedy said, receiving an arousing applause from listeners. "This White House has eviscerated 30 years of environmental law."
An environmental activist for 24 years, Kennedy said the White House has put "polluters in charge of virtually all the (environmental) agencies."
"They're suppose to be protecting Americans from pollution," he said. "By the time this administration leaves office, they will have mined an area the size of Delaware and its all illegal...(though) the Clean Water Act was changed to make their mining legal. Corporate lobbyists run our government.
"There is nothing wrong with having business people in government. It is a good thing if your objective is to improve confidence and expertise. But these things are not serving the public interest."
Kennedy continues to fight his battles on water contamination. He said mercury pollution has caused mental disabilities in children after their mothers eat mercury-contaminated fish. He said testing had revealed alarming levels of mercury in his own body. Kennedy said that though his fishing and other outdoor excursions take place mainly in the Hudson Valley, Idaho is not immune to pollution.
He contended that Americans are the most uninformed people on the planet because "we have a negligent and indolent press." He said the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, a former requirement of the Federal Communications Commission that broadcast licensees address important issues and do so in an impartial way, has resulted in corporate manipulation of the news. He blamed the administrations of both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton for the doctrine's disappearance.
Kennedy reminded the audience that they are trustees of the planet for their children.
"The land connects us to our past and our history," he said. "It is our history, and it is ultimately our character and virtue as people."