By Jay Watson, SCA Western Region Vice President
Saturday, June 18th was quite a day in Yosemite Valley, and quite a day for me.
President Obama and his family spent the weekend in the park – part R&R, part PR – and a group of about 200 invitees joined Mr. Obama for his speech on the importance of national parks to people and their health, to local economies, and to the remarkable natural and cultural landscapes of our country.
SCA was provided two invitations to the event, and SCA Regional Development Director Kristi Davis and I drove up the night before, grateful that CEO Jaime Matyas was preoccupied at the June board meeting at Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, CO (sorry you couldn’t make it, Jaime. Sort of.)
After a night in Mariposa, a town so dependent on Yosemite National Park, we arrived in the Incomparable Valley at 7:00am for a security check in, though the President wasn’t scheduled to speak until 11:00. When the White House gives you a deadline, you meet it. Once we cleared security, we were shuttled over to Sentinel Bridge.
After milling about with many of SCA’s Park Service partners, suddenly we witnessed the Presidential motorcade arrive…in Yosemite…it was quite a sight. President Obama laid out his vision for why our national parks are so crucial, especially to America’s youth and as harbingers of climate change – the evidence of which is pretty clear if you take the time to listen to what park biologists are finding out.
Maybe you saw some of the coverage. If not, you can watch the President make his remarks here. Clearly enjoying himself, in his shirtsleeves, Mr. Obama commented that Yosemite “changes you just by being here.” And SCA is fortunate to send dozens of members to this park each year, where they play an integral role in protecting and preserving its wondrous resources.
What a day it was. Kristi Davis snapped some up-close-and-personal photos of the President as the summer sun shined down on Yosemite’s legendary granite, Yosemite Falls roared in the distance, the Merced River ﬂowed clear and cold, and visitors ﬂocked to the park to breathe in its majesty. It was a day of great celebration for the Centennial Anniversary of the National Park Service. And yes, it was an honor and a privilege to see and listen to the President of the United States.