This Thanksgiving, SCA is thankful for Earthsaver Melanie Vanvoorhees — at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, she is serving as a SCA Centennial Volunteer Ambassador educating visitors about Theodore Roosevelt’s life and legacy and developing youth programming to increase awareness about pressing conservation topics. #Next100SCA
There is perhaps no historical figure who embodies the spirit of conservation more than Theodore Roosevelt. While he spent much of his time as President championing social activism as the driving force of the Progressive Era, his cornerstone achievements included conserving natural resources and extending federal protection to approximately 230,000,000 acres of land and wildlife. A true visionary and pioneer, Roosevelt devoted his life to advancing the values SCA holds most dear.
What’s your SCA story?
I would have never thought I would be involved in SCA because my bachelor’s degree was in history and not anything in the science field. I applied for the SCA Centennial Volunteer Ambassador program at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site; when I was offered the position, I accepted it instantly. Working with SCA and Sagamore Hill National Historic Site has made me realize conservation has a strong presence in American history and we need to keep that presence strong.
What about Theodore Roosevelt and his role in the Conservation Movement has inspired you the most?
Theodore Roosevelt’s journey as a conservationist is the most inspiring to me because he was raised in late nineteenth-century Manhattan, an area not known for nature, conservation, or wildlife. Despite his urban origins, Theodore understood and cared deeply for the natural world around him. As he matured into a young man, he saw that the natural resources and wildlife of America needed to be conserved (especially the American bison). He never relied on just his understanding of American wildlife and welcomed the tutelage of John Burroughs and John Muir to expand his understanding and knowledge of the topic; it’s incredibly impressive for someone who was born to a wealthy, Manhattan family.
If you could speak with Theodore Roosevelt today, what would you thank him for? What would he thank YOU for?
This is a hard question because there is so much to thank him for. I would thank him for being concerned about the future of America — not only during his time as President or within his lifetime, but his commitment to the American future. Roosevelt understood the long-term effects of conservation in America and he was always thinking about it. As a President, a father, and a conservationist he was concerned about the longevity of American resources. I think he would thank me for interpreting his entire life to the public. Most people come to Sagamore Hill just thinking about Roosevelt as the twenty-sixth President; they don’t realize who he was as a person. After leaving Sagamore Hill, visitors come away with an understanding of his lifestyle and his legacy on the American past, present, and future. Theodore would be proud of all the hard work we put in at Sagamore Hill and how we continue to expand our knowledge and resources to articulate his strengths as an American icon.
What has been your most memorable service experience as a CVA at Sagamore Hill?
Wow, so many memories! My most memorable was attending a National Park Service Centennial event at the American Museum of Natural History. One of the rangers and I attended a screening of the National Park Service Centennial movie. There, we had an opportunity to talk to visitors about Theodore Roosevelt, Sagamore Hill, and the history of the National Park Service. It was memorable for two main reasons: the impact we had on visitors and having the opportunity to present in a museum where Theodore Roosevelt’s work is displayed. The American Museum of Natural History is an awe-inspiring museum with incredible staff and visitation rates. I’m really proud that I can say I was able to participate in such an event as a presenter on behalf of the museum, as I’m typically just a visitor. Upon going home that night, I realized how fortunate I am to be in my current role at Sagamore Hill.
What’s your next earthsaving goal?
My next earthsaving goal is to become less reliant on paper. Our best option for conserving paper would be to cut down on printing and strictly exchange documents electronically. Most people do not understand how much paper people can go through on a daily basis and the impacts this can have on our forests. Mitigating these impacts is instrumental in ensuring the sustainable society Theodore Roosevelt envisioned.
Read more about recent SCA events at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.
- Melanie and John Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service