“Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us, and training them into a better race to inhabit the land and pass it on. Conservation is a great moral issue for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.” -Theodore Roosevelt
There are many reasons behind why we do what we do. Conservation for its own sake is reason enough; the inherent value of the land and wildlife is sufficient cause for our efforts to protect, promote, and enhance wild places. The desire to leave “even a better land for our descendants” is one of our greatest motivations in our day-to-day work. As Roosevelt so elegantly expressed, we also feel a great sense of patriotic duty to work for the preservation of the land that makes up our country.
This sense of duty and responsibility extends beyond the actual conservation work to how we pass on the land to our children. If we fail to instill the value of the land and wildlife and the obligation of protecting it, to each new generation, our efforts today are in vain. This purpose is arguably of even higher importance than anything we accomplish in our own time. Training this “better race” must begin with teaching our children about the lives sacrificed to establish, build, and defend this country. Without this understanding, we cannot hope to ignite the resolve to endure in the perpetual toil that is the work of conservation.
As Americans, we owe our home land, our culture, and our very existence to the soldiers who are buried in the graves we decorate today. For us, one of our greatest honors is to contribute in some small way to the higher purpose that called them. The remembrance of these lives, and the families who suffered their loss, is not enough. We all share a collective calling to carry on their work, and “insure the safety and continuance of the nation.”