For the people
That’s a little video from a recent trip Whitney and I took to Colorado a few weeks back where we spent a week relaxing and enjoying the outdoors. A good deal of our time was spent in an area called the Indian Peaks Wilderness that’s part of the Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests—just south of Rocky Mountain National Park. All the beauty of the Park but without all the crowds, as I like to say.
The best part is that (like many wilderness areas) the Indian Peaks Wilderness is free to everyone. In most areas you can simply pull up, park and go—pack out what you pack in is all that’s asked of you. There is one particularly popular area of trailhead parking however that charges a nominal $9 for an entire week of use. That means for the cost of going to a movie you get access to thousands of acres of the most beautiful country we’ve got for an entire week. I honestly don’t think there is a better deal in the world. (FYI, access to all of our National Parks generally costs less than $10 per vehicle and an annual pass to visit all of them is still only $80—$10 if you’re over 65. Not too shabby.)
The point I’m slowly making is that we should all be thankful that our government had the foresight to set aside these lands for all of us to enjoy. I’m sure there were cries of socialism or communism (or whatever the boogie man was in 1864) at the thought of public land being set aside and administered by the federal government "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”
But thank god they did.
Because from where I sit, the most basic job of government is to make our lives better, to do the things we can’t do individually. And I would argue there’s no greater example of this than the setting aside of these parks for our enjoyment. Theodore Roosevelt famously said upon viewing the Grand Canyon for the first time, "keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve it." For the most part, we’ve held true to that. And for that, we should all feel a sense of great national pride.
Sure, we pay for these parks. We all pay for them in our taxes. But what if we didn’t? What if we hadn’t set them aside? Would they have been developed? Would they have been bought by our wealthiest individuals for their personal use? Or would these wonders have been subjected to man’s thinking that perhaps he can improve them? Probably all of those and more. And our lives would be worse as a result.
This is a great country. It’s a wonderful thing that all of us can see its greatest natural wonders for a nominal fee. It is a testament to who we are and what we stand for as a nation.
So what if in the coming months we began to hear the words “For the health and wellness of the people?” What if we realized we’re all in this together and that my wellbeing and your wellbeing is all of our wellbeing? Is our individual financial standing really that much more important than our collective moral standing?
I hope not.
I believe we owe every American a chance to be well and live a fruitful life for the same reason we owe every American an education: because a life spent sick or ignorant is no life at all. Not in the United States of America that I believe in, anyway.
For the health and wellness of the people.
Someday we’ll all be proud of what we’re getting ready to do. The same pride our forefathers should feel for having given me the gift of countless acres of pristine wilderness in which to spend a week and renew both my spirit and my faith in the things we are capable of as a country.