Arbor Day started with a president who cared

In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt gave a proclamation, as presidents do; this one, however, was different than most speeches. This one was written for and given to students. The thought of a President writing a speech for people my age seems kind of strange. That is until you read it. The general idea of the speech is that the younger generation needs to care about trees, but we’ll get to that in a second. But, why was the President talking to school children about trees?

Arbor Day is a holiday that is dedicated to the planting of trees. The first American Arbor day was in Nebraska City, Nebraska in 1872. The holiday gained popularity and, in 1906, even the President saw the importance of it. He gave several speeches on the importance of conserving the forest to the lumber industry; but Major Israel McCreight had a different idea. He urged Roosevelt to give a speech to the youth.

Throughout history humans have had a nasty habit of using, and wasting, resources and not caring about replacing them until they’re almost gone. In Roosevelt’s speech, he said, “Any nation which in its youth lives only for the day, reaps without sowing.” That means any nation that takes without replacing, is going to fail in the future.

“A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as hopeless; forests which are so used that they cannot renew themselves will soon vanish, and with them all their benefits,” he said. This is why we replace trees on Arbor Day. Ideally, for every tree that got cut down ,another would be replaced. It wasn’t until we were in danger of losing our forests that we started taking steps to reverse the damage. 

In the same address Roosevelt said, “In your full manhood and womanhood, you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied, and man so thoughtlessly destroyed; and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used, but for what we have wasted.” Using natural resources is not a bad thing so long as they are used responsibly and replaced so that others can use them, too.

“The road to success is the right use of what we have and the improvement of present opportunity,” Roosevelt said. Just because something is good does not mean that we should stop improving. At one point in time there were cellphones as big as a brick, before that there were pay phones, and before that you could only call someone from your house. 

Arbor Day is important because it forces us to look forward to the future, to what’s next. It’s a time to give a gift to the next generation. When a tree is planted as a little tree it doesn’t have much use; but as years go by it grows into something that can be beneficial in many ways.

As time went on, Arbor Day, though it is still practiced in some places, was changed to Earth Day. With less of a focus on planting trees and more of a focus on preserving the Earth in general.

– All content by Lauren Murphy of No Adults Allowed