No. 1179



Here at the beginning of my visit with you today, I am going to admit something that may be a positive rather than a negative. I am going to admit that I am a very simple-minded person. I just think America is so beautiful that any person living here who does not appreciate what we have should have their head examined.
When I thought about this, I recalled the famous song by Katherine Lee Bates titled, “America the Beautiful.” The first verse goes, “O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain. America! America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.” Man, what a great country.
One morning some time ago when Janis was visiting her son in Ohio, I had trouble sleeping and turned on our PBS television station. There I saw a program that was so thrilling to me. It was about the Big Bend National Park down in West Texas, bordering Mexico. You talk about variety: this park contains more than 1,200 species of plants, 450 species of birds, 56 species of reptiles and 75 species of mammals. The highlight of the park, on the Southern border, is the Rio Grande River that begins in the San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado and travels 1,865 miles to the Gulf of Mexico near Brownsville, Texas. For 1,250 miles it is the boundary between the United States and Mexico.
What I saw that morning was through the eyes of a man and his wife who lived in South Texas but who had never seen this park. The program began with a trip across the river in a row boat, for $5, and when they arrived on the Mexico side they mounted donkeys that took them another couple of miles to a remote village, where life was about as slow as you can get. It was so peaceful and quiet and the inhabitants acted like they did not have a care in the world.
Then the program really got interesting, and so beautiful. They took a river float trip that took them through miles of canyons up to 1,500 feet deep, where sunlight may reach the bottom only briefly on winter days. As in other parts of the park, your ears may tell you more than your eyes. Listen for beavers crawling through the brush, catch a glimpse as one slides down the riverbank into the water. Turtles, especially red-eared sliders, often sun themselves on rocks and logs just above the waterline. Great blue herons and green kingfishers are just some of the many birds you may see flying along the river.
Along the more open areas of the Rio Grande, you may see local people fishing, farming, and engaging in other traditional activities. And here is where it was so beautiful that it is impossible to describe to you. These quiet stretches of the river offer expansive views of the colorful buttes, mesas, and mountains in both the United States and Mexico. Far fewer people float the open water, much more thrilling through the fast rapids, so it is possible to go for days without seeing another boater.
As I bring this brief journey to a close, obviously it is impossible to give you anything but a cursory view of this fantastic national park with so much to offer and beauty unsurpassed. However, it is typical of the real beauty we have all over this country. Whether it’s Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons, the Redwood Forrest, Mount Rushmore, Portland Head Light, the Gateway Arch, Carlsbad Caverns, or the Grand Canyon, we have a fantastic country. I would like to see more of it, including the Big Bend National Park. We must preserve this beautiful land for future generations of Americans to enjoy.
(Editor’s Note: THE DEAL OF THE CENTURY – Begin your day on a positive note – 365 days for $12. This will benefit the Bookcase for Every Child project. Go to to subscribe.)