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December 15, 1999

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December 15, 1999

In just about two weeks, the calendar will flip from 1999 to 2000, an occasion that people all over the world will mark with grand celebrations. As we approach this historic milestone, I will be using this space to talk about some of the activities that we have been planning here at the White House.

For more than two years, I have worked with my staff at the White House Millennium Council preparing for this extraordinary moment. Quite apart from the extravaganza planned for the National Mall on Dec. 31, however, we have asked Americans all over the country to contemplate their future by considering their past, or in the words we have chosen as our theme, to "honor the past, and imagine the future." From Ellis Island to Angel Island, communities across the land have taken up the charge -- considering those aspects of our remarkable history that should be preserved for our children and grandchildren, and saving our nation's most valued treasures for future generations.

The job of saving our historic treasures will not be complete, though, until we take steps to protect and preserve what is perhaps the greatest treasure of all -- our planet. That is why, this week, I will kick off a new millennium project called "Millennium Green."

All across America, communities are losing trees, forests and green open spaces to rapid and often poorly planned development. By tapping the resources of federal agencies as well as nonprofit and private sector partners, Millennium Green hopes to stem this tide by encouraging every individual, community and business to plant a tree or a garden. The other goals of the project include identifying historic trees and groves to preserve, and educating young people about the environmental health that trees and plantings provide -- from controlling erosion to protecting our water supply, absorbing noise pollution, creating habitat for wildlife, and cleaning the air.

Already school and community groups across the nation are taking the first steps to plant trees and gardens. Here are just a few of the exciting projects they have undertaken:

When students at Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., discovered that their school district was retiring an old bus, they teamed up with AmeriCorps and their school district's maintenance crew to turn the vehicle into a greenhouse.

The National Tree Trust has helped The Greening of Detroit, a community nonprofit, to restore inner-city Detroit through reforestation and environmental education. In the last 10 years, The Greening of Detroit has planted over 24,000 trees, and trained residents and schoolchildren to become stewards of their environment. Master Gardener Jack McCoy distributed 10,000 flower packets from America the Beautiful to start Children's Memorial Gardens on school grounds in memory of those lost in the Oklahoma City bombing. Over 400,000 flowering bulbs have been planted so that Oklahoma City will be in full bloom on the anniversary of that tragic event.

In New York City, volunteers from the West Side Community Garden organized a cleanup campaign to remove tons of accumulated debris from a demolished, undeveloped urban renewal site in their neighborhood, and turned it into a community garden. Now, an urban oasis of flowers and vegetables thrives, right in the middle of one of the most densely developed areas of the world.

American Forests, at 125 years, one of the oldest organizations in the country working to build a green infrastructure, plans to plant as many as 5 million trees next year, so that by the end of 2001, they will have reached their goal of planting 20 million trees for the new millennium.

Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and TreePeople, the Los Angeles Unified School District is removing 20 million square feet of asphalt -- nearly a third of the asphalt on school grounds -- and replacing it with trees designed to shade, cool and protect children and their classrooms.

Among the most committed stewards of this country's trees and forests are the more than 67,000 family forest owners who are members of the American Forest Foundation's American Tree Farm System. Together, they own 25 million acres of prime, productive forestland. But what connects each and every one of them is a commitment to leave their land to their children in better shape than when they got it.

This is the true spirit of Millennium Green and our entire celebration of the new millennium: By giving gifts to the future -- trees, gardens or other treasures, we will be able to leave our country and our planet in better shape for our children and grandchildren than it was when we inherited it.

If you'd like to learn more about Millennium Green, you can visit their web site at www.millenniumgreen.usda.gov, or call their office at 202-720-2593.

To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.


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Talking It Over: 1999

December 15, 1999

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