By 1975 - and continuing to today - all Americans came to believe that they had a "right" to a safe, clean, healthy environment. When I grew up, no one seriously criticized the steel mills and paper mills for the deadly stench they produced - that was the smell of prosperity. In the modern society, no one would tolerate such conditions in an American city.
Civil rights for all Americans, black, white, red, yellow, the rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, et cetera, is not a liberal or a conservative value. It's an American value that I would think that we pretty much all agree on.
The glory of this land has been its capacity for transcending the moral evils of our past. For example, the long struggle of minority citizens for equal rights, once a source of disunity and civil war, is now a point of pride for all Americans. We must never go back. There is no room for racism, anti-Semitism, or other forms of ethnic and racial hatred in this country.
If we are to garner sustained U.S. domestic support for future trade agreements, we have to make sure those Americans who have suffered as a consequence of past agreements have an effective social safety net, adjustment assistance, opportunities for retraining and new job creation that enables all Americans to thrive.
I went to my library, right? And I started to research the Bill of Rights and I did not technically find anything that said all Americans shall eat shrimp with whoever they like, but I found some things that are close enough to infer that I am within my legal rights to enjoy seafood with whomever I choose.
I have never believed we had to choose between either a clean and safe environment or a growing economy. Protecting the health and safety of all Americans doesn't have to come at the expense of our economy's bottom line. And creating thriving companies and new jobs doesn't have to come at the expense of the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, or the natural landscape in which we live. We can, and indeed must, have both.
The soles of Neil Armstrong's boots on the moon made permanent impressions on our souls and in our national psyche. Ann and I watched those steps together on her parent's sofa. Like all Americans we went to bed that night knowing we lived in the greatest country in the history of the world. God bless Neil Armstrong.
Not far from here where we gather today is a symbol of freedom familiar to all Americans - the Liberty Bell. When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public, the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, and a witness said: "It rang as if it meant something."
As a regent, I hope to bring that important perspective of a typical family visitor in combination with my background as a Member of Congress and a proponent of the Smithsonian's efforts to reach all Americans.