“With the development of our industrial and commercial life, there are more and more of those who are engaged in purely clerical activities. All of this makes it more necessary than ever that we should stimulate every possible interest in out of door health giving recreation.”
Calvin Coolidge: Address to the National Conference on Outdoor Recreation in Washington, DC: "The Democracy of Sports"
May 22, 1924
88 years ago our President Calvin Coolidge spoke these words about the need for citizens to participate in outdoor recreation. Our country is facing an ongoing epidemic of obesity in our citizenry, which is causing strain on our ability to function as a society. We have children and their parents who cannot see how the lack of healthy living is damaging their lives when it is right in front of them. Society cannot force this moral obligation on individuals and children through public education, legislation or forced participation in collective/individual sports, though it tries in some cases to teach healthy living through gardening initiatives and food offerings in cafeterias. Society needs to change through personal responsibility! Again, this cannot happen through Government legislation, though it may be possible to help facilitate through some Government action. We allocate monies on the Local, State, and Federal levels to preserve open spaces for parks and recreational spaces, but have no mechanism to force individuals to use them. Coolidge goes on to say “It cannot be that our country is making a great outlay for playgrounds in our schools, for athletic fields in our colleges, for baseball fields in our cities, for recreation parks in our metropolitan districts, for State and national forest reservations, unless these all represent an opportunity for a real betterment of the life of the people. These are typically American in all their aspects. They minister directly to the welfare of all our inhabitants.”, which speaks directly to my above point of Government facilitation, but no way to force action.
More and more society allows the citizenry to accept others lifestyle choices as being “their choices”. Which I agree with, and is very much a libertarian viewpoint. Does it mean we should not act to encourage more healthy living through better recreational habits? If done without the influence of Government, then I say yes. We need to encourage our neighbors to be active and healthy. It is no longer acceptable to allow ourselves to step back and watch as individuals and children become sedentary. People should no longer be afraid to “say something” to parents or individuals who spend all of their time indoors watching TV, playing video games or surfing the internet. Even if they do not heed the warnings and good will we are trying to bestow upon them, at least we are trying. I have the right to speak my mind; I am sick and tired of people telling me that I should stay out of others lives. Person to person interaction is the only actionable way to get through to the masses. We have had many Government programs to help “get the word out” or “educate”. I remember Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Bush Sr. when I was growing up pursuing new initiatives in public schools for physical fitness. Every president since Ike has had a Council on Physical Fitness. If you ask me they have all failed! Obesity is at its worst. We need grassroots level participation. We need people who are not afraid to speak out and tell those around us who are choosing unhealthy lifestyles that they are hurting themselves and society as a whole. Coolidge goes on to make this point by saying, “Out of this conference I trust there may come a better appreciation of the necessary development of our life along these directions. They should be made to contribute to health, to broader appreciation of nature and her works, to a truer insight into the whole affair of existence. They should be the means to acquainting all of us with the wonders and delights of this world in which we live, and of this country of which we are the joint inheritors. Through them we may teach our children true sportsmanship, right living, the love of being square, the sincere purpose to make our lives genuinely useful and helpful to our fellows. All of these may be implanted through a wise use of recreational opportunities.”
Through community and personal outreach we need to teach our fellow citizens that recreation and actively pursuing sport is necessary to fulfill healthy living and participation is obligatory. We should fear no reprisal when trying to influence those in society who may try to avoid this shared American value. Everyone can benefit from the leisure of recreational sport from time to time. Unwinding and disconnecting from everyday life, especially for those in urban areas and those with “connected” jobs will benefit the most. We have been granted the resources by our forefathers and past citizenry, we need to enjoy them. This summer I encourage all to visit parks, whether Local, State or Federal and once again take pleasure in the bountiful nature we enjoy as Americans. I want to leave you with how our 30th President of the United States ended his address to the National Conference on Outdoor Recreation.
“Our country is a land of cultured men and women. It is a land of agriculture, of industries, of schools, and of places of religious worship. It is a land of varied climes and scenery, of mountain and plain, of lake and river. It is the American heritage. We must make it a land of vision, a land of work, of sincere striving for the good, but we must add to all these, in order to round out the full stature of the people, an ample effort to make it a land of wholesome enjoyment and perennial gladness. “