The South Lawn

12:05 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hi, Mike.  Hi.  David, hi.  Please, thank you.  Everyone is very far away from each other.  That’s good.  We’re learning, right?  Hi, Kevin.  That’s really nice.  Well, this is great to be here.  And we’re doing something I love doing: planting trees.  I’ve always loved it.  And we get great trees.

The First Lady and I are very grateful to be here on the South Lawn of the White House as we celebrate the 50th annual Earth Day, National Park Week, and the upcoming Arbor Day.  And that’s going to be — tell me, David?

SECRETARY BERNHARDT:  Friday.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.  Friday.  Thank you.

As more than 180 nations around the world battle the vicious coronavirus, we continue to mourn the precious souls who have been lost — so sadly lost and so unnecessarily lost.  It should’ve been stopped, and it should’ve been stopped right where it started.  And everyone knows where it started.  But in this time of trial, the beauty of springtime fills us with the peace and the hope of renewal.

We’re pleased to be joined by our great Vice President Mike Pence.  Please, Mike, stand up.  (Applause.)  You have done such a great job on getting us open again.  We’re opening again, Mike.  It’s starting to move.  A lot of states are in great shape and they’re starting to move it along.

And very importantly, Karen Pence, who has been so fantastic and done such a great job representing the country.  Thank you, Karen.  Beautiful job.  (Applause.)

Also here are Secretaries David Bernhardt; Sonny Perdue; Administrator Wheeler — Andrew Wheeler, thank you; and Leader Kevin McCarthy.  And what a job he has done.  And good vote the other day, yesterday.  That was good.

LEADER MCCARTHY:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  How’s that — no, but previous to that.  And when are you voting on the —

LEADER MCCARTHY:  Thursday.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thursday?  Good.  Is there — is that a guarantee or — there’s no guarantee.

LEADER MCCARTHY:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  There’s never a guarantee when you’re dealing with people, right?

LEADER MCCARTHY:  Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  But anyway — but it’s in good shape, right?  Yeah.  Thank you, Kevin, very much.

On this special occasion, we are renewing our strong national commitment on conserving the wonder of God’s creation.  One of the most important ways we uphold this tradition is by protecting our priceless national parks and our public lands.  To support our all-out war against the virus, many of the places that we have here were temporarily closing.  But we will — we will have them open quickly.  As we said, we’re starting to open our country again.

Thanks to our significant progress against the invisible enemy, I am pleased to announce that, in line with my administration’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, we will begin to reopen our national parks and public lands for the American people to enjoy.  So what is that?  Now tell us about that, David.

SECRETARY BERNHARDT:  We’ll roll out with the governors.

THE PRESIDENT:  Right, roll out.

SECRETARY BERNHARDT:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.

SECRETARY BERNHARDT:  We began to reopen facilities.

THE PRESIDENT:  When will they start?

SECRETARY BERNHARDT:  We’ll run right along the side of governors.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  Okay.  That’s going to be very exciting.  That’s going to be very exciting.  You have a lot of land to open up too, don’t you, huh?  People are going to be very happy.

On this Earth Day, we celebrate that America leads the world in environmental stewardship, which is so, so true.  I see it.  I see the love and devotion that so many people, like — David, like you give — and that we continue to have among the cleanest air and cleanest water anywhere on the planet Earth.

We’re also honoring our country’s heritage of conservation, including through the support of One Trillion Trees — and that’s the One Trillion Tree Initiative, which is a very big deal.  We’ll be planting, over a period of time, one trillion trees.  That’s a lot of trees, Kevin.  How do we do that, huh?  Do you have any ideas?  (Laughs.)

LEADER MCCARTHY:  Yes, sir, we do.  We even have a bill.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  That’s great.  That’s going to be exciting.

As a sign of our dedication, in a few moments, the First Lady and I will plant a maple tree right here on the South Lawn of the White House.  Wherever the tree is — where is this tree now?  That’s a beautiful straight trunk.  That’s a triple-A tree.  That’s great.

As our nation grows stronger and greater in the months and years to come — and we will.  We will be bigger, better, stronger than ever before.  You watch what’s happening.  You see it happening already.  There’s such spirit with the concept of the states starting to open.  Such incredible spirit.

This tree will grow also and it will stand tall and beautiful.  And the future generations will be looking at it, and they’ll say, “I wonder who planted that tree.”  And we’ll say it was Kevin and David and Mike and Karen and a whole group of people.  And we really appreciate it.  But they’ll be admiring this tree and they’ll be admiring nine more trees.  We’re planting 10 beautiful specimen trees.  They’re specimens — all specimens.  People may think that’s an exaggeration or that’s a Trump term; actually, they’re sold as specimens.  And they cost more money, but they are better.  I buy a lot of them.

And now I’d like to invite the Vice President up and Karen to say a few words, please.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, Mr. President.  And it is a great honor for us to be here on the South Lawn with you and the First Lady, to be able to plant a tree of promise and a tree of hope.

I know we are here, in the midst of National Park Week, just few days before Arbor Day, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, to plant and commemorate this beautiful maple tree.  But as you said, Mr. President, we also — we also gather at a time of great challenge in the life of our nation.  But it’s a — it’s a time that the American people have met the challenge.  And as you’ve observed, Mr. President, that with your leadership, the American people are — are beginning to step forward and states around the country are beginning to put into practice the Guidelines to Open Up America Again.  And you’re a President who knows that America works when America is working.

And, on — on behalf of the entire White House Coronavirus Task Force, I can assure the American people that we’re going to work very closely with your governors every day to get America safely and responsibly back to work.

But today, with the planting of this tree, Mr. President, you also renew your commitment to preserve and protect and allow for the enjoyment of the vast natural resources of this nation.

I’ve often thought that the three pillars of American greatness are our faith, our freedom, and our vast natural resources.  And today we celebrate that with the planting of this new tree.  And we also celebrate it with a word from — from the Secretary that, at your direction, in the days ahead, we’ll work closely with governors to reopen our national parks so that the American people can enjoy the blessings of those — those extraordinary — those extraordinary places that our family has traveled to so many different times.

Mr. President, I can tell you that Karen and I have so many fond memories of — of loading up in the minivan, driving across the country, making our way to Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon and to Yosemite.  And I know the American people are anxious to see us, on this Earth Day 2020, a few days from Arbor Day, they’re — they’re anxious to get back to enjoying all of those — those beautiful parks.  And we’ll greatly welcome your direction.

And so we thank you for your leadership during this challenging time, Mr. President.  We want to thank the First Lady for her extraordinary compassion and the way she supported American families throughout this ordeal.  And I’m absolutely convinced that with your continued leadership, with the strong leadership that we’ve — we have at states across the country, with the cooperation of the American people, that our — our nation will be growing again soon, just like this beautiful maple will for many years to come.

So thank you, Mr. President.  God bless you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Mike.  Thank you very much.  Kevin, would you come up and say a few words?  And why don’t you stay right there, Mike?  Perfect.

LEADER MCCARTHY:  Mr. President, First Lady, and Vice President, Karen — our Second Lady:  I want to thank you for your work.  I want to thank you for your commitment for the health and safety of every human.

Today, we’re witnessing the planting of the tree of the hope and dream that we know tomorrow will be better than today, that the Earth will be stronger with our health tomorrow than it was today.

This is the first of 1 trillion trees that will be planted around the world.  Trees are the lungs of the Earth.  They inhale carbon dioxide and they exhale oxygen.  When 1 trillion trees are planted around this Earth, that will remove the equivalent of two thirds of all manmade carbon dioxide — or of all carbon — since the Industrial Revolution until today.

So as you continue to work for the health of every human, you show today you are working to make sure the health is even greater with this Earth.  So I congratulate you on this.  And the first of 1 trillion just proves that America will lead the way in every industry, in every part, making it environmentally sound and common sense, but also lead the world in an opportunity that tomorrow will be better.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Kevin.  That’s beautiful.  Thank you.  He gave a lot of facts that a lot of people didn’t know, including me.  I thought that — I just spoke with our great First Lady, and she said, “You know, it’d be wonderful for Karen Pence to say a few words.

People have no idea the incredible job Karen Pence does representing this nation.  Everybody loves her.  She’s special in every way.  And, Karen, I’d like to have you say a few words, please.  You — she didn’t know this, but I’d like — (laughter and applause).

THE SECOND LADY:  Thank you, Mr. President.  I — I do cherish the opportunity to speak because David and I were just talking about, while this tree makes the Earth better and stronger — we talked a lot about mental health.  And that’s an issue that I know the First Lady has been dealing with her whole time that she’s been First Lady.  But I just started doing a little bit with PREVENTS.

And we do want people to understand that, during this crisis, we need to also mitigate the effects that — on our mental health.  And so we ask people to watch out for yourself, check in with yourself every day, check in with those you love.  If there’s something that you like to do — for me, it’s painting; maybe it’s gardening, maybe it’s reading or cooking — we ask people to schedule that into your day so that you have a little bit of time that’s just for you each day. And then we also ask that you talk about the struggles, but also talk about the successes.

So as you have kids who are struggling with not having their graduation ceremony, or they’re not being able to go out and play sports, or they’re missing their friends or their teachers, it’s important to talk with them and let them get those issues out.  But also talk about the successes, some of the great things that are happening while we’re having to stay at home — things you’re learning about your family, games you’re starting to play that maybe you didn’t play before.

And then, last of all, if you’re worried about somebody or you’re worried about yourself, please reach out.  If you go to Facebook.com/WeArePREVENTS, there’s so much help out there.  We don’t want anybody to feel like there isn’t help, because it’s okay to say, “I’m not okay.”

Thank you.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That was very nice.  Thank you, Karen.  Wow.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That was great.

THE PRESIDENT:  That was beautiful.

So, Mike, let’s go over and do it.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Okay.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay?  We’re ready?

(A tree planting ceremony is performed.)

END

12:18 P.M. EDT