Remarks by Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez Honoring Thomas Jefferson and NOAA
On April 13, 2007, at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the anniversary of the birthday of the third President of the United States was celebrated with a wreath-laying ceremony. The event also honored NOAA’s 200th anniversary. In 1807, Jefferson created our nation’s first scientific agency–the Survey of the Coast, an early forerunner of NOAA. Department of Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez was the keynote speaker at the event; his remarks follow.
AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
Friday, April 13, 2007
CONTACT OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
Remarks to Commemorate President Jefferson's Birthday and the 200th Anniversary of NOAA
Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC
It is a great honor to participate in this celebration of President Jefferson’s life, service and extraordinary gifts to our nation.
This memorial stands as America’s tribute to the patriot who was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and who served as our nation’s first Secretary of State, our second Vice President and our third President.
Once pronounced "the most powerful apostle of democracy there has ever been," Jefferson was truly a renaissance man: a political philosopher, diplomat, architect, musician, inventor, farmer, scientist. Science, he said, was his passion.
In 1807, President Jefferson signed legislation creating our nation’s first scientific agency--the Survey of the Coast--which this year is celebrating its 200th anniversary.
This visionary statesman recognized the need to chart coastal waters to promote the trade and security of our young country.
Commerce and industry at the time was concentrated along the Atlantic coast. It relied chiefly on waterborne traffic. But sketches were few and imperfect. Early mariners had to learn from the shipwrecks of others.
President Jefferson recognized that efficient maritime commerce and border defense were essential to the nation’s independence and prosperity. The tools to succeed were accurate charts of shores, waters, and hazards to safe navigation.
Progress was slow. But President Jefferson put the survey in the hands of Ferdinand Hassler, a scientist who was committed to excellence and accuracy.
Those preliminary efforts set the compass for the survey’s maturity 200 years later into the anchor of a world-class scientific organization, the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
When President Jefferson created the Survey, the agency was responsible for approximately 60 nautical miles off our shores. Today, our Exclusive Economic Zone extends 200 nautical miles. And our country has more than 95,000 miles of coastline.
Waterborne commerce remains the backbone of the U.S. economy. It’s a $1 trillion industry supporting more than 13 million U.S. jobs.
Over 98 percent of the tonnage and more than 50 percent of the value of our foreign trade is conveyed via the maritime transportation system.
At the Commerce Department we acknowledge President Jefferson’s mandate to "Cultivate peace and commerce with all," a quote from 1802, which is actually inscribed on the wall of our building downtown.
For two centuries in both peace and wartime, the Survey of the Coast, which Jefferson championed, has provided navigational tools to safely and efficiently move cargo a nd people through our coastal waterways, generating jobs and opportunities. We can only think that President Jefferson would be very proud.
Today, the work of the Coast Survey continues. It is part of the larger NOAA operation that is committed to America’s leadership in environmental science, service and stewardship.
Jefferson once said, "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past."
On this, the anniversary of his birth and the 200th anniversary of the scientific agency he helped create, it’s our privilege to celebrate the endless possibilities of the future--and the legacies of the past--made richer by this wise and visionary patriot.