The story was picked up by newspapers as far away as Africa, Turkey and China. The headlines read something like this: "100-Year-Old Kayaker Donates $20 Million." The centenarian was Kathryn Wasserman Davis, who presented this tremendously generous gift to Scenic Hudson--the organization I lead -- on June 15.
Mrs. Davis is a respected and much-honored champion of world peace who is equally comfortable sharing her message of global harmony with presidents, prime ministers and college students. She is just as passionate about the environment. From her hilltop home above the Hudson River, she captures on canvas the magnificent landscapes viewed from her windows. And as those headline attested, she still kayaks regularly. I've been lucky enough to accompany her on several of her paddles on the Hudson.
"You could say that I have lived the Hudson, and I have loved it," Mrs. Davis noted on the day she announced her extraordinary gift. She also has fought for it. For years she has been an ardent activist for waterfront development that connects people to the Hudson and restores its ecology, damaged over years of industrial use. But her devotion to the environment extends far beyond this river's shores. Her real desire is to encourage all Americans to protect their vanishing natural treasures -- before it's too late.
Mrs. Davis has been an inspiration to me since I met her eight years ago. She should inspire you, too. She proves you're never too old to enjoy nature, and to pitch in to save it. While her gift will be of immeasurable help in our work to create new parks along the Hudson River, more important -- to my organization and to others fighting to save our region -- is the visionary leadership she provides. In an age when development is eating away at our country's most beautiful and historic landscapes, Mrs. Davis has stood up and said, "Enough!" Thanks to the extensive media coverage of her gift, this truly was a shot heard 'round the world.
"Up and down this Hudson Valley and across America, we need to be vigilant for opportunities to protect our natural resources," Mrs. Davis challenged her listeners on June 15. Her resolve should serve as an example for us all -- "to never slow down, never give up, and finish the job so future generations can enjoy our magnificent planet.
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