“Science does not say that you shouldn’t jump off a 20 story building. Science merely describes what might happen to you…” laughed Dr. Peter H. Raven in his acceptance speech for the Friends of the National Arboretum‘s Medal of Excellence Tuesday night. The annual Cookout Under the Stars — this year highlighting the state of Missouri, from which Raven hails (“A great levelheaded state with opinions listened to carefully, and with conservation and the environment as important themes,” according to the Dr.) — took place in a tented pavilion adjacent to the Arboretum’s popular Herb Garden.
While guests, including many members of the Missouri delegation to include Senator Roy Blount, Congressmen William Lacy Clay, Emanuel Cleaver, Vickey Harzler, Billy Long, and Jason Smith, supped on a buffet of Kansas City style smoked brisket, Missouri corn souffle, grilled Missouri vegetables and Chillicothe (Missouri “sliced” bread), Raven, author and premier expert on biodiversity and species conservation, detailed the importance of the Arboretum.
“It’s a place where you enjoy the beauty of plants on which every single one of us depends, come to understand their utility, that educates people about them and develops new commercially viable strains of plants that we’ll need in the future,” said Raven after insisting that “Global Warming largely caused by human interference or activities is a reality” and “GMOs are not harmful, there is no reason that we should try to avoid them.”
And as the event came to a close and attendees were invited to wander up to the original Capitol columns as dusk was arriving, he gave his final plea:
“This Arboretum is a jewel for Washington, for the District, for this area, and for the Nation,” he insisted. “For heavens sakes, keep it as a haven for education, for science, for research. It’s priceless.”
*The Arboretum’s grounds are open Fridays through Mondays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm; the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is open Fridays through Mondays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. The grounds are closed to the public Tuesday through Thursday. Admission is free.