Save Our Heritage

Protecting the Birthplace of the American Revolution,

the cradle of the Environmental Movement,

and the Home of the American Literary Renaissance


Renowned Historians and Environmentalists speak out

DON HENLEY, Recording Artist, Founder - Walden Woods Project & Thoreau Institute:  We hear a lot of talk these days about patriotism. We see the flag everywhere we go. We hear a lot of talk about our freedoms and our democracy and how precious these things are, and how we all need to stand together as a country and fight for our freedom, and how we should be aware of and be appreciative of these things.  And I agree with all that, I think this is the greatest country on earth.  However, I find it rather sad and ironic that at the same time that we are talking about these things we are allowing some of our national treasures to be destroyed.  We are allowing the places that were the very cradle of our democracy to be ruined by commerce – for the sake of commerce - and for the sake of convenience.  And I’m speaking specifically about Minute Man National Park and Walden Woods, two places that figure most prominently in who we are as a nation and in our culture.

ED BEGLEY, JR., Actor, Environmentalist:  Because there are so few places like Walden Woods and Walden Pond left, to increase the capacity of this airport, Hanscom Field, it’s like firing up a foundry in the Sistine Chapel.  This is a very special place, it’s emblematic of a greater idea, an idea that needs to be preserved – what Henry David Thoreau talked about: to live more simply.

HENLEY:  This is not just a local issue.  People mistake Walden Woods and Minute Man for local issues, simply because they are located up here in New England.  These things belong to all people everywhere, in the United States and throughout the world.  And for that reason, everybody ought to rally ‘round these places.  You need to be able to take the children there and say, “see, this is the wood Henry wrote about”, “see, this is where our forefathers fought for our freedom”.  You give the children what is rightfully theirs, just as you give them Gettysburg; because it is rightfully theirs.




RICHARD MOE, President, National Trust for Historic Preservation:  One of the ways we can help young people especially to understand our history is to bring them to sites like this, to actually show them what happened, to see the battle that occurred here, to see what happened here and what it meant for the beginning of our country.  These are classrooms; they’re not just great historic sites that deserve to be protected for their own sake – they do deserve that, but they’re great educational tools, particularly for children.  But for all of us, we can renew our faith in America and our understanding of American history by coming to these places.


DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, Professor of History, University of New Orleans:  Too often now our national parks and our historic sites are being destroyed by a culture growing around them, and nothing could be worse.  Imagine going to Sleepy Hollow, the resting place or the cemetery of our greatest writers, and just hearing a constant line of roaring engines going over your head.  I love this country.  I’m an American historian.  I want my children and my grandchildren to come and get to see where in 1775 people put their real necks on the line to create the freedoms that we enjoy.  I want to go and study the literary renaissance with my family.  I want to go and actually walk across the North Bridge, which is such a seminal site from the American Revolutionary War period.   And what I don’t want to do is just hear all this distraction, all this noise, and just destroy all the tranquility.

CHRISTOPHER REEVE, The late Actor, Director, Humanitarian:  We’re already ruining so much of this country by our carelessness.  This above all others, the place where we began, must not be destroyed.  Just for symbolic reasons, emotional reasons – I mean if you don’t care about the place where our country was created, then what else should you care about?


JAMES O. HORTON, Professor of History, George Washington University:  I think it makes little sense to push our nation to the point where we forget and are unable to visualize the values that brought us into existence as a nation.  You know, to go out to that bridge in Concord, and to look out over the landscape, and to think about the fact that two hundred years ago some farmer stood in that place and looked at that landscape, and to think about the kinds of things he might have imagined – obviously, he couldn’t possibly have foreseen the fact that we’d be talking about the possibility of an airport over his landscape view.  But to be able to do that is to put us in touch with that world, with that world which was very different from our own, and a world we need to be aware of, because at some points in our lives we need to escape from this world, at least long enough to be able to reflect on how our society got us here.


EDWARD O. WILSON, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author, Naturalist:  The continued conversion of much of the world is inevitable.  There will be more suburbs, there will be more airfields, there will be less natural environment left and historically important places left to pass on to future generations, all around the world – that’s inevitable.  But I feel we should consider the argument that there is no place in America with the same magnitude of luminance and importance as this area, around Walden Pond and in the historical areas of Lexington and Concord.  They should be given special consideration.  And I think the balance should be tipped for all the American people - for the future of the people in the country and for the future of the people living here - tipped towards preservation.


BEGLEY:  We have so many places that are built upon, and there’s increased traffic and there’s increased noise, and there are many special places that have been changed, altered forever, that are very important to us.  This shouldn’t be another one of them.   The “shot heard ‘round the world” did occur just a short distance from Hanscom Field.  And Thoreau lived and wrote and walked here.  I think this is a place that needs to be preserved in perpetuity.  And we can do that by giving local control of this airport to the residents and the leaders in this specific area.   I think it’s very important, certainly given the fact that there are alternatives, that there are other ways to move people around in speed and comfort that do not include Hanscom.
KEN BURNS, Director, Producer, Historical Documentarian:  The American Revolution takes place before there are photographs, and so we are relegated to a few, very few contemporary paintings, and many of those are a little bit cartoonish so it’s hard to create a reality the way you can with an old photograph.  And the only way we’ve found in the films we’ve done that have taken place during the Revolutionary and immediately post-Revolutionary period, on Thomas Jefferson, on the history of the Shakers, on the voyage of Lewis and Clark, was to go back to the places where these events take place and to film them at the same time and day and year that those events take place.  But how could you do that with a jet roaring overhead leaving a contrail?  How could you do that with the traffic going by outside?  How could you do that?  Even at Gettysburg today you have to reframe to keep the golden arches of McDonald’s out of your frame.  I do not want that to happen to Lexington/Concord, it’s too precious; it’s too important a moment to let that happen.  And anybody who visits Gettysburg is not begrudging people the right to have a hamburger at McDonald’s, they just want them to have that McDonald’s move just slightly out of view, so that those of us who are listening to the ghosts and echoes of this inexpressibly wise past might have something to bring back.

DAVID McCULLOUGH, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author, Host of “The American Experience”:  Once the spell, the spirit, not to say the actual, tangible buildings and land of these treasured places are violated or destroyed, they’re never the same again.  You can’t bring them back.  And it’s so easy to say, well, they’ll just have to accommodate – No! Let’s not accommodate; let’s keep it the way it is.  Let’s honor our forebears.  President Bush, in his remarks at the national prayer service following September 11th, said, “Let the commitment of our fathers be the calling of our time.”  Let the commitment of the people at the bridge in Concord in 1775, the commitment of people like Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, and the whole way of life in Concord, be the calling of our time.  Draw strength from that.  History is an inexhaustible strength to draw upon – who we are, what we are, where we’ve come from.  And any tangible evidence of that, any tangible setting that evokes the spirit of those distant times and those great people, must be saved.

MOE:  At the National Trust we spend a lot of time and resources trying to protect a lot of different kinds of historic sites from a lot of different kinds of threats.   They’re all different, they’re all unique, but they all deserve our attention.  And we are very focused on doing everything that we can to preserve this part of our heritage.  And thank goodness we have Save Our Heritage and wonderful local partners that we can work with.

HENLEY:  I think Henry, and I’m on a first-name basis with him now, I think Henry would have been very upset about this, and I think he would have something to say about it.  As a matter of fact, he did have something to say about it, he warned us about this as far back as 1861.  I would like to read for you a passage from this book Wild Fruits that was recently published, that pertains precisely to the problem we have here.  “Most men, it appears to me, do not care for Nature and would sell their share in all her beauty for as long as they may live for a stated and not very large sum.  Thank God, they cannot yet fly and lay waste to the sky as well as the earth.  It is for the very reason that some do not care for these things that we need to combine to protect all from the vandalism of a few.”  Can’t say it any better than that. 
PAUL NEWMAN, The late Actor and Humanitarian:  We go to natural places to replenish our spirits.  The places that we as Americans have set aside for this purpose need to be kept serene and undisturbed.  This is all the more true of places where nature and history come together, like Minute Man National Historical Park and Walden Woods. The uncontrolled growth of an airport next to the Old North Bridge where the American Revolution began, next to Thoreau’s Walden Pond where the American environmental movement began, is simply not acceptable.  It threatens the integrity of these national treasures and diminishes their message.  Now is the time to act.  Let’s work together to preserve our country’s natural and cultural legacy for the generations to come. 



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