STARKVILLE, Miss.--When so many issues seem to divide Americans, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said there are 398 national treasures which represent the values that bind the nation together.
Freedom, equality, pioneering spirit, ingenuity, hard work and leadership were among those Jarvis described as core American values that are embodied by parks and historical sites throughout the nation. Sites included in the National Park Service system have been set aside by Congress or by presidential proclamations. Jarvis said each site added to the National Park Service must be of the highest national significance.
The director visited Mississippi State University Tuesday, and enjoyed a full day's schedule which included a visit to the Natchez Trace Parkway and a luncheon with President Mark E. Keenum and faculty and administrators from the College of Forest Resources. Jarvis spoke with students in the colleges of Forest Resources and Arts and Sciences, answering questions about his career, which spans nearly four decades. He also gave advice to students seeking to achieve their own career goals after graduation.
Jarvis concluded his visit with a public address titled, "National Parks & American Values: A Field Guide."
"There is no better place to find core American values than in America's national parks," he said.
Jarvis went on to give many examples of how individual parks represent American values and ideals, including freedom, as demonstrated by the Statue of Liberty and at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pa., to leadership, as demonstrated at Mount Rushmore and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, one of the National Park Service's newest sites at the National Mall.
The list went on:
Equality is represented in the Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail, at Little Rock Central High School and at the Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, N.Y.
Pioneering spirit is seen through the stories of Homestead National Monument of America in Nebraska and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.
Ingenuity is represented at Thomas Edison's "idea factory" in New Jersey and at Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Ohio.
The core value of hard work is demonstrated at Paterson Great Falls and Lowell National Historical Parks, where Jarvis said visitors can see what it took to make a living as part of the Industrial Revolution.
Jarvis said fun also is central to the National Parks.
"For visitors who take fun to the adventurous extreme, where better than the rapids of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon," Jarvis said.
"The National Park Service is required by law to provide for the enjoyment of our parks. We're pretty sure we're the only federal agency with that mandate," Jarvis added with a laugh.
Jarvis said the nation's desire to honor their fallen men and women in uniform also unites Americans. From historic battlefields and national cemeteries to monuments that commemorate the sacrifices and hardships endured by America's military forces, Jarvis said honoring those who have served also is a core national value embodied by the nation's parks.
Additionally of great national significance, Jarvis said remembering movements and learning from history and past mistakes, such as at Manzanar National Historic Site in California, where Japanese Americans were held in internment camps during World War II. Jarvis explained that the most recent addition to the National Park Service honors Cesar E. Chavez, who led the movement for farm workers' rights in the 1960s.
Preservation of ancient sites, such as Mesa Verde, and giving honor and respect to contemporary sites, such as at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania are part of the National Park Service's mission, Jarvis said.
For many Americans who think of the National Parks, natural beauty comes to mind, along with images of Yosemite, Yellowstone and other iconic sites.
"These are our American cathedrals. We as a nation have a strong bond with the land," Jarvis said. He said these sites have been set aside for the enjoyment of all Americans. He said that while the parks are quintessentially American, they speak to all human kind. The National Parks represent the biggest American destination for foreign tourists as well, he explained, adding that the agency would like to encourage more visitors--international and domestic travelers alike.
For more information about the National Park Service, visit www.nps.gov. For more about Mississippi State University, see www.msstate.edu.