Obama visits Tahoe for the first time | RecordCourier.com

Obama visits Tahoe for the first time

by Aurora Sain
asain@recordcourier.com

Climate change, good music and a farewell to several politicians was what brought out a full stadium of people to Harvey's Outdoor Arena.

The 20th annual Lake Tahoe Summit played host to departing Sen. Harry Reid and departing President Barack Obama.

Reid created the summit back in 1997 in response to declining water clarity and environmental conditions at the Lake Tahoe Basin.

The first summit was attended by then-President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, which spurred passage of the first Lake Tahoe Restoration Act in 2000.

Many people in attendance were excited to see the president speak while on his first ever visit to the Lake.

"We love Obama, We think he has done a fantastic job," said South Lake resident Leon Malmed.

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Malmed, who is originally from France, said that it is good that people are listening to the facts about climate change.

"We believe climate change is produced by the people and we need to do everything possible," he said.

Reid started the summit by saying that it was a celebration of all the hard work they have done the last 20 years.

While they have improved transportation, fire safety measures and lake clarity, Reid said that they would continue to do more work, even after he leaves office.

"There is more work to be done," said Reid. "We can't be complacent."

Two Truckee teens were also present, and their interest in helping to stop climate change comes from their love of the snow.

"We are both skiers, so it has impacted us a lot," said 14-year-olds Lacey Norris and Tallulah De Saint Phalle.

"I saw President Obama in 2008, and both of our parents are really into politics," said Norris.

The girls shared in the feeling that a conversation about what can be done to stop the impacts of climate change was greatly needed.

"I think it's good that it is getting talked about," said De Saint Phalle.

Many people said that climate change is affecting the Lake, and more needs to be done to ensure it stays just as beautiful for generations to come.

"Climate change is not only global, it's local," said Incline resident Jane Dykstra.

Lake Tahoe's surface temperature was the hottest it has ever been recorded last year, Lake levels have been on a decrease and invasive species continue to be a problem, something that Tahoe residents have witnessed on a first hand basis.

South Lake resident, Tina Sitachitt, brought her 8-year-old daughter to the event to see President Obama speak and learn more about climate change.

"A lot of people out there are hiding behind the shades and ignoring the truth," said Sitachitt.

Another South Lake resident Carey Brown wanted to come to the summit to hear more about what is going on with the environment.

"I think people that deny climate change are not well informed," she said. "We are living it."

While people did care in great detail about climate change and what they could do to help, some people really wanted to see the president one last time.

"This was the first president that I was old enough to vote for," said South Lake resident Kevin Yelles. "It's obviously a big deal."

"I knew that this was going to be President Obama's last year in office and I wanted to see him speak," said Dayton 14-year-old Lynda Zarate.

One of the speakers was California Gov. Jerry Brown, who took the stance that everyone should care about conservation and reducing their carbon footprint, regardless of party.

"Republicans and Democrats actually work together to do good for Tahoe," said Brown. "We work very closely together because we have a higher cause without the petty issues that often plague our parties."

Sen. Barbara Boxer credited Obama with being the "greatest environmental president of all time."

Obama acknowledged the importance of the Lake, not just for environmental reasons, but also for cultural reasons.

"For the Washoe people, it is the center of their world," said Obama.

Obama said that it is important to look at the facts, and listen to the 97 percent of scientists who agree that climate change is due to human activities.

"Conservation is critical for our entire ecosystem," said Obama. "Economies like this live or die by the health of our natural resources."

He also quoted a Washoe elder who said "the health of the land and the health of the people are tied together."

The Killers, a Las Vegas band, concluded the event with a concert, and played many of their biggest hits, and at Sen. Reid's request, they played "Home means Nevada."