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Obama Presents NRDC Founder John Adams with a Presidential Medal of Freedom

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Today NRDC Founder John Adams will travel to the White House to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. This tribute is a fitting recognition for all that John has done to make America's air cleaner, our water safer, and our wild places better protected for generations to come.

Carol Browner, the White House adviser on energy and climate, called John a few months ago to tell him about the medal. But rather than pausing to learn why she was calling, John launched into a list of reasons why natural gas companies must not be allowed to ruin the Catskill Mountains in New York State with their dangerous fracking practices.

Browner had to laugh. It was yet another example of how fiercely dedicated John is to protecting the environment. He seizes every opportunity to advocate on its behalf, even--or especially--when the moment is supposed to be about him.

This is what makes John so effective: he is an unstoppable fighter. He is also uncommonly warm and enormously supportive of friends and colleagues. But when it comes to the causes he cares about, he is relentless in their defense. (Today, John has an op-ed in Politico about how nature doesn't belong to one political party, red or blue; it's green for all of us.)

He was inspired to start NRDC in 1970 because he was dismayed by the routine destruction of the environment. As he describes in A Force for Nature, the new book he wrote with his wife Patricia, he watched with alarm as his young son woke every morning with soot on his forehead after sleeping next to an open window, and he knew America could do better.

John's determination to protect Americans from pollution hasn't waned one bit. Now, 40 years later, he is still fighting for stronger safeguards--including those that will protect drinking water in the Catskills from toxic fracking fluid.

John has become the senior statesman of the environmental community, long serving and widely revered. Those of us in the field know that John's four decades of leadership has helped embed the value of environmental protection into American culture. And now, thanks to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, many more will know about John's remarkable achievements.

All of us at NRDC salute him.

This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.

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