"Look, I love whales," said the President with a smile as he shook my hand.
Yesterday, on Earth Day, I thought I would be calling on the President to push legislation that would actually solve the climate crisis. No such luck. Instead, I found myself on the national mall leading a march on the White House to stop the President from his back room attempts to undo the 35 year moratorium on whaling.
Later that afternoon, I was invited to the White House to meet with the President. I asked my team what I should ask the President. The funniest suggestion was to give him a fist bump and say "drill, baby drill." As much as I wanted that on film, I decided to ask him about the reversal of his written campaign promise to Greenpeace to end commercial whaling.
He walked person to person, saying hello, as advocate after advocate threw him softball questions. I shook the President's hand, and said:
"Mr. President, I am Phil Radford from Greenpeace. We are concerned that your administration is overturning the ban on whaling."
"I know" he replied. "I've seen your ads in the papers."
"Great," I replied. "What is your plan to change your administration's position?
"Look," said the president, sounding like his Saturday Night Live doppelganger, "I love whales. I will do what I can to protect them."
"Will you reverse your administration's position?" I asked.
The President responded "Oh come on, don't lobby me here right now..."
I'd made our point. There was no point in lobbying the President more. After all, Earth Day should remind us that lobbying played a minor role in securing the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and ban on commercial whaling. People taking action made the difference. The 200 million people in the streets on the first Earth Day are who brought about the change. We'll be in the streets again until President Obama lives up to his written promise to end commercial whaling.