At the 2017 River Network River Rally conference in Grand Rapids, MI former CRC River Steward David Deen was recognized as the River Hero we’ve always known him to be. Congratulations David! You deserve it!

David gave an inspiring acceptance speech encouraging people to “Give politics a chance.” and get involved in politics. Here is the full text of his speech:

“Thank you to everyone and anyone who was part of my receiving this River Hero award.

I am not at all sure that an individual can be a river hero all on his or her own. It takes teamwork to be successful and, as they say, there is no I in the word team.

At a recent celebration of my retirement from the Connecticut River Watershed Council, those present visually reminded me of this. There were regulators, funders, watershed advocates, CRWC members, my fellow professionals at CRWC, legal advocates, professors, legislators, and just plain citizens and when I stood to speak to them, I realized all of them at one time or another were critical partners with me in doing my work. Appropriately, I thanked them all for their contributions to making me look good!

So thank you to River Network for selecting me, my peers in Vermont for nominating me, CRWC members who underwrote my work and anyone I do not know about who is in any way responsible for me receiving this award.

Now, since I have the microphone and your willing ears, I just want to say, “Give politics a chance.”

Many of the presenters I listened to this week referred to their state legislatures, mostly in disparaging terms, with a roll of their eyes heavenward and then they would get this “What are you going to do” look on their face.

OK with that said, let me ask, what are you going to do about it? I especially mean all of you younger advocates in the room, and I am so glad to see so many young people here, but again I ask what are you going to do to change how your elected officials view healthy rivers, human rights, climate change, and other vital issues?

Hey, here’s an idea. What if you were the representative from your district? Would that change how your representative voted on clean water issues? That is not a rhetorical question; and the answer is a resounding YES!

It takes hard work to get elected, take my word for it but what the hey – you are all working hard now and I want to tell you your water advocacy skills are transferable to getting elected.

What might you get for any political effort? I offer two personal examples. I was part of the team that led the fight to designate Vermont’s groundwater a public trust resource. VT now has an affirmative responsibility to protect the quantity and quality of our groundwater. And in 2015, we finally put some real enforcement into the Required Agricultural Practices to protect surface and groundwater from agricultural runoff. You all know how many times we talked about that problem this week.

Having worked as an advocate and as a legislator, I want to assure you that you do much better on the inside developing public policy than on the outside trying to indirectly influence public policy.

So just think about getting yourself elected. If nothing else, it is great fun!

Again, thank you to everyone who thought I should get this award and to my Allison who has put up with the craziness of me being a water advocate for all these years.

I am proud to receive this award. Thank you!