DETROIT – Acknowledging that environmental progress requires the efforts of everyone, Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford congratulated the 16 winners and other nominees of the first annual Detroit Free Press Michigan Green Leaders awards Thursday, which also marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.
"I am really impressed with the people and the projects that were chosen," said Ford, one of the inaugural Green Leaders nominees himself and keynote speaker at the awards program held on the Detroit island park of Belle Isle. "It makes me proud of our state and hopeful for our future."
Ford recalled how he and another seventh-grade friend celebrated the first Earth Day by deciding to skip the daily car pool and ride their bikes to school instead.
"I don't think we saved much oil that day because my mother followed us in her car," he joked.
Ford also paid tribute to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson – a former senator from Wisconsin – and to authors Rachel Carson and Edward Abbey whose books and writings about the environment and our planet both alarmed and inspired him.
Today, Ford said the environmental movement is changing and gaining momentum.
"Environmentalists are far more solution-oriented. They're more concerned about fixing problems instead of fixing blame," he said. "They are embracing innovation and new technologies and better solutions. The generations that follow us are incredibly passionate and ready to take up the cause."
Ford said he spent years talking to manufacturers about the importance of the environment. But now, he's telling environmentalists about the importance of manufacturing.
"That's because in addition to strengthening our economy, manufacturing is also going to play a critical role in addressing the issues surrounding energy and the environment," he explained. "The breakthrough technologies produced in the manufacturing sector will help us address these challenges."
Ford says the company founded by his great grandfather is focusing on growing its business by being a leader in technology that enhances customers' lives. As examples, he cited Ford's research and development of electric vehicles, biofuels, clean diesel engines as well as the company's integration of clean power for its manufacturing facilities, including solar panels, wind turbines and innovative paint fumes-to-fuel process.
Ford closed his remarks by urging everyone to remain true to their environmental passions.
"Just like Senator Nelson, your actions – big and small, public and private – all add up. Together, they're making a difference and building a better world," commended Ford. "To all of you, I say, 'Thank you.'"