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Act Now, Apologize Later

At age twenty-three, Adam Werbach became the youngest president of the Sierra Club, one of the oldest and most respected environmental organizations in the United States. Even at this young age, Werbach was already an experienced environmental activist. At age eight in response to a Sierra Club mailing, he circulated a petition among his second grade class to dismiss Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Interior, James Watt. As a high school student, Werbach founded the Sierra Club's national student program, the Sierra Student Coalition (SSC). Under his leadership the student organization grew to 30,000 members and helped create the largest national park in the lower forty-eight states.

As Sierra Club President, Werbach attempted to capitalize on his youthfulness while continuing the political activism of the organization. The membership has grown to 600,000 and the average member age has fallen from forty-seven to thirty-seven. Werbach has also worked to recruit a new generation of activists by spreading the Sierra Club's message via popular music and the Internet.

Werbach is often considered one of the most influential people of his generation. Vice President Al Gore remarked, "Adam Werbach is proving what many of us have believed all along. Young people do care, they are involved, and they are already making a difference." When Werbach is asked if his age disadvantages him, he replies, "Yes, I'm much too old for this job. I was a far better activist when I was eighteen."

Adam Werbach is the final speaker in the Athenaeum series Global Environmental Issues sponsored by the Roberts Environmental Center.