Everyone has a "legal and moral duty" to protect the environment and those who inflict damage should be severely sanctioned, Lithuanian President Valdas V. Adamkus said.
Speaking at The Catholic University of America, where he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, Adamkus said, "I am convinced that the prime goal of modern times is to ensure that considerations of rapid economic growth do not overshadow our attention to environmental protection."
Adamkus is a former long-time administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago. He gave up his U.S. citizenship earlier this year when he was elected president of Lithuania.
After presenting the degree, theVery Rev. David M. OConnell, C.M., president of Catholic University, praised Adamkus for helping his people to understand how democracy works and for his role as a moral authority for his nation.
Adamkus thanked Catholic University for its research in the arena of environmental protection and for raising students awareness of environmental issues.
Discussing responsible growth, Adamkus suggested developing clear legal regulations and a legal climate that favors development of environmental-friendly business.
"Those who inflict damage to the environment must bear full responsibility and be subject to severe sanctions," he said. "From my own experience of working at the E.P.A. I know how difficult it is to force businesses to abandon the fast buck principle and to invest in environmentally friendly projects.
"The same experience tells me that a strict and principled stand coupled with tireless educational work ultimately leads to desired results."
A U.S. civil servant for almost 30 years, Adamkus joined the EPA in 1970. He retired in 1997 as administrator of the Great Lakes Region. His accomplishments include protecting and restoring the Great Lakes and promoting environmentalism in former Soviet Bloc countries, especially in the Baltic States. In 1988 he received EPAs first Fitzhugh Green Award for outstanding contributions to international environmental protection.
Born in Kaunas, Lithuania, in 1926, he served in the resistance movement for Lithuanias independence during World War II. He and his family emigrated to the United States in 1949, where he found work at a Chicago car plant. He graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology as a civil engineer in 1960. During his years in the United States, he stayed active in issues affecting his homeland.
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