WASHINGTON - Former Clinton administration officials and congressional leaders packed into the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters Wednesday to mark the building's renaming in honour of former President Bill Clinton.
"This is a very strong building, and Bill Clinton was a very strong president," Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said as she welcomed guests to what is now the William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building. Boxer sponsored the legislation to change the building's name.
In front of family and friends Clinton strongly defended his environmental legacy, saying his administration's efforts to promote clean air, conserve land, and combat dirty water made a big difference in Americans' lives.
"When I left office there were 43 million more Americans breathing air that met federal standards. Which means less asthma among young people and fewer senior citizens dying because air pollution. It affected millions of people. Who can say a government should walk away from that?" Clinton said.
The former president credited his team including former Vice-President Al Gore, who Clinton suggested could have been honoured with his name on the building just as easily.
Later in the day, Gore tweeted "Congratulations @BillClinton on today's naming. I'm proud to have been able to be a part of a great team."
Clinton said his administration's work showed the world "you can have a growing economy with more jobs and rising incomes and a sustainable environmental policy."
Former EPA Administrator Carole Browner praised Clinton's leadership by listing his environmental and economic accomplishments. She noted that the EPA administrator earned a seat in the Cabinet during Clinton's term and that the former president was willing to use his executive authority to protect the planet.
Clinton showed "the power vested in the president by the Congress, our environmental laws on the books, are good and can be used to do good to protect our communities and the health of our children," Browner said.
"Leveraging executive authority in the 90's paved the way for the actions we need to take today," Browner continued, referencing President Barack Obama's recent plans to bypass Congress to address carbon pollution.
Clinton said his administration proved that a clean environment and a growing economy can coexist. He said having sustainable environmental policies is now the only way to grow the economy, create jobs, and raise incomes over the long run in the 21st Century.
The ceremony ended with the unveiling of the building sign bearing Clinton's name and the Unified Voices of Excellence choir singing a song requested by the former president: "This Land is Your Land."
Obama signed the law to honour the 42nd president last December, after Congress passed the bill unanimously.
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