As the son of the founder and president, most of my experience in the environmental and energy sectors came from working with my father, Norris McDonald. My father gained full custody of me when I was two years old and raised me as a single parent. He never remarried so it was just him and me. I went everywhere with him from federal, state and local hearings to overseas trips to visit nuclear power plants. The Center has operated for 33 years and I intend to take the organization into the next thirty to forty years.
An EPA employee donated a 22 foot Boston Whaler (with a trailer) to the Center in 1990. We joined Seafarer’s Yacht Club in order to gain knowledge from boaters. Seafarer’s was the first black boat club in the United States. White yacht and boat clubs were segregated in the 1940’s so Mary McLeod Bethune approached Eleanor Roosevelt to help blacks who were interested in boating to lease a small area of land along the Anacostia River. We docked our whaler there and proceeded to initiate an Anacostia River litter cleanup program. We also took inner city kids on trips around the Anacostia River. We also took federal government officials on toxic tours where we showed the polluted sites along the river.
Our first office was the apartment of a Capitol Hill staffer and it provided a convenient location for our various programs. I attended House and Senate hearings and accompanied my father to meetings at the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies. AAEA produced the first comprehensive study of pollution in Washington, DC and I learned a lot by reviewing the trilogy of studies that were produced by us.
When we moved to Annapolis, we took the whaler, which I named the B2 Bomber, with us. We then took people on tours of the Chesapeake Bay. We lived right on the bay and had crabs in the creek in our backyard. I also became something of a bird watcher because we had many species of waterfowl, from great blue herons to mute swans to egrets to red wing back birds. I remember well the night scream of the herons. We had a canoe and a paddle boat in the basement for guests. Our whaler was docked at a private slip about 3 blocks from our house and my Dad and I would take it out any time to go out into the middle of the Chesapeake Bay to circle cargo ships and tankers. We had great fishing trips and one of our favorite spots was under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. My father enjoyed boating at night for some reason.
At one point we embarked on a multifaceted program (Ship Breaking Program) to utilize Welfare To Work Program recipients to cut up retired ships to be melted down at a local steel plant (Avesta Sheffield) to be recycled and reused. We acted as a negotiator between the company and the union in trying to resolve various issues. We met with the governor at the time to brief him on the project. Unfortunately the company closed up and left in the middle of the night and the project never came to fruition.
In Washington, DC we received a grant to put efficient furnaces in public housing and we audited and retrofitted hundreds of homes. This was in the late 1980’s well before ‘Green Jobs’ became a cool issue.
I accompanied my father when he was lobbying for some environmental legislation. It was just another day for me to meet Barack Obama and Joe Biden when they were in the U.S. Senate. One of my fondest memories is ‘Uncle’ Joe Biden playing with me for about five minutes after a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. My father received congressional and EPA recognition for his work. I was with him every step of the way.
My father was the first environmentalist in the United States to support nuclear power as a tool to fight global warming. Our organization was the first environmental group in the United States to support nuclear power as a global warming and climate change mitigation tool. I visited nuclear power plants with him around the country. I accompanied him when he went to France to tour a nuclear fuels reprocessing facility and the country’s newest nuclear power plant.
I will carry on my father’s legacy. Our organization intends to remain in the forefront of promoting environmental and energy policies that will protect the public and promote prosperity.