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Obama Celebrates National Parks in Yosemite

The speech at Yosemite on Saturday highlighted the economic benefits of the 400-plus sites managed by the National Park Service

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    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama take a photograph with children attending an "Every Kid in a Park" event at Yosemite National Park, Calif., on June 18, 2016. The Obama family traveled to Yosemite to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the creation of America's national park system.

    President Barack Obama wants more people to appreciate and visit America's national parks as the park system nears its 100th birthday in August. 

    Obama and his family spent the night at Yosemite National Park in California after touring an underground cave on Friday at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.

    The president then gave a rousing speech at Yosemite that urged Americans to "get out into the great outdoors." He tapped Congress, thanking them for working to protect the parks. 

    "We appreciate congress continuing to work hard to support our national treasures," Obama said from Yosemite. "...You can't capture this on flat screen." 

    He also noted his own administration's accomplishments, citing the protection of 265 million acres of public lands and water. 

    "It's a park that captures the wonders of the world, and changes you by being here," he said. "There's something sacred about this place." 

    The speech at Yosemite on Saturday highlighted the economic benefits of the 400-plus sites managed by the National Park Service, as well. 

    "It turns out that studies show that every dollar we invest in our national parks generates $10," he said.

    Obama also discussed climate change and other threats to the park system, and highlighted programs to encourage more people to visit parks, including one spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden that gives discounts and free admission to military families. 

    While Obama was poetic and flowery in describing the beauty of national parks, he was brusque and did not mince words when it came to discussing climate change, citing glaciers that have already melted and areas that have turned dusty and dry. 

    "Make no mistake. Climate change is no longer a threat," he said. "It's a reality."