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Friends in high places

National Geographic rolled out the big guns for the launch of its new cable network Sunday night with its live tribute program from The Warner Theater, near the organization's headquarters in Washington.

President Bill Clinton, in a video clip, opened Heroes for the Planet
with a slathering of praise, saying the National Geographic Society had "quite a record, a magazine we never want to throw away, and now a channel we're likely never to turn off." Former Colorado Sen. Pat Schroeder was in attendance, as was Washington Mayor Anthony Williams, who proclaimed Jan. 7 National Geographic Channel Day.

The Society's heavyweight scientists were billed as the targets of the tribute, but the highlight of the evening for many audience members came at the end, when a group of young people from the tougher D.C. neighborhoods were honored for volunteering to clean up the befouled Anacostia River. During the course of their work as the Earth Conservation Corp., four of the volunteers were killed in violent neighborhood incidents. Bald eagles reintroduced to the restored Anacostia area were named for the victims.