In 1979, President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the roof of the West Wing to emphasize the importance he saw in a new solar strategy his administration was implementing. In 1986, they were removed by President Ronald Reagan and put into storage. (Not sure what took him so long!) In 1990, the panels were brought to Unity College in Maine.

Now, a group of Unity College students, working with author and activist Bill McKibben, is determined to convince President Obama to reinstall the panel on the White House roof. The contingent set out Tuesday in a van for Washington, DC, carrying a solar panel that once stood atop Carter’s White House.

One great facet of the solar road trip, explained Andrew Revkin in a smart and constructively skeptical take on the campaign at his blog Dot Earth, "is the involvement of Unity College students. The school is a hotbed of energy action, as I noted in a recent piece focused on Mick Womersley, an associate professor there whose students go out into rural Maine communities doing energy audits and rehab work."

This YouTube video with student Jamie Nemecek explaining why she decided to help take the solar panel to Washington helps explain Revkin’s praise.

You can see more of Nemecek in a special episode of Democracy Now! featuring the students and McKibben explaining why and how President Obama can make an important symbolic gesture that would focus critical attention on the importance and affordability of solar energy.

"We have high hopes that the ‘yes we can’ spirit of the administration, even if it hasn’t been enough to get us climate legislation yet, will at least be equal to the task of this symbolic gesture,” McKibben explained in an email to Revkin. "You don’t need 60 votes to fix your roof!"