Series Blog

40 Years Later, How Will You Be Remembered?

Forty years ago today, 20 million Americans filed into the streets and made their voices heard in the largest political demonstration the country had ever seen: Earth Day. What began as an environmental teach-in that was to take place on college campuses spilled into nearly every city, town, and community across the country, and today, across 170 countries. 

Twenty years ago today, I sat in my second-grade classroom and drew pictures of Earth, read Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, and sang songs about pollution. 

Last week, I found myself in New York City for a screening of our film Earth Days at the Paley Center for Media. Denis Hayes, chief organizer of that landmark demonstration, and current Chair of Earth Day 2010, is one of the main “characters” and participated in a panel discussion that followed. (Video excerpt from the panel opens in new window.) 

I was star-struck. Hayes isn’t a celebrity, and you won’t find him in a gossip magazine. But at 25 years old, he organized the passions of millions of Americans into a viable political force that brought about real change. Within a few years of Earth Day 1970, America saw the passage of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and much, much more. 

As I listened to him speak, I couldn’t help but think--

I am 26 years old, already a full year behind Hayes’ 25 in 1970. How will I make my mark? 

How will you?

Jen Holmes is a blogger for Inside AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and a member of the communications team. 

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