Video Remarks on Earth Day

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 22, 2015

Hello, everybody, and happy Earth Day.  
For 45 years, this day has been a chance to reflect on our environmental challenges and determine how we can best meet them.  It has served as a reminder of the responsibility we have to preserve our God-given natural resources – from the health of our oceans, to the safety of our drinking water, to the quality of our air, to the diversity of our animal kingdom.  
I’ll never forget the very first Earth Day, back in 1970. I was only 26 years old – I had just come back from serving in Vietnam – and I got involved in the effort in Massachusetts, my home state.   
But the reason that day was so historic was that I was only one of 20 million Americans who participated in one way or another, gathering in parks, auditoriums, and on street corners all over the country.  Congress even adjourned so that its members could attend rallies, “teach-ins” and marches. 
The result was a force that no American politician could ignore.  Within months, President Nixon announced the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Congress quickly followed with landmark legislation to protect our air and water, endangered species, and our threatened coasts.
That first Earth Day was proof positive that when enough people make their voices heard, policymakers listen.
Today, we need a similar effort, but on a global level.
Climate change is a threat to our security, our health, our environment, and the planet itself.  It’s a global challenge – and one that President Obama has taken head on, putting forward the boldest and most far-reaching set of climate actions in our nation’s history.  
But we can’t address this threat alone.  No country can. That is why we are committed to working with other nations later this year in Paris to achieve a truly meaningful, truly ambitious, truly comprehensive agreement to curb greenhouse emissions and fight climate change. 
I’ve said it many times: If ever there were an issue that demanded clarity of purpose and unity of action this is it.  But we need help making that case to policymakers around the globe.  On this Earth Day, I’m asking Americans and concerned citizens everywhere to speak up – to demand more from their leaders when it comes to climate change.  Make this an issue that no public official – anywhere – can ignore.
Like the generations that came before us, we have an undeniable obligation to safeguard our planet – and all of its precious resources – for those who follow.  So let’s make this Earth Day another historic example of how everyday citizens can save – and improve – the world for centuries to come.  Thank you.