22
Apr
09

On This Day, April 22: The First Earth Day

April 22, 1970

The first Earth Day

Earth Day, an event to increase public awareness of the world’s environmental problems, is celebrated in the United States for the first time. Millions of Americans, including students from thousands of colleges and universities, participated in rallies, marches, and educational programs.

Earth Day was the brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, a staunch environmentalist who hoped to provide unity to the grassroots environmental movement and increase ecological awareness. “The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy,” Senator Nelson said, “and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda.” Earth Day indeed increased environmental awareness in America, and in July of that year the Environmental Protection Agency was established by special executive order to regulate and enforce national pollution legislation.

On April 22, 1990, the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, more than 200 million people in 141 countries participated in Earth Day celebrations.

Earth Day has been celebrated on different days by different groups internationally. The United Nations officially celebrates it on the vernal equinox, which usually occurs about March 21.

“The first Earth Day,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4943 [accessed Apr 22, 2009]

On This Day

1500 – Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral discovered Brazil.

1529 – Spain and Portugal divided the eastern hemisphere in Treaty of Saragosa.

1861 – Robert E. Lee was named commander of Virginia forces.

1889 – At noon, the Oklahoma land rush officially started as thousands of Americans raced for new, unclaimed land.

1898 – The first shot of the Spanish-American war occurred when the USS Nashville captured a Spanish merchant ship.

1915 – At the Second Battle Ypres the Germans became the first country to use poison gas.

1930 – The U.S., Britain and Japan signed the London Naval Treaty, which regulated submarine warfare and limited shipbuilding.

1952 – An atomic test conducted in Nevada was the first nuclear explosion shown on live network television.

1976 – Barbara Walters became first female nightly network news anchor.

1993 – The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum was dedicated in Washington, DC.

April 22, 1954

McCarthy Army hearings begin

Senator Joseph McCarthy begins hearings investigating the United States Army, which he charges with being “soft” on communism. These televised hearings gave the American public their first view of McCarthy in action, and his recklessness, indignant bluster, and bullying tactics quickly resulted in his fall from prominence.

In February 1950, Senator McCarthy charged that there were over 200 “known communists” in the Department of State. Thus began his dizzying rise to fame as the most famous and feared communist hunter in the United States. McCarthy adeptly manipulated the media, told ever more outrageous stories concerning the communist conspiracy in the United States, and smeared any opponents as “communist sympathizers” to keep his own name in the headlines for years. By 1954, however, his power was beginning to wane. While he had been useful to the Republican Party during the years of the Democratic administration of President Harry S. Truman, his continued attacks on “communists in government” after Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower took over the White House in 1953 were becoming political liabilities.

In an effort to reinvigorate his declining popularity, McCarthy made a dramatic accusation that was a crucial mistake: in early 1954, he charged that the United States Army was “soft” on communism. McCarthy was indignant because David Schine, one of his former investigators, had been drafted and the Army, much to McCarthy’s surprise, refused the special treatment he demanded for his former aide. In April 1954, McCarthy, chairman of the Government Operations Committee in the Senate, opened televised hearings into his charges against the Army.

The hearings were a fiasco for McCarthy. He constantly interrupted with irrelevant questions and asides; yelled “point of order” whenever testimony was not to his liking; and verbally attacked witnesses, attorneys for the Army, and his fellow senators. The climax came when McCarthy slandered an associate of the Army’s chief counsel, Joseph Welch. Welch fixed McCarthy with a steady glare and declared evenly, “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness…Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” A stunned McCarthy listened as the packed audience exploded into cheers and applause. McCarthy’s days as a political power were effectively over. A few weeks later, the Army hearings dribbled to a close with little fanfare and no charges were upheld against the Army by the committee. In December 1954, the Senate voted to censure McCarthy for his conduct. Three years later, having become a hopeless alcoholic, he died.

“McCarthy Army hearings begin,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2645 [accessed Apr 22, 2009]

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