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Gaylord Nelson was governor of the state where  I grew up. With my family, I met him on the main street of my hometown of Amery, Wisconsin when I was around six years old and we got our picture taken with him. He was running for governor. I’d fallen out of a trailer and broken my arm, so I was sporting a spiffy plaster cast. He became governor. Then he ran for the U.S. Senate and won, serving 18 years representing Wisconsin. I wrote him a couple of letters asking questions through the years. He answered.

Nelson was a popular Democratic politician in a state that might now be unrecognizable to this moderate governor who created state parks, protected water quality, rivers, and streams, created jobs, supported unions, and launched a new wave of environmental activism that resulted in the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act, and clean air regulations, among other results that impact our planet and our lives. He became known as “the Father of Earth Day”.

What would the GOP do these days with a Wisconsin State Governor named Gaylord Nelson? It’s a party that doesn’t want people to use the word “gay”. It’s a party that by and large doesn’t believe that climate change is occurring.

At the age of 85, after he had left the Senate and continued his environmental activism, Nelson was asked why he continued his public service and without a pause, he said: “because the job’s not done.”  Earth Day lives on as does the need to protect the place we all call home.

Know more about the man known as “The Father of Earth Day”:

The History of Earth Day

Featured image: Original button from the first Earth Day in 1970. Photographed by Time magazine.