United Nations, March 20, 1977

It makes me feel very humble to be here today and to realize what this day means, because I have lived long enough to see us come to know that we have only one Earth and to come to know that all the people on this planet are one

This was a matter of hope and of faith before.  Not until World War II, when we explored the whole Earth, its deepest valleys and its highest mountains and looked everywhere for the people that were there, did we know for certain that all of us on this planet were one species, human beings.  And then as we began to go into space for the first time, to leave this planet for the first time, we came to know that not only were we the only people on this Earth, and all one people, but also that Earth was the only inhabited planet in the solar system - that we were all alone here, all alone to be the custodians of life on this Earth.

We used to call it, you know, "the Earth."  Now, we call it "Earth."  And we didn't speak of a "planet" when I was a child.  Sometimes we talked of the "globe."  But then we referred to an artificial globe which human beings had made to represent this Earth for them.

So that only, in the last quarter of my life, have I, like all those here, come to know what it means to be the custodians of the future of Earth:  To know that unless we take care, unless we check the rapacious exploitation of Earth, unless we protect our rivers and our lakes, our oceans and our skies, we are endangering the future of our children and our children's children.

We didn't know this, except in little pieces.  People knew they had to take care of their own meadows, of their own forests or their own rivers.  But it was not until we saw the picture of Earth from the moon that we realized how small and helpless this planet is, something that we must hold in our arms and care for.

Earth Day is to be the first completely international and universal holiday that the world has ever known.  Every other holiday was tied to one place, or some political or special event.  This Day is tied to Earth itself, and to the place of Earth in the whole solar system.

At this moment, when I climb the steps and ring the Peace Bell, it will be the Equinox in every part of the world, and we can all celebrate it at once on behalf of every part of the world.