- Senator Nelson chose the date as the one that could maximize participation
on college campuses for what he conceived as an environmental teach-in. He
determined that the week of April 19-25 was the best bet. It did not fall
during exams or spring breaks, did not conflict with religious holidays such
as Easter or Passover, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather.
More students were likely to be in class, and there would be less competition
with other events mid-week, so he chose Wednesday, April 22. Asked whether
he had purposely chosen Lenin's 100th birthday, Nelson explained that with
only 365 days a year and 3.7 billion people in the world, every day was the
birthday of ten million living people. "On any given day, a lot of both
good and bad people were born,” he said. “A person many consider
the world’s first environmentalist, Saint Francis of Assisi, was born
on April 22."
- April 21 was the birthday of John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club. This
was not lost on organizers who thought that April 22 was Muir's birthday.
- April 22, 1970 was the 100th birthday of Vladimir Lenin. Time reported that
some suspected the date was not a coincidence, but a clue that the event was
"a Communist trick," and quoted a member of the Daughters of the
American Revolution saying, "Subversive elements plan to make American
children live in an environment that is good for them."
J. Edgar Hoover, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, may
have found the Lenin connection intriguing; it was alleged the FBI conducted
surveillance at the 1970 demonstrations. The idea that the date was chosen
to celebrate Lenin's centenary still persists in some quarters, although Lenin
was never noted as an environmentalist.
- April 22 is also the birthday of Julius Sterling Morton, the founder of
Arbor Day, a national tree-planting holiday started in 1872. Arbor Day became
a legal holiday in Nebraska in 1885, to be permanently observed on April 22.
According to the National Arbor Day Foundation "the most common day
for the state observances is the last Friday in April...but a number of state
Arbor Days are at other times to coincide with the best tree planting weather."
It has since been largely eclipsed by the more widely observed Earth Day,
except in Nebraska, where it originated.