America recently lost a true legend, an enduring symbol of our great country, and a person who worked tirelessly for the causes he cherished. You may remember Iron Eyes Cody best as the “Crying Indian” from the public service ads that appeared regularly on television in the 1970’s. Recent surveys have shown that this ad is still remembered by millions and millions of us who were touched by Iron Eye’s dramatic plea to preserve the earth.
In a public service announcement that aired on the first-ever “Earth Day” in 1971, television viewers watched Iron Eyes paddle his canoe up a polluted stream past a belching smokestack, and walk to the edge of a busy highway strewn with trash. As the camera moved in for a close-up, a single tear rolled down Iron Eyes’ cheek, a tear for the fate of America. “People start pollution,” said the narrator’s voice, “people can stop it.”
That tear proved more eloquent than any words, as viewers found themselves profoundly moved, and dedicated themselves to preserving the beauty of the American landscape. The ecology movement, still in it infancy, had found a powerful ally in the talents of Iron Eyes Cody; the commercial left an impression on millions of us who saw the spot. In fact, the spot was recently named one of the top fifty commercials of all time. People who saw the advertisement still remember Iron Eyes and his plea to all Americans to protect the environment.
For the rest of his life, Iron Eyes would carry on his mission to preserve America’s beauty. His crusade took him everywhere, from lecture halls and school auditoriums to audiences with presidents, royalty, and the Pope.