May 25 is the anniversary of 1986’s Hands Across America. For those of you too young to remember, Hands Across America is something that people did before we had the Internet. Americans across the United States gathered to hold hands in an attempt to create a 4,125-mile human chain from coast-to-coast through seventeen states.
They held hands for about fifteen minutes, sang the “Hands Across America” theme song (recorded by Voices of America), “America the Beautiful,” and “We Are the World,” which had been released a year earlier in 1985. And this event occurred in the days before we had hand sanitizer.
Hands Across America,
Hands Across this land I love;
United we fall,
United we stand,
Hands Across America.
Did it succeed? Well, the chain ended up with broken places in several barren areas. But millions of people across the country, including many famous celebrities, gathered that day for the event.
President Reagan held hands in Washington, connected at least theoretically, to Texas migrant farm workers who organized a 51-mile chain in Texas. The chain included Oprah, Jerry Seinfeld, Jesse Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Rev. Billy Graham, Prince, Bill Clinton, Kenny Rogers, and Shamu the killer whale. There is even a book about the day.
The event did not reach its goal to raise $50 million for the hungry, and the promotion costs were high, but it raised around $20 million for soup kitchens and shelters, while raising awareness about the issue. And it gave us something to do.
Yes, I say “us” because I participated in the event. I was on a trip traveling through Arizona on that date with a group of friends. We had not planned to be in a particular spot, but when we saw the line forming in the desert (see photo above), we all jumped out of the vehicle and joined in the festivities.
Everyone was friendly and happy for those fifteen minutes. As silly and cheesy as it was, maybe we should do it more often.
See these people over there?
They are my brother and sister,
When they laugh I laugh,
When they cry I cry,
When they need me I’ll be there by their side.
Photo by Chimesfreedom. Were you there for Hands Across America? Leave a comment.
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