Hands Across America: Holding Hands in May 1986

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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    5 thoughts on “Hands Across America: Holding Hands in May 1986”

    1. I’m trying to make a map of the route of Hands Across America, and how complete the line was. http://bit.ly/kEcKCr Can you locate for me where the photo above was taken, and do you remember where this segment started and ended as you drove past it? Thanks.

    2. Gregg, that’s pretty cool that you are putting together that information. Surprisingly, I was able to identify the location of the area of the above photo. The photo was taken off I-17 Northbound at a location about a few miles south of Exit 225, Pioneer Road Exit. I think that area is technically in the northern part of Phoenix, not far from Carefree and south of New River. We pulled over soon after the photo was taken and joined the line at a place near a sign that was 1-1/4 mile south of the Pioneer Road Exit.

      Regarding the start and end of the segment, I don’t know the details. We watched the line form along I-17 as we drove north, and then we stopped to join the festivities, so we did not get to see where the line ended. In our location, the line went right along the freeway. People had to stretch to try to keep the line together, and there may have been some small gaps, but I did not see a huge break. Hope that helps.

      Thanks for the comment.

    3. im pretty sure it went in front of where i live then 750 north mount comfort indiana out side of greenfield indiana.how can i find out. I thought there was a map that showed where it was suppose to go. so people on the trail would go out and stand .I would like to find that map

    4. I work as a Tutor for a Public School – w/kiddos born after 20o9 .
      AH! They do not know” this America”… that we still are! Have been trying to located age approp materials or picture/books …omg they are NOT there !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! these little guys are starving for good , and truth about what a healthy county/society is like, (inspire a little dreamer to be a visionary someday as well) vs one they are born into-shocked where no books in our public library! It was a big deal-to lose this time in history is selfish.. to future Americans

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