May 25 – Anniversary of Hands Across America

Posted on May 25, 2016

On this date in 1986, for fifteen minutes, people formed a 4,125-mile-long line that crossed the continental United States. The human chain was created by about 6.5 million people!!

In actual fact, there were many breaks in the chain – wide rivers and high mountains tend to do that to human chains – but the chain linked major cities and then meandered back and forth within the cities, to allow as many people as possible to participate. In some places the line of people was six, seven, even ten people deep! If we could have had hands across all the rugged, high-altitude, or deep-water spots, that many people really could have spanned the U.S., for sure.

The line meandered a bit on large scale (see above)
as well as on a smaller scales (below).

You may ask what good it does to have people hold hands “from sea to shining sea.” Aside from the reality of the cooperation it took to complete the project, there was great symbolism in a human chain of people of all ethnicities, genders, and ages working together to complete the chain.

But the event was also a fundraiser. Donations were collected in each city from many of the participants reserving their places in the line, and those donations were used to help feed, clothe, or house local people in need. In all, Hands Across America raised $34 million.

Some stars were recruited to stand in line. People as varied as actors Edward James Olmos and Brooke Shields to musicians Yoko Ono and Harry Belafonte were on hand in New York City; actor Robin Williams, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and C-3PO helped finish the chain in Long Beach, California. In between were then-President Ronald Reagan, musician Michael Jackson, magician David Copperfield, Chewbacca the Wookiee, future president Bill Clinton, 50 Abraham Lincoln impersonators, and 54 Elvis Presley impersonators!

And more stars. And of course way, way more “ordinary” extraordinary people.

Also on this date:

Anniversary of John Scopes's indictment

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