Today, thanks to the internet, activism and fundraising are relatively easy. Anyone who wants to support a cause can quickly reach out to people all over the world. Things were rather different in the 80s, though. Back then, if you wanted to get a lot of people working together toward a common goal and wanted to raise a lot of money, then you needed something really big and flashy to get everyone’s attention. Like, say, getting millions of people to hold hands and form a human chain across the country. And, on May 25, 1986, that’s exactly what happened, with the event known as Hands Across America.
The person who came up with the idea was inspired by the previous year’s big charity event, We Are the World, which saw musicians from every genre of music getting together and doing a song to help fight poverty in Africa. He decided to do the same sort of thing, but on a much larger scale and with ordinary people instead of celebrities. It was billed as a day of national unity, a great coming together to fight hunger and poverty. Money was to be raised in two ways: by letting people pay $10 to reserve their place in the chain and by selling Hands across America merchandise.
Technically, the event didn’t quite work. There were large gaps in the line in Arizona and Arkansas. However, it did raise around $15 million for charity. And it also succeeded in creating a spirit of fellowship and belonging for millions. So it succeeded at its main goals, even if the chain didn’t technically extend continuously across America.