Sunday, September 26
Today was a 32 mile walk to Hastings and I experienced my first bout of mental depression since leaving Oregon. This depression had nothing to do with the physical walk and tired feet but was instead related to my secondary purpose - sharing my love of American history and the Constitution. I am beginning to feel that no one really cares. I suppose it started when not a single school even bothered to reply to my offer to talk to their history classes. I tried follow-up calls hoping to learn what I might better do in future solicitations and talked briefly with one principal. He said his school was busy trying to raise test scores and wished me well. Is this what education has come to?
I had been "mulling this over" on the walk from Kearney and then came my experience with the Boy Scouts. Camped next to me in Minden was a Scout troop and I thought, "What better group to ask about the meaning of freedom than some red-blooded American Scouts?" I walked over and explained my mission to the adult leader asking if he would discuss freedom with his Scouts and let me know what the boys shared. He looked at me like I was a freak - not a single answer did I receive.
Therefore, with cars zooming by, I was feeling rather lonely and insignificant as I walked on down the highway.
To tell the truth, I'm not sure if the most Americans think about or appreciate their freedoms. We like to wave flags, set off fireworks, and embrace Mom's apple pie. We readily use the term "freedom" but without substance it is only a cliche. Now don't get me wrong - everyone has been nice, everyone has been encouraging, and everyone has been quick to wish me well, but this very real question leaves most people lacking. Americans are quick to say what's wrong with the country or their feelings about the President but to answer a question like, "What does freedom mean?" almost makes them uncomfortable.
Perhaps this is all in my mind. Perhaps I've just hit a momentary mental wall.
I hope so - perhaps.


  1. Ray, I want to encourage you. Perhaps it is the area you are in? Maybe they are wary of strangers? I don't know for sure. Don't give up though. I know that there are those who would welcome you. I know that you are a retired teacher but have you thought of approaching homeschool groups? I have homeschooled our five daughters from day one. Two have gone on to college and I just have three now, my point is that homeschoolers love the idea of having someone come and do just what you are trying to do. Kids love having someone in costume present a living history lesson. I am sure if you get on the web and google homeschool association for the area that you are going to next you will find something. You may be able to arrange something. I will be praying for you, don't give up even if it is for your dream of walking across the States. There are people who care!

  2. I think you wanted to be like water...this is just a way to re-direct you...You will find the one that cares if you havent only takes one....Your friend Jay...tkd

  3. Ray,
    Try not to be dismayed at what could simply be caution on the part of the scoutmaster regarding a stranger, although it sounds more like he had his own agenda for his scouts and perhaps was unprepared for any change. Although effective teachers always capitalize on spontaneous "teachable moments", not all people, unfortunately, are inclined to be open to such opportunities, nor do they possess the skills to do so.

    As to the principal's reflects the sad reality of the pressures felt by schools today to ensure that test-score levels are adequately reached so that state and federal ramifications are not placed on a "failing" school. Fearing there is not a moment that can be spared in the school day due to high-stakes manditory testing, educators are sadly pressured into making decisions that hinder oportunities that could truly develop and foster our younger generation's educational experiences.

    Test results can be a wonderful tool in determining the strengths and weaknesses of students so that their needs can better be met, but testing has become so much more than that. To what end will high test scores benefit our country if students have no appreciation for what it took to make our nation great? They may know the required information deemed appropriate by our legislators, but have we taken the time to provide them with the opportunites that enable them to develop a true love of country? I'm sure YOUR students have thought about what freedom means and have, through your example, learned to value our nation.

    No doubt these recent experiences have discouraged you, but persistence, perseverance, and determination are all core character traits that are truly American in spirit. Our ancestors possessed them, our national heroes possessed them, and many current Americans, including yourself, possess them.

    The last 1700 miles of your journey is a testimony to the persistence,perseverance and determination that is our American spirit at heart. Do not let the disappointment of these recent encounters deter you from continuing in your efforts to share your love of American history and the Constitution.

    Keep up the good work and continue contacting schools. There will eventually be schools that will recognize the value in taking the time to have you share your knowledge and message. Think of the lives you have aleady impacted simply because they saw you traveling or briefly spoke to you for a few minutes.

    Your example at attempting this monumental task of Walking Across America will affect individuals in ways you may never know. Remember your example of the stone thrown into the water and the ripple effect that is created. You are the stone on this journey.

    Keep the faith :)

  4. Ray:

    If everyone you talked to was eager to engage you in conversation and expressed a clear understanding of American freedom, I'd say, "What the hell are you doing out there?" The fact that they are dismissive and unsure, underscores the importance of your mission.

    I know you know that delayed gratification is what teaching is all about. "Hey, Mr. Brown! You were my 8th grade teacher 20 years ago and my absolute favorite! I learned so much from you!" Yeah, kid where were you 20 years ago when you were sitting in his class? So what change you are generating on your walk might not be known for weeks, months, years or ever; but you are making a difference.

    30 years ago Plenny Wingo walked up to the principal of the school I taught at and asked to speak with students. The principal turned him down and Plenny (walking backwards) sauntered off. Turns out Plenny Wingo crossed the country (and crossed Europe) walking backwards during the Depression. What stories he might have told. In his 80s in 1977 when he came to my school, he was still walking (and backwards) across the country. I've talked about him to a lot of people over the years so his 2 minutes at Capitola Junior High School were not wasted.

    That scout master might be kicking himself this morning that he missed a golden opportunity and telling his scouts about the guy walking across America.

    Keep walking my friend!


  5. Ray,

    Hang in there. Last summmer when I was traveling the opposite direction through the same country, I would talk to people who have seen you towards the start of your journey. When I told them what you were about, there was noting but positive reactions. I'm sure that as we approach the upcoming election, there will be many who are interested in what you have to say.

    Keep on walking!!

    Matt S.

  6. Hello Mr. Brown I am an older sister of a now 8th grader at Cascade, he came home to tell us about your mission. We were all astounded, I love what you are doing, and your love for this country and everything with it. Even though it might feel you are one of few that has that much love for this free country we live in, dont let that bring you down, it's people like you that remind us of what we have and what we can do with our lives. I admire you, and hope to do such of a grand thing like you have. You're half way there, keep your head up! Even if it feels like no one cares, when they hear your story I believe they will. Because I for one have never met you and I am rooting for you!!

  7. Rest assured there are people that treasure and appreciate their freedoms that come from being an American. My Pastor expresses it from the pulpit quite regularly and the people in our congregation express it often to one another and express thanks to God for it. We recognize that it could be very very different and that we would not be able to freely congregate as a religious body (in our case Christian) and exercise our spiritual views and recognize our individual freedom to vote and many other thins. LN in Reedsport, OR

  8. Ah, people just don't know how amazing it is! I don't know, maybe its because I grew up with a history-loving dad and grandpa, but I don't see why people don't like it more. Ugh! I'm mad now! People out there refusing a little history lecture and missing out on how greatly you teach it and people like me have to miss out on it! I just wanna slap people sometimes!

    --Margaret Hibdon

  9. Don't worry what you think other people are thinking. Your not doing this for them your doing it for America. Here's a famous quote to cope with this minor setback.
    "America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense ... human rights invented America." ~ Jimmy Carter
    So don't let a little thing affect a big cause your doing.

  10. Ray,

    You are making a difference with me and my family. Tonight we gathered together as a family and talked about history. I specifically talked to them about the Constitution and of course the Bill of Rights. I asked my four kids who live at home if they could name something from the Bill of Rights and they struggled! I was very sad. One is a 10th grader and a 7th grader. I realized that I was the one who failed them. My wife and I went through the Bill of Rights with them and let them know why they are so important. I mentioned the copy of the Bill of Rights you gave me and how it is framed in my office. I really appreciate you and your example. My kids continue to follow you across the country.

    I bet that at least one person you reach will teach another and they will teach another and so on. I know this has happened in our family. Please keep up the great work and know that you have changed the lives of 4 children in my family. I know you have changed many more. Keep up the walk!

  11. Hi Ray,

    My name is Charlie and although I've not yet commented I've been following your blog ever since i saw you walking up the McKenzie River outside of Eugene this summer (once on a Saturday near Vida, and the following Monday walking up into the Cascades). I want to remind you of a few things: 1) that although you may not be having much luck with the schools or the scout troops, remember that there are a lot of us online following you, wishing we had the idea, the initiative, or the guts to do what you are doing. What you are trying to accomplish really means something to us. 2) There are good schools and bad schools out there, meaning that there are schools where the teachers and administrators really care about the education their kids receive, and others where they only care about meeting the most basic measureables (probably because that's all they can manage). Some of them might also be afraid that you'll be too political and don't want to cause a fuss among parents. But I want to tell you that as somewhat of a moderate, I really appreciate the fact that you haven't been very political (at least, you haven't been preaching any standard party lines), but still very patriotic and appreciative of our country. Hopefully as you continue along, you'll get more acceptance from schools and other groups, and they can better understand what you're offering. If not, know that one day I'll be telling my (not yet born) kids about the time I saw the Son of Liberty walking across America, and why he was doing it. Take care and be safe out there.