Spent today holed up in a hotel room finalizing the press release, updating the website and making media calls for tomorrow’s ride conclusion at the Jefferson Memorial. The DC media market is a notoriously tough nut to crack, but will do my best. Felt strange knowing the ride is almost over, and like a good time to share some final reflections.
Looked back at the past 10 weeks and determined that about six were actually spent pedaling, with about four weeks forced down time. Not a bad cross-country pace for a middle-aged guy who’s never biked more than 100 miles at a stretch in his life. So there’s some satisfaction in accomplishing such a physical feat, but that’s not the half of it.
I can only describe the past two and a half months on the road as an amazing journey. I’m so glad I listened to my heart and did this, and would not trade the experience for anything. There’s nothing like putting it all on the line to stand up for what you believe, and sharing that dream with the rest of the world. Before I left Boulder, I thought I would find some level of support for the “100% by 2020” renewables goal I was promoting, but nothing like the near-unanimous support I found on Main Street America. To me, this is the great, untold story of the ride, and something to which President Obama and members of Congress are totally oblivious.
Some of these Americans I met are motivated by the state of the economy; others by the desire for green jobs; others by global economic competitiveness; others by the desire for energy dependence; and still others by the severity of the global climate crisis. But all are united in their belief that America has lost her way and that the path back involves us leading a worldwide green industrial revolution. Something else the President and Congress do not seem to grasp is how hungry the American people are for a generational mission, and how badly they want to see America once again accomplish something great. It was incredibly heartening, and reaffirming, to hear this from so many people, of every political stripe.
Most of the people I met on the ride also shared my thinking that the two major political parties are more interested in fighting each other than for the American people they were elected to represent. Many view the partisan bickering as a sick game, cynically orchestrated by corporations, to divide the American people against each other, so we don’t pull together. Well, I have news for the Democratic and Republican parties: this is not about you. It is about America, the planet, and our childrens’ futures. A tidal wave of sentiment is building across this land for Congress and the White House to set party label aside and put the American people first.
There’s a reason why I chose the Jefferson Memorial as the location to end my ride: I believe we need to get back to the ideals this great nation was founded upon. Thomas Jefferson penned the timeless words that declared our independence from the tyranny of King George III. Today, we need to free ourselves from the tyranny of corrupt special interests that have hijacked our democracy and are running America into the ground. The list of culprits is long.
At the top of the list are powerful, greedy corporate CEOs and their minions who don’t seem to care about anything other than themselves, and are determined to maintain a status quo that enriches them at the expense of the rest of us. Here I’m talking about the fossil fuel, nuclear and defense industries. Also high on the list are Madison Avenue front groups for these same polluting industries – and their proxies in Congress – that spend millions sowing the seeds of doubt in the minds of the American people about the reality of a global climate that is undeniably spiraling out of control. I’m willing to bet one of them, U.S. Senator James Inhofe (who infamously characterized global warming as a “hoax”), would have flacked for the Flat Earth Society back in the day if his salary depended on it.
These special interest lobbies could be overcome by a president with the personal and political courage to stand up to them and issue the call to renew America with renewable energy. But it will not happen with half-steps, and timid goals like 20% renewables by 2020. It requires bold leadership and a vision that will inspire and bring out the best in the American people: a modern day, green energy “moon shot.”
When President Kennedy challenged the nation to land a man on the moon in ten years, he didn’t say we would fly 1/5 of the way to the moon and back. He said, “We choose to go to the moon!” The American people would rally around such a great president, forcing Congress to get in line. But no president will take this step until we unify our voices to demand it. Democracy, as the saying goes, is not a spectator sport.
I was reminded daily on my ride that we are a great nation, of great people with great, big hearts. There is nothing America cannot do if we set our minds to it. But we must choose to turn this crisis into opportunity, before it is too late. This requires each of us taking our own personal stands for the future of life on earth. Our real job is to do what we were uniquely put on this earth to do.