On-line exclusive: Messages of hope, help carried across the country
By Sabrina Bates, Chief Staff Writer
Posted: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 10:19 am
With a leather-bound notebook in his backpack and a few essentials, BJ Hill of Massachusetts has set out to carry a message across the country.
The 32-year-old teacher passed through Martin on Friday on a trip that has already carried him more than 2,700 miles.
“My goal is to have 10 minutes with the future President. I want to physically hand him this book,” Hill commented.
He is referring to the leather-bound notebooks that he has diligently carried across the United States. Within these books, read messages from everyone that he has met during his travel.
Hill encourages everyone along his route to write a message to the future President of the United States. He said comments have been posted that range from requests to help lower gas prices to well wishes for the nest four years.
“Gas prices have been the No. 1 topic that I have heard from people. The War in Iraq and health care always get mentions too in the book,” Hill said.
Hill set out on March 1 with the goal to pass through many rural parts of the country. His first notebook is filled with comments from people in San Francisco, Cal. To St. Louis, Mo. His is now working on compiling messages from the eastern portion of the country.
It took a town hall meeting in his home state of Massachusetts to get him inspired to complete his next journey.
Hill said he found a disconnect between state legislators and people in small towns.
“There is a huge difference between these two, large cities and small town politics,” he added.
After a hike throughout his home state, he had compiled a list of messages from Massachusetts’s residents. He was able to physically hand the new governor the book last year.
With the same idea in mind, Hill’s second trip has led him to West Tennessee where he plans to pass through Alabama, Mississippi and then to the eastern coastal states before going home.
“I want the next President to take these books and at the end of the day, be able to look back and question ‘what I have done to help these people,’” Hill said.
He corresponds through a Web site, www.walkamierca2008.com that is updated during his trip.
Hill carries a one-man tent and a sleeping bag, yet he has also relied on the kindness of complete strangers.
“When it gets dark, I will simply knock on a door and ask if I can my tent in the backyard. Most people are nice and let me stay. Some even take me in and offer me dinner, a hot shower, or even let me stay in the guest room. I appreciate everything everyone does for me – if it wasn’t for the kindness of strangers, I wouldn’t have gotten very far,” Hill noted on his Web site.
When asked how well he physically prepared for the trip, Hill said he was already a skinny guy who was used to hiking, but comfortable shoes mean everything.
He offered no indication of who he plans to cast a vote for during the presidential election.
“I am an independent voter. I won’t know who I will vote for until I am actually in front of the ballot box,” Hill joked.
With many more miles to trek, Hill headed out of Martin toward Jackson. He said he hopes to complete his Walk Across America in December.
To follow Hill’s travel progress, visit his Web site at www.walkamerica2008.com.
BJ Hill of Massachusetts