Two men walk across the country for a cause

"Two old, white-haired men walking down the road" is how Robin Monahan described himself and his brother Laird as they walked 3,100 miles across the United States to protest the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United that gave corporations and labor unions the same right to free speech as people have.

"We now have a Supreme Court that is sympathetic to corporations and goes out of its way to further empower corporate influence in our government," Robin asserted in a recent interview. "So this was the passion that made my brother call me in February to get people to rise up."

They decided to walk across the country this past summer to make their protests heard and started training.

"Yeah, it's a crazy thing to do," Robin said.

These two Vietnam vets grew up in Minnesota. Robin, 67, of Shoreview, is a retired nurse, and Laird, 70, is a retired Great Lakes merchant seaman who now lives in the Chicago area.

They wanted to raise support for a constitutional amendment that once again would ban corporations from using their profits to buy political campaign ads to support or attack candidates, often without identifying themselves. Robin said he's not against corporations in general, but their newfound power to speak up has him riled up.

Robin said he'd never been politically active before, other than having an election sign in his yard. But for their cross-country walk, they enlisted the aid of Move to Amend, a coalition of over 50 organizations promoting the constitutional amendment.

Hoping for publicity, they detailed their trip on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe it was the craziness that drew the attention of several newspapers that published stories about them along the way and the Washington Post printed a photo at the end.

The journey
With the blessings of their wives and families, they departed from Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on May 15, walking along U.S. Highway 50, sometimes called the "loneliest highway in America" because of large desolate stretches along the way. Wearing fluorescent yellow vests with the words "End Corporate Rule! Reclaim Democracy.org!", they stopped at rallies in Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, Chicago and Madison and finished up in Washington, D.C., with rallies in October.

Taking their car along, they played leapfrog, meaning one brother would walk half a mile or a mile while the other one drove a little ahead. Then the driver would start walking while the walker caught up and drove ahead. So while they covered 3,100 miles, each walked half the distance.

On a few occasions, whoever was driving parked too close to a culvert, and the car got stuck in a ditch. Each time, within a few minutes, someone stopped to offer assistance.

When livestock trucks full of cows passed them on the road, the yellow mist coming out would engulf them. Robin chuckled as he said this was especially unpleasant.

But there weren't any major problems except a bad cut on Laird's hand, taped up by Robin, and the danger of walking on edge of the road with cars speeding by at 60 or 70 miles per hour. Generally, the weather was good, but they endured several days of 104 degrees in Kansas.

For about 158 days, they each walked 12 to 16 miles a day. Having the car meant they didn't have to carry anything. Mostly they walked alone but sometimes up to 12 others walked a few miles with them. Robin's wife Becky accompanied them for four hot days.

They slept in their tent for 25 nights and Robin cooked on a camp stove. People from Move to Amend, family contacts and strangers they met along the way put them up for 65 nights. The rest of the time, they stayed in motels.

At the end of the walk, Becky and their son, Lucas, age 11, met Robin for the rally in Washington, D.C.

"I think it's wonderful," said Becky about the trip. "If you have a passion, you should get to follow it."

Uphill battle
On Nov. 6, Robin held a rally at the state Capitol, the first of many events that he will hold in Minnesota and Iowa. He said people in other states are doing this as well.

His action plan also calls for creating a ground swell of support for a constitutional amendment, getting city councils and then counties and states to pass non-binding resolutions to support this constitutional amendment.

He admits he has an uphill battle and said, "I equate it a little like putting toothpaste back in the tube."

"I don't expect it to happen in my lifetime but I think it has to be done and somebody's got to do it. I can't be dissuaded by the enormity of the job," he said. "We can't pull the veil of helplessness over ourselves and look for the TV remote."

Robin went through two pairs of shoes on his cross-country walk for a subject he feels passionately about. He feels the trip was well worth it, and he is continuing his efforts.

For more information about their trip and their philosophy, go to

www.lairdandrobin.org.

Pamela O'Meara can be reached at pomeara@lillienews.org or at 651-748-7818.

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