CHICAGO (WGN) — One man from Illinois is taking his message about finding common ground and “meeting in the middle” to the middle of the country.
55-year-old John Inserra is walking six states, 75 towns and 1,700 miles over 120 days on his journey. He started in West Hope, North Dakota on July 4 and is heading to Hope, Texas.
He said his mission is to find what keeps us all together, not what tears us apart. He said he was inspired by 2020 and the most contentious presidential election in recent history.
Inserra has retired from the restaurant and hospitality industry. This summer, he started a non-profit, For Our Shared Humanity or FOSH.
“I do believe the differences are important. I’m not discounting those at all,” he said. “That’s what makes us very strong. But that shouldn’t be how we define ourselves all the time.”
Inserra does all the walking, but his small support team is camping with him, driving a chase car and documenting his 1,700-mile journey down the center of the U.S.
Inserra said he’s taking in everything along the way from windmills to rainstorms, railroad tracks to wildlife.
As he enters towns, he and his crew take a soft approach.
“We have a motto,” Inserra said. “Letting them come to us. … The first thing I say to people is, ‘Hey, want to hear something crazy? I’m walking to Texas.’”
To him, the key to breaking the ice and eventually tackling the big topics starts with one thing. “The most important part is the connection,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is, or creed is, political affiliation is.”
“We feel like these are friends for life,” he said of the people he meets.
“I’ve learned that if you slow things down and you do look somebody in the eye and focus on what you have in common, the conversation is so easy,” he said.”
He doesn’t claim to have any answers. Inserra said he’s just willing to start the delicate conversations that maybe, just maybe, could lead to a solution or two.
“As I’m making this walk, going through 75 different towns, all strangers to me, I have made thousands of friends, planted thousands of seeds of positivity and I believe that trickle will make a difference down the road,” he said.
Inserra plans to end the journey in Texas in late October. He hopes to turn this trip into a book and a documentary that can be shared in schools.