I hadn’t been to Kansas in 25 years, since my then-girlfriend’s ’72 Dodge Dart broke down at 2 AM square in the middle of our transcontinental journey to San Diego. The dash went dark, the engine quit, and the car silently rolled to a stop on the shoulder of the Interstate. I opened the hood and was greeted by flames, which I somehow managed to blow out, probably with the help of the ever-present midwest winds which were howling that night. They had to wake up a State Trooper to rescue us. Twenty five years later, the winds still howl as I remember them.
Leg 2 was going far too smoothly. My flight to Tampa was early. The rental car bus arrived immediately. I didn’t get lost. The sun was shining. Maybe you’re like me, but when things start going this well, I get nervous. Turns out my gut feelings were right. Things were about to get…silly.
Like the expedition’s first leg to California, Leg 2 was also to familiar territory, to a state I had once called home: Florida. My many years in Florida, teaching at Seacamp in the Florida Keys, as president of The Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples, and co-chair of the Everglades Coalition, means that I’ll be returning here twice more to honor the flood of speaking requests I was honored to receive.
I suppose it was an appropriate start for an expedition about the oceans: Wet. A cold January morning rain pounded the Washington, DC sidewalks as I dashed, carry-on in tow, to catch a ride to the airport. Fortunately, a taxi driver quickly took pity on the umbrella-less, rapidly saturating figure waving his arm on the corner, and, in keeping with DC taxi cab tradition, I was soon in deep and interesting conversation about current events and, of course, politics.
Sometimes planning is overrated. Sometimes thinking is overrated. Sometimes the best things happen when you just act. That’s what happened on my 50th birthday. Though it’s a concept I had thought about before, what’s become the “50 Years – 50 States – 50 Speeches Expedition” was an idea that literally popped into my head on the morning of my birthday. I knew if I thought about it too much — with all the challenges,
logistics, and complications — I’d talk myself out of it. So I announced the ambitious project to give speeches at no charge to schools in all 50 U.S. states (plus territories), and in so doing, dove into the deep end of a new endeavor that is rapidly taking on a life of its own. And that’s the best part of it.
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