Moving a Divided Nation Forward, Two Wheels at a Time
“Washington is not going to fix America; America is going to fix America. People here have more power to change their country than they may otherwise believe. The sooner enough of us act upon the common sense notion that we do better for ourselves when we do better for each other, the country again moves forward in meaningful way.” Welcome news in uncertain times.
You can’t reach that conclusion, retired colonel Christopher Holshek noted in a Huffington Post article, on talk shows, news programs, or social media, but only through “real, human connectivity in an alienated, narcissistic, and atomized society.” For him at least, this realization got started with a motorcycle ride.
His thirty-year career ending, the Army Civil Affairs veteran took off on his Harley-Davidson for an 8,000 mile adventure across the United States. Inspired by Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, he went out to find out what it means to be an American in today’s world, soon finding himself on a mental and spiritual journey of rediscovery. “When I took at look at the country I served to mark my military retirement in 2010, I came to realize that the future of our nation constantly depends on each one of us, in every generation, taking our own journey to find out who we are, what we’re about, and what we’re willing to do to face the challenges of our times. So, after some prompting, I wrote the book.”
Far more than a motorcycle diary, Travels with Harley – Journeys in Search of Personal and National Identity is a stirring memoir that retired Marine General James Mattis has called “an antidote to pessimism and a reminder of what makes life worth living.” Only through service to others, it concludes, can Americans of all ages find their identity by stepping up to national and global citizenship, starting in their own communities.
As a divided nation ponders its future and find its way in the aftermath of a pivotal election, this positive and empowering message couldn’t be better timed or more needed. Travels with Harley, former Center for a New American Security executive vice president Kristen Lord, is “a must-read for those thinking about the future direction of America and what they can do about it.”
But writing the book wasn’t enough. The native of New York’s Lower Hudson Valley is taking its timely and broad-based message on the road. The National Service Ride leverages motorcycling’s appeal to freedom, adventure, and moving forward to promote citizenship and service, starting right at home.
“When we become better citizens, we become a better country – because, when you serve your community, you serve your country," Holshek tells his audiences. “It doesn’t require a uniform.”
Funded through book sales, it is an adaptable platform for discussions at schools and other places on service learning are organized between rider clubs and service organizations in communities around the country. Interactive discussions across generational and societal lines aim to help America’s youth see the meaning and value of helping themselves best by helping others, showing them pathways to local, national, international service learning. Encouraging and empowering young people to do good work and help solve common problems, starting in their own communities, also helps them improve their qualifications for personal advancement, helping them to build leadership and teambuilding skills.
A national narrative of service that transcends differences fosters a collaborative mindset, he contends, establishing empathy for real common ground for much-needed civil dialogue on matters inexplicable in 140 characters. Service to others helps develop the internal moral GPS each us needs to navigate a complex, dynamically interconnected, and information overloaded world, discerning fact from fiction. It would also go far to make the country less vulnerable to mass media manipulation and the politics of fear and ignorance played out daily in the obsessive reality show of terrorism, distrust of police and other forms of government. Moreover, it closes numerous engagement gaps and combats a culture of fear and unfounded entitlement, narcissism, and impunity – and the isolation on many levels that goes with it.
“America cannot long remain the land of the free if it’s no longer the home of the brave,” he warns.
Beyond promoting an empowering sense of national unity, the Ride also looks to help pass the baton of generational leadership. The initiative’s locally organized events to promote ongoing dialogue between service veterans from many walks of life who are looking for ways to give back and youth looking for ways to pay it forward. At high schools, colleges, and other places, local service-oriented motorcycle clubs and community, public, and national service organizations are facilitating conversations across generational and societal lines about citizenship and service – all enhanced and extended by mass and social media.
Besides revitalizing citizenship along the lines of thinking globally and acting locally, the project helps close civil-military gaps. Each event starts with a “Mindful Moment of Gratitude,” courtesy of Armor Down, in which the audience reads the names of local veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice since 9/11, in order to connect citizens with soldiers and create a more universal sense of service and sacrifice. “If civilians truly wish to honor veterans, police, firefighters, first responders and others in uniform that put their lives on the line on their behalf, then they should strive to make this a country worth the sacrifice of those they emulate much less than they admire. They need not go far, for there are myriad ways to become citizens as responsible to neighbors as to nation – patriotism being something you do and not just say.”
The reaching out goes both ways. Uniformed veterans in particular have a critical role to play. “’Our mission,’ I tell other veterans sharing a privileged place of veneration, ‘is not complete until we’ve explained to our youth what service and sacrifice has meant to us. What they do with our hard-earned wisdom is up to them, but this much at least we owe them.’”
To test and refine his concept and get the wheels rolling, Holshek has already made several appearances this past year. After appearing at schools in New York and New Jersey in the spring, he visited others in Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia, including Kennesaw State University, where he opened a discussion on building peace locally and globally co-hosted by the United Nations Association and TRENDS Global. Since then, his book has become a student text for at least two classes there. In nearby Clarkston, a major refugee resettlement hub in metropolitan Atlanta, he presented at a Career & Education Fair with Refuge Coffee and other community service initiatives. “I got to see America at its best,” he observed.
In addition to service-oriented organizations like TRENDS Global, retired General Stanley McChrystal’s Service Year Alliance, and the Alliance for Peacebuilding, as well as GoodWorld, a highly acclaimed crowdfunding initiative for non-profits, the project is resourcing motorcycle clubs like the Harley Owners Group, BMW Motorcycle Owners Association, American Motorcyclists Association, American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars Riders Clubs – all with many military, police, and other service veterans.
For these like-minded groups, the Ride provides an informal thematic coordinating platform that enables them to more closely leverage each other on events and initiatives in their own areas independently – from the bottom up rather than the top down. It also extends their own platforms and initiatives in a unique and highly visible way – helping to boost awareness, membership, volunteerism, and fundraising.
Holshek thinks his message – and his initiative – can gain traction with most Americans regardless of political or social following. “This is going to be as big as people want it to be,” he adds. “After all, America is in and of itself a composite of individual journeys. We’ll start off in the hundreds, perhaps the thousands – and see how big a dent we can make. And help put the Unum back in e pluribus Unum.”
After much careful consideration and advice from many, we are moving the National Service Ride to the fall - starting the last week of August and ending the third week of October. There are a number of reasons; but, all in all, we’ll stand a much greater chance of local success and national impact.
The emerging feedback is that the fall presents more of an opportunity to gain larger audiences, especially from the growing number of associated schools really getting interested in the initiative. Additionally, we’re seeing interest growth in venues like Harley-Davidson dealerships and bookstores. You can see the new itinerary on the website (www.nationalserviceride.net/).
So, for the most part, it’s a matter of re-scheduling and taking advantage now of working with many schools that will be better positioned to be hosting presentations in the fall. It also gives us a greater chance to cast and bill the Ride presentations more as local events in support of local groups and initiatives – even as a local fundraiser.
We’re still going to run the school presentations here in the New York and New Jersey areas, as you’re seeing on the Facebook page. These "preseason" events will give us some media material as well as act as a testing ground for our events later on this year. I also plan to run some events at motorcycle rallies and so on this summer, as well as additional talks in DC and New York, write more articles, etc., right up to the time of the Ride to build up the buzz. We’re also gaining some ground with getting national media interest - another good reason for delaying the start of the Ride.
And with the elections even closer in September (and now more interesting), the Ride’s message about citizenship as the antidote to gaps in governance, about community service = national service = global service, and about gaining personal as well as community (and thus national) strength through engagement should have even greater gravitas then. So, it all bodes much better for then than now.
Meantime, here’s what you can do:
• Help spread the word and get the book and Ride’s positive and empowering message out – through social media (“friending” the NSR Facebook page, liking, favoriting, reposting and re-tweeting, and so on) and through your personal networks; and
• Help spike books sales by posting a rating and review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads – remember that the National Service Ride is funded solely through book sales.
Oh yeah: Travels with Harley got a great review in The Huffington Post: “Seeing America and Ourselves from the Outside In.”
Again, my heartfelt thanks to all of you for your support of this cause. I look really forward to the dent we’ll make together later this year.
All the best,
Dear Friends and Fans,
The National Service Ride will begin at my alma mater in New York State.
As the book introduction says: “Often, the longest of journeys circles back to the place where it all started, where the traveler discovers something that was there all along but awaited validation by experience.” On the 5th of May, he will do just that – closing one circle to open another.
Beginning at my alma mater that afternoon at Washingtonville High School, the native of New York’s Lower Hudson Valley who recently returned to settle there for the first time since he graduated in 1978 will begin another journey around the United States – this time to pass on what I’ve learned about citizenship, service, and engagement in and beyond America and take the book’s broad-based message on the road
Open to anyone to join for as long as they like, from Cinco de Mayo to the 4th of July, the Ride follows a clockwise path around the United States. Stopping at venues including Atlanta, GA, Houston, TX, Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA, Denver, CO, Chicago, IL, and a number of smaller towns and cities in between, it features interactive discussions in schools, bookstores, and other places for Americans who have served and sacrificed in all walks of life to tell their stories to younger audiences, in order to encourage them to community, public, and national service and promote a dialogue of national unity, as well as help pass the baton of generational leadership.
A list of venues can be found on the project website, continuously updated this month and connected up with routes likewise to be listed, until the Ride starts. Holshek will tweet updates and specifics on meeting points and times for take-off as the Ride progresses.
The intent of Ride fits perfectly with the intent of the Service Year Alliance and other partners. Chaired by retired Army General Stan McChrystal, the Service Year Alliance envisions a future in which a year of full-time national service is a cultural expectation, a common opportunity, and a civic rite of passage for every young American. It is the leading effort in the United States to improve citizenship by giving every young person the opportunity to serve in one of an array of areas, including health, poverty, conservation, or education. By encouraging young people to do good work and solve problems starting in their own communities, they also become better Americans.
Additional among a growing coalition of partners include the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge, dedicated to helping American youth learn more about citizenship, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, and the United Nations Association – National Capital Area, which is arranging most of the venues. GoodWorld, a highly acclaimed crowdfunding initiative for non-profits that has gained the attention of the President of the United States and Forbes magazine, is another. Its unique social-media based platform enables small, personal donations to hundreds of non-profit charity and advocacy organizations of choice – by simply using the hashtag: #donate.
The Service Year Alliance, GoodWorld, and the other partners provide clear ideas and pathways for young citizens to join or contribute to the Ride’s partner or other service organizations, as well as for older folks to help them take their own journey to find out who they are and what they’re about through service to others.
Remember: I’m not asking for donations. The Ride, in fact, is not funded by anyone or anything other than book sales – in keeping with the project’s theme of community-basing, crowdsourcing, and bottom-up change. It’s not so much about power to the people as the power of the people. So spread the word.
This is going to be as big as people want it to be. Perhaps we’ll do it every year – not just because there’s an election this year, but because, as I say in the book, America is in and of itself a journey. We’ll start off in the hundreds, perhaps the thousands, and see how big a dent we can make in this universe of ours.
Find out more on the project website (www.nationalserviceride.net) and through associated social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest; hash tags: #TravelswithHarley and #NationalServiceRide.
And spread the word!
Dear Friends and Followers,
Two major non-profit organizations have joined the growing coalition of organizational partners of the National Service Ride – the Service Year Alliance and GoodWorld.
The Service Year Alliance, under the aegis of the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project, pulls together a powerful coalition of scores of community, public, and national service organizations headed up by the recently merged National Conference on Citizenship, ServiceNation, and Voices for National Service. Chaired by retired Army General Stan McChrystal, the Service Year Alliance envisions a future in which a year of full-time national service is a cultural expectation, a common opportunity, and a civic rite of passage for every young American. It is the leading effort in the United States to improve citizenship by giving every young person the opportunity to serve in one of an array of areas, including health, poverty, conservation, or education.
This is a monumental boost to the National Service Ride project. The intent of Ride fits perfectly with the intent of Service Year Alliance – to promote citizenship, service, and engagement in and beyond America. By encouraging young people to do good work and solve problems starting in their own communities, they also become better Americans and the whole country improves.”
GoodWorld, in turn, is a highly acclaimed crowdfunding initiative for non-profits that has gained the attention of the President of the United States and Forbes magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Huffington Post. It’s unique social-media based platform allows individuals to make small donations to hundreds of non-profit charity and advocacy organizations of their choice, large and small, already registered with this micro-financing engine – by simply using the hash tag: #donate.
It’s a perfect way for enabling especially younger people to pick up on one of the Ride’s action points to support their favorite community, public, or national service organizations. Both the Service Year Alliance and GoodWorld provide clear pathways for young citizens to join or contribute to the Ride’s partner or other service organizations, but equally importantly, to take their own journey to find out who they are and what they’re about through service to others.
Open to anyone to join for as long as they like, the National Service Ride, from Cinco de Mayo to the 4th of July, follows a clockwise path around the U.S. At venues to be announced by early April, it features interactive discussions in schools and other places for Americans who have served and sacrificed in all walks of life to tell their stories, in order to promote a dialogue of national unity, as well as help pass the baton of generational leadership.
Find out more on the project website (www.nationalserviceride.net) and through associated social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest; hash tags: #TravelswithHarley and #NationalServiceRide.
Please spread the word, plug Travels with Harley (on Goodreads and elsewhere) so that I can fund this great project!
Hello, again, Everyone!
When I told you in my last update the wheels were starting to roll, I wasn’t kidding:
I’ll be posting more information on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as on the project website: www.nationalserviceride.net
Stay tuned and spread the word!
My latest Huffington Post blog, which summarizes a great deal of the conclusion of my new book, Travels with Harley – Journeys in Search of Personal and National Identity, which goes on sale tomorrow, February 9th, through all the usual sources: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-holshek/identity-and-the-future-of_b_9160536.html
If you have time to listen, you can catch me on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” from 11:20-11:40 on the same day: http://www.wnyc.org/
Otherwise, look for the podcast to go up in a couple of days on the National Service Ride website: www.nationalserviceride.net.
Publication of Travels with Harley is just around the corner - Tuesday, February 9th!
For those who pre-ordered, I hope you got a chance to take a look. Regardless, as a backer of the book and, more importantly, its message about citizenship, service, and global engagement, please take a moment to give it a plug on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other places Inkshares has distributed the book.
And, of course, on social media - Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
It would help me greatly as the media campaign opens up shortly with an interview on "The Hog Radio Show," an online radio show out of Seattle, WA for motorcycle enthusiasts, and for my appearance on WNYC Radio’s "The Brian Lehrer Show" in New York the morning the book comes out on the 9th.
I’ll also be making the rounds at schools, bookstores, think tanks and other places in the New York, Washington, and Boston areas over the next three months leading up to cross-country National Service Ride from Cinco de Mayo to the 4th of July.
In addition, blogs, book reviews, and articles related to the project will start to appear in Foreign Policy, The Huffington Post, and other publications.
Besides social media, you’ll be able to keep track of all this now at a single source - the new project website: www.nationalserviceride.net. You’ll also find media appearances and articles posted there for your convenience, as well as links to all the above.
The wheels are really starting to roll now, so stay in touch!
All the best,
First of all, my best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2016!
For those of you who pre-ordered Travels with Harley, your e-books are in your email inboxes! Print copies should also be arriving in your mailboxes before the February 9th publication date.
For those of you who haven't, there's still time to pre-order - but not much! Right now, Inkshares is still giving you the best deal - free shipping and a free e-book along with your print copy. Won't last much longer.
After you've had a look, do this old soldier a favor and give it a plug on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Inkshares - wherever you can.
Angela Melamud has been working hard on exposure and we're happy to report that, for those of you living in the New York area, I'll be appearing on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC Radio at 11:20 on publication day.
Stay tuned for more!
Just to give you a quick update before you get immersed in holiday shopping.
First of all, the book is now at the printers and will be out on the 9th of February. There will be some book signings and other events, mainly in the Northeast, from February through March. We'll be posting those early next year.
If you haven't ordered a copy yet, consider that you'll get a free e-book and free shipping if you order it from Inkshares rather than the other online sources. Any you'll likely get your copy sooner.
Check out the revised Inkshares book page and you'll be able to peek at the table of contents and read the book and project description as well as the book introduction.
Second, to promote the book's greater message about citizenship and service, I'll be leading a cross-country National Service Ride with presentation events and schools and other venues.
You can learn more about it and keep track of the latest developments on the project on the Travels with Harley - National Service Ride Facebook page. I'll also be tweeting about it. In addition to my latest blogs and comments linking current events to the book's content, you'll be able to download a copy of the project brochure and view the briefing I have that explains the project in greater detail. By publication time, you'll be able to see where when and where I may be coming to a community near you as I post the trip itinerary.
Don't forget to "like" and "share" and get the word out. Be a part of a great project to change America from the ground up!
Hope everyone had a great summer!
For those who've been on the beach or in the mountains and not keeping track, we are now through the copy edit thanks to a great job by Holly McGuire and the great team at Girl Friday Productions. The galley proof is next and then we go into production.
Meanwhile, Marc Cohen has captured well the essence of the book's theme on the book cover that you can see on the Inkshares website. We've also received a few more endorsements and those are likewise posted on the website.
The book release date is February the 6th, 2016. That gets us past the holiday book season and poises us nicely to get the book and its message about citizenship and service out to a public staring straight into the barrel of the general election, wondering about the future of the country and what they can do about it.
I'm also beginning to work on the social media build-up, posting the book on Goodreads, and creating my own website to complement the Inkshares website.
And perhaps more importantly, I'll be getting together on the 11th of September with the national chapters of the Freedoms Foundation to get the planning off-ground for what I'm dubbing the "National Service Ride" to go around the country between May and July next year, have people join me along the way, and stop off at schools, universities, and other places where we can promote a dialogue about how people can serve in many ways other than in uniform and serve their country by serving their community.
So stay tuned and look for post, tweets, blogs, etc., on the project - all coming to a cyberspace near you.
Meantime, keep the shiny side up and spread the word. Remember that if you pre-order the book through Inkshares, you pay no shipping costs.