Walking for Beauty | John Herreid | CWR blog
Growing larger every year, the Walk for Life West Coast is anchored in a sense of fruitfulness, responsibility, and joy.
When I first moved to San Francisco in April of 2000, one of the first places I visited was the magnificent gallery of Rodin sculptures at the Legion of Honor. The range of pieces there run from some massive bronzes to small intimate plaster and terracotta pieces. Every time I visit, I see something new, something that speaks to the pain, joy, grandeur, misery, and wonder of the human experience. Beauty has that effect on people.
Showing the beautiful is difficult. If it isn’t genuine beauty on display, it’s usually the counterfeit gloss of the prettily sentimental—a much easier thing to create.
San Francisco is home to many public demonstrations and parades, from the Bay to Breakers to the annual, much-hyped Pride Parade. But none of these demonstrations capture sheer beauty like the Walk for Life West Coast. And that’s why it keeps drawing people back, like that gallery of Rodin.
The first Walk was in 2005 and drew around 7,000 people. I volunteered for security that first year, which also marked the most violent opposition the Walk ever faced. Abortion rights activists stripped and made obscene gestures in front of the pro-life crowd. They threw condoms filled with fake blood, eggs, and coat hangers. I was spat upon a few times, and got tackled from behind by one activist. But remarkably, even the normally rather hostile mainstream press coverage reported how the pro-life marchers were striking a friendly, even joyful tone, ignoring the opposing voices, singing and praying as they made their way from the Embarcadero along Fisherman’s Warf down to Fort Mason.
As the Walk grew, the location moved to Civic Center Plaza. We now walk from City Hall down the broad stretch of Market Street, walking almost two miles to the Embarcadero. The opposition experienced the first year has dwindled to a handful of activists overwhelmed by the number of pro-lifers. This year the walkers were so numerous as to cover the entire length of the route; as the lead group arrived at Embarcadero the last few people emptied out from the plaza. During one recent Walk, groups of young people led a joyous shout that echoed down through Market, a wave of sound that turned heads from onlookers.
In the years since the first Walk I’ve grown a lot; getting married and being blessed with three children, the youngest of whom was born on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.