Tours of 2007
Florida East Coast Tour, Georgia On My Mind Tour,
Georgia On My Mind Tour II
Florida East Coast Tour
Florida East Coast Tour / Winter 07
Jacksonville, St. Augustine, St. Augustine Beach, Daytona Beach, New Smyrma Beach
As we entered Florida, the state of Virginia passed a resolution expressing profound regret for slavery. While stumping in downtown St. Augustine (first city in America), tour trains buzzed about us with guides pointing out where the first hospital in the country was established, and the first Catholic Church. A local man pointed to a nearby square and told my wife that this is where the first slaves in the country were sold. I bet they don't point that out on the tours, Liz lamented.
I gave a talk during a Mass in St. Augustines. I noted that a nearby Our Lady of La Leche Shrine displayed a lawn full of small white crosses in commemoration of all the babies killed in abortions. I said we are living in nothing less than a Holocaust of epic proportions. It is a time to sacrifice the entertainment, the consumerism, the sports... and take to the streets hundreds of thousands (or even millions) strong, to protest.
I gave a talk to a prayer group at the House of Prayer in St. Augustine. I said materialism is out of control in many sectors of society, especially in the face of staggering Third World poverty. Prayer group leader Gary Gornick said people who do wicked things have a tendency to hang out with people of like mind. So, for instance, suburbanites will hang with suburbanites talking stock portfolios, new car options and sports, while seldom, if ever, confronting each other about their lifestyles -- while scores of children starve to death daily throughout the world.
At St. Augustine Beach, I interviewed Professor Paul Raymond. He teaches Economics at St. Marys University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He said when looking at economics in the light of spirituality, we often come up short. That is instead of trusting God day to day for provision and giving as much as possible to the poor, people often think they need $30,000 in the bank as a cushion, a big home with a lot of equity, a large account for the kids college. The devil will always give you just what you need (big house, large bank accounts) -- to go to Hell, said the professor.
Traveling into Daytona Beach, we were greeted with a front-page story about 27-year-old Javan Camon, a Daytona Beach Thunder defensive back who broke his neck during an Arena Football game here the night before -- and died. While playing at the University of South Florida in 2004, Camon was involved in a tackle that left a Tennessee Tech player in a coma for weeks, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal. In our book "Back Road to the White House," I mention that while traveling through Colorado Springs, Colorado, during Campaign 2000, we learned a local high school quarterback had just broke his neck during a game and was paralyzed from the neck down, for life. Isnt it time we start to seriously question this sport?
The Daytona Beach News Journal also carried a series titled: "Crisis On The Coast." An excerpt read: The breathtaking views that lure tourists and retirees to beachfront hotels and high-rise condominiums have come with a high cost. Erosion, habitat destruction and pollution are ruining the very things that draw them. As much as 80 percent of the natural areas that once stretched along the state's east coast have been lost to development. [As president, I would urge an immediate moratorium on this coastal development. And I would propose these areas become part of the State Park System or Federal Park System. We just cant afford to keep destroying these habitats. If we do destroy all these habitats and species -- were next.]
In New Smyrma Beach, Florida, our kids watched a dolphin playing in some inlet waters. While they looked on fascinated, I found myself in a conversation with Missy Reid, who was vacationing here from Rochester, New York. NASA had just released a report saying they are now not only looking for remnants of water sources on Mars (which they havent found yet), but they are now looking for traces of food sources. In noting there are hungry people all over this planet, Ms. Reid said that we might have, oh, lost some common sense when it comes to funding the billions of dollars in costs for these Mars explorations: "What are they (NASA) going to do, like find a banana on Mars and bring it back to feed the people here?" She asked incredulously.
Georgia On My Mind Tour
Georgia On My Mind Tour 2007
Rome, Atlanta, Griffin, Barnesville, Thomaston, Americus, Smithville, Albany, Brunswick, St. Simon's Island
I gave talks to two Journalism classes at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. [Opinions Editor Leslie Houck would write for Berrys Campus Carrier newspaper: He (Schriner) tries to run the campaign and his life like Jesus lived His in the Gospels. While he recognizes that the phrase has been trivialized, "What Would Jesus Do?" really is his motto. ]
At Berry College, I also interviewed Professor Brian Carroll who is the author of "When to Stop the Cheering," which is, in part, about The Negro (Baseball) League. Eventually, the National Baseball League was integrated and The Negro League dissolved. My wife Liz had a question: Why wasn't The Negro League integrated as well? So it, too, could continue in some form? Good question.
We stopped at the Open Door Community in downtown Atlanta to do research for our position paper on poverty. The Open Door houses some homeless and provides food, clothing, medicine, and other help for the desperately poor in this area. Open Door volunteer Calvin Kimbrough told us the evolving gentrification (new condos, refurbished homes) of downtown Atlanta, is diminishing affordable housing in kind with more and more people ending up on the streets. (What sometimes looks like progress, is not. What's more, it could actually be a social justice travesty.)
I gave a talk to the volunteers at the Open Door Community, commending them for their work -- and their ethos. That is, these people realize their work is not only about helping the poor, but is intrinsically tied to their salvation as well. A plaque on the wall here quotes a poor woman working on her Third World farm as a humanitarian aid worker approaches. She says: If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.
I interviewed the Open Door's Lauren Cogswell who had just applied for membership with the NAACP. She wrote in her application letter: "I am asking to join the NAACP today because I am a 32-year-old white woman who has benefited and continues to benefit from the privilege of my whiteness. That privilege has been secured for hundreds of years by oppressing people of color. Today I commit myself to ending white racism and dismantling the structures that continue to perpetuate violence on people of color."
In Americus, Georgia, I interviewed Jorge Echeve. He was here with his family from Sarasota, Florida. He said he moved his family to America from Columbia several years ago because of the extreme oppression in his country. He said the violence was so common in his country, that a majority of the populace had gotten used to the extremely high abduction and murder rates.
At Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia, I interviewed Grant Edkins who was visiting from Cape Town, South Africa. He said in the aftermath of the dismantling of Apartheid, the oppressed became the rulers and there could have been a tremendous "blood bath." Yet there wasn't. Edkins said he credits Nelson Mandella for coming into power and speaking reconciliation instead of revenge.
Before leaving Americus, I stopped at Habitat for Humanity International's Global Village. It includes a replica of a Third World slum. Minus the groans of the dying from disease and hunger, or the children playing in open sewage in the streets, the slum is still tremendously impacting. And it should give most of us Americans pause to reassess how we are living in the face of this profound, and far reaching poverty.
In Albany, Georgia, I was interviewed by a reporter from Channel 10 News. She wondered how an average person would do in D.C.? I said there are currently a plethora of people in D.C. who came out of Harvard, Yale, and so on, and we're in a ill-begotten war, the debt is almost at nine trillion dollars, there are 46 million people without healthcare insurance, children sleep on inner city streets and scores of others starve every day throughout the Third World and we are on the brink of a global warming disaster. I said that maybe its time to reassess our definition of: well educated.
In Brunswick, Georgia, I interviewed Tom Dennard who teaches a Backpacking Class at Coastal Georgia Community College. He is also the founder of the "Hostel in the Forest" in Brunswick. The Hostel specializes in promoting environmental sustainability. They recycle practically everything here, use solar panels to pump irrigation water from a pond to their organic gardens, don't use heating or air conditioning. They take the type of environmental footprint they leave seriously, as should we all. The Hostel in the Forest motto: "May the forest be with you."
Georgia On My Mind Tour II
Georgia on My Mind Tour II / Winter 2007
Valdosta, Tifton, Ashburn, Cordele, Atlanta, Cartersville, Rome
In Valdosta, Georgia, I talked with Jessica Culpepper. For the past three years, she's written 495 letters to U.S. troops in Iraq. And for as much as she said she's personally benefited from writing the letters, Ms. Culpepper wants the war to end.
In Valdosta at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, I gave a talk to a youth group. I said at Sunday Mass this morning, I'd heard (as had many of these youth) a priest give a pitch to financially sponsor Third World poor through the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging ($30 a month). I suggested some of these youth group members go in together to sponsor someone(s).
In Valdosta, I interviewed Barbara Cunningham, Director of the citys GEAR UP Program. GEAR UP is an acronym for: Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. Ms. Cunningham told me this is a federal program that provides funds for professional development for teachers and college visits, tutorial help, and so on for students from low-income families. Ms. Cunningham said the program is now in various cities throughout 48 states.
I was interviewed by a Valdostas regional NBC News reporter. I said I was running for president as a concerned parent from the Midwest. [The things I'm most concerned about are: global warming, abortion, war, Third World hunger, violence in the streets, sex in media entertainment...].
I interviewed Paula Bickerstaff in Valdosta, Georgia. Her fourth son, Patrick, had a rather rare Trysome 18 Chromosome disease. He was diagnosed in the womb. Babies with this disease rarely live long outside the womb. Yet the Bickerstaffs made a decision to have the baby. As a Catholic, that (abortion) wasn't even a question, said Mrs. Bickerstaff. People around the country started praying for Patrick, the Bickerstaff children rallied to try and help as well. Their brother Patrick ended up living six weeks outside the womb and touched so many lives, said Mrs. Bickerstaff.
In Tifton, Georgia, I was interviewed by the Tifton Gazette. I said as president I would adhere to the Just War Doctrine. I continued that I wouldn't have gone to war in Iraq (because it didnt match up with Just War criteria); but I would consider at least limited military intervention to stop the genocide in the Sudan.
In Tifton, I toured Brother Charlie's Rescue Center. Executive Director Mark Stone explained this is a Christian-based program that has a homeless shelter housing up to some 45 people. In addition, there is a drug and alcohol rehab wing where the length of stay varies from six months to a year. Lenny Accuri, who runs this wing, told me recovering addicts have access to individual and group counseling. What's more, after some recovery time, they are given help to get more education or a job. Director Stone told me Charlie's receives donations from area churches and it serves an 18 county region. It's a last stop for many, he added.
In Atlanta, Georgia, I interviewed Ed Weir. He helped start New Hope House in Lamar County, Georgia. This is a house for families and friends of prisoners on death row. The prison is just four miles away from New Hope House and people are allowed to stay up to two weeks at a time, free. Whats more, Weir travels the state acting as a consultant in trials where the death penalty may be an issue, and he is involved with a Moratorium Campaign to stop the death penalty.
Prior to his work with New Hope House, Ed Weir helped found the Jubilee Community in Madison County, Georgia. This, too, is a Christian outreach. A couple homes were set up for refugees, starting with Boat People from Cuba. This soon expanded to refugees from Vietnam, refugees from Central America and Mexico. Some of these people didn't even know what persecution was because bullets going through their walls (was normal), said Weir.
At the Open Door Community in Atlanta, we sat in on a talk on "International Women's Day." Presenter Diane Wiggins said women are persecuted all over the world and this day she focused on Chihuahua and Juarez, Mexico. For more than a decade, these cities near the US-Mexico border have been the killing fields for young women, the site of over 400 unsolved femicides. We had gone to Juarez, Mexico on a research trip during Campaign 2004. Juarez was referred to then as the "Murder Capital of Mexico." The poverty in Juarez is staggering and leads to a tremendous amount of social problems, including murder.
While passing out flyers in a park in Cartersville, Georgia, I met a man who is a Libertarian. He said his biggest issue is the abolishment of the Income Tax and the institution of a "Fair Tax," which, in essence, is a National Sales Tax. I said our tax policy includes a Simplified Progressive Income Tax and a partial National Sales Tax to cover some federal government expenditures. (As we talked, a photographer from Cartersville's newspaper took a series of pictures.)
In Rome, Georgia, I attended a group on the works of author G.K. Chesterton. During the group, a college professor said materialists are winning the day. That is, through genetic manipulation, and such, humans were being reduced, basically, to machines. Later another group member said: "How long will it be before humans have a hard drive crash and computers bleed?" Facilitator Tom Farmer pointed out that Chesterton once said: "The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions. If it cannot come to conclusions, it is rusty." I couldn't help but think how rusty modern man's brain has become sitting in front of computers and televisions with our minds continually consuming "pre-thought thoughts."
I gave a talk at Seven Hills Fellowship in Rome, Georgia. Pastor Brian Pierce told me hed be talking on the Days of Noah later in the service. I said to the congregation that if we looked around America these days, we might, in fact, find it quite similar (abortion, sex, crime, drugs) to the days of Noah. And just as they couldn't see it then.