Tours of 2011
Atlanta Tour, Florida Panhandle Tour, Tornado Tour (AL), Kentucky Tour
Atlanta / Winter 2010-2011
We are spending the winter as staff members at the Open Door Community in Atlanta, Georgia. This is a Catholic Worker House that does outreach to the homeless. People come from all over the country to volunteer here.
I interviewed Brian Schaap, 24, who came to the Open Door from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to volunteer for a couple weeks. Several years ago, Mr. Schaap had volunteered for a year in Tanzania through the Mennonite Church's SALT (Serving And Learning Together) Program. He said the poverty was staggering in Tanzania. He said experiencing Third World poverty first-hand tremendously impacted him and got him to question, much more, American lifestyles (including his own) by comparison.
Our oldest kids, Sarah and Joseph, are playing in a Christian home school basketball league in Atlanta this winter. And our son Jonathan, 7, is involved in a local YMCA basketball league. His coach, "Ms. Mimi," has a tattoo of Michael Jordan on her neck. Jonathan, it appears, is in for some tough conditioning.
The Open Door Community has a free medical clinic every Wednesday night for people on the streets. It's staffed by a volunteer doctor and medical students from nearby Emory University.
The Open Door Community has a "Foot Clinic" each Thursday night. That is, volunteers provide foot baths, foot massages, trim toe nails, help remove corns... and so on, for people on the streets. Foot problems are extremely prevalent among the homeless simply because: they spend most of each day on their feet. (Our Sarah and Joseph regularly volunteer to help at the Foot Clinic.)
The Open Door Community serves meals through their Soup Kitchen three times a week. Once a week, they also provide showers and a change of clothes for people on the streets. Besides our weekend staff duties, our family regularly helps on these days as well. It's actually part of schooling for our kids. That is, our education platform reflects a call to much more "service learning" for students. I once told Ohio Magazine that we wanted our children learning as much about helping others -- as learning about reading, writing and arithmetic.
My wife Liz is extremely active at the Open Door Community, buzzing about helping in the kitchen, in the clothes room, organizing events... She really shines in this type of atmosphere -- as she will in the White House. Incidentally, it will be a different type of White House when we get there.
I interviewed a woman who volunteers at the Open Door the other night. She is retired. She was part of the legal counsel for the Weather Channel, based in Atlanta. In her retirement, she has become involved with "Leadership Atlanta." This is a year long program for seniors who want to "give back to the community." Each month there is a day long seminar on various social issues germaine to the Atlanta area. The hope is these seniors will then mobilize to impact one of the areas -- as this woman is doing to help impact poverty.
I talked with Alan Jenkins who is involved with the Earth Covenant Ministry through his Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. (Earth Covenant focuses on trying to promote more environmental stewardship in the face of some tremendously bad environmental practices these days. For one, Earth Covenant exhorts people "...to use food, water, energy and other natural resources in a mindful way.")
I gave a campaign talk to a gathering at the Open Door Community. Topics included healthcare, the environment, poverty... I explained that over the years we have established a "Christ Room" at our place to help impact poverty. That is, we have periodically taken in people who are homeless. And we'll probably do the same thing in the West Wing.
Florida Panhandle Tour
Florida Panhandle Tour / Spring 2011
Towns: Tallahassee, Lanark Village, Carrabelle, Apalachicola, Ft. Walton Beach, Marianna, De Funiak Springs, Crestview
We got to the Gulf Coast on the Florida Panhandle on the night of the anniversary of the Deep Water Horizon oil rig explosion. Vigils were being held along the coast from Florida to Louisiana.
I stumped at "2 Al's Cafe," in Carabelle. A father and son both named (that's right) Al own it. I talked with Gene Holstrom there. He has an "Old Gospel Station" on the Internet. It's broadcast worldwide.
We participated in the Annual River Front Festival in Carrabelle. My daughter Sarah and I were roped, or should I say 'netted,' into participating in the Fishy Fashion Show. (The things I do to get elected.) At the end of my bit, the announcer said not only was I running for president, but my campaign promise was: "A fish in every skillet!"
While in Carrabelle, I met with both the former Mayor Mel Kelly and City Commissioner Cal Allen. The mayor told me one of her biggest accomplishments was getting a number of grants to install filters in the storm sewers to clean the water before it gets to the Gulf.
Just outside of Carrabelle, we stopped at a beach that was the WWII D-Day Training Site. The beach was used by the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division to train for the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1944.
Staying with the military theme, we traveled west to Aplachicola, where we visited a striking replica of one of the Vietnam Memorial sculptures in D.C. It was a depiction of three soldiers in the field.
I stumped at the Franklin County Senior Center on the Panhandle, getting in a roundtable discussion with a group of guys. One man, who works part-time for Ace Hardware here, said the answer to the federal debt was simple. "We need to run the Federal Government the way I run my household budget. I don't spend any more than I've got," he smiled.
In Tallahassee, we stumped at an annual Art Walk. While passing out cards, one man said he was lobbying for the end of the Electoral College System. He said it would simplify things tremendously if we could just rely on popular vote totals in a presidential election.
In Tallahassee, we toured the Woman's Clinic. Heather Martel said the clinic has a state of the art sonogram machine. What's more, she said figures indicate that more than 80% of women who see the sonogram picture of the baby in the womb -- won't get an abortion.
In Crestview, Florida, we met with Ron and Mary Kirby. Mary is from Guam, an unincorporated territory of the U.S. Mary is a Chemorrus, which is the indigenous people there.
During a stop at Ft. Walton Beach, via the magic of Skype, I talked to two high school classes in the country of Nicaragua.
In De Funiak Springs, we met with Beth and Patrick Stanley. Beth is a former board member of the National Down Syndrome Congress. Patrick, 31, is her son and an accomplished artist. He also has Down Syndrome. Patrick has shown his art in various places around Florida and has recently come out with a line of greeting cards.
Talked with Barbara Warburton, who lives in Destin. She has been featured recently in a number of Florida newspapers per: her stance on the television show "Family Guy." She said shows like this are leading to the "destruction of morality." Through the Parents Television Council, Warbuton and thousands of others filed a formal indecency complaint with the FCC to protest the program. Oh, one other thing: Mrs. Warburton's son Patrick -- is the voice for one of the animated characters in the show.
In Crestview, we met with Rosa Garrett from South Korea. She has been in the states the past 25 years. When she first came, she said she found it as striking about how the elderly are treated here. She said in South Korea (until just recently) there is no such thing as: nursing homes.
Tornado Tour (Alabama)
Tornado Tour (AL) / Spring 2011
Towns: Georgiana, Greenville, Pintlata, Montgomery, Clanton, Birmingham, Cullman, Decatur
Coming into Alabama out of Florida, we found ourselves caught in the cross hairs of a huge thunderstorm system. The Weather Channel on our radio was reporting the cell had wind gusts of up to 50 mph and an extremely high ceiling of 50,000 feet -- and there were some "swirling wind patterns." We made a dash for a truck stop in nearby Georgiana, all the while imagining a bit of what it had felt like for folks in Alabama several months ago when the string of deadly tornadoes bore down on them.
Coming up Rte. 65 through Alabama, we passed out campaign information in Greenville, Pintlata, Montgomery, Clanton... In Clanton, I passed on a campaign card to a man who immediately gave it back to me. He said he doesn't vote, except "...just for the Guy up there," he continued, pointing toward Heaven. "But Jesus isn't running," I said. "He doesn't have to, He's already King," the man smiled. He had me there.
In northern Alabama, we stopped in the small town of Cullman. The huge tornado that devastated Tuskaloosa, skipped across the state, also touching down in Cullman. I talked to one of the eye witnesses, a woman who lives on the western outskirts of the town. She said she heard the tornado sirens and dashed to her front window just in time to see the tornado touch down in a field just across the street. "I know I should have immediately gotten away from the glass," she said. "But I was transfixed with the sight. Luckily the tornado didn't turn left toward us."
The tornado skipped over the downtown and hit the east side of town, tearing up a huge swath of 3rd. St. The destruction was absolutely phenomenal. We observed huge trees that were completely uprooted, nothing left of homes, cars dashed about as if they were miniature Hot Wheels...
We stopped at one intersection piled high with debris. While I was doing a video about it all for our website, our Jonathan rummaged through one of the piles of debris. He found two things intact, a Bible and a small Composition Book. The Composition Book had the name "Maddie" on it.
Leafing through the Composition Book, it was easy to note Maddie was maybe a first or second grader and this was a daily school journal. There were entries about playing with friends, going to a birthday party, learning about pumpkins... and a page in the middle of the journal stopped me. Maddie had drawn a picture of a tornado. Her entry on that page read: "I'm looking forward to going on the field trip tomorrow. We are going to do a lot of experiments. Of course I already know how to do one experiment. I know how to make a tornado." As I looked again at the drawing, then looked up at all the devastation, there was this eerie feeling that came over me.
We learned two people had been killed in the Cullman tornado. I was hoping one of them wasn't Maddie. Also, I noted in the video that even though the images of destruction were staggering and would be etched into peoples' minds around here. The memories that will remain stronger will be all the kindnesses that help people recover from this. It seems always the case in these natural disasters.
Kentucky Tour / Spring 2011
Towns: Glasgow, La Grange
We attended part of a Memorial Day Service at the town cemetery. Among those in attendance was a man in his 50's who was dressed in a World War II khaki uniform. He was standing by a 1944 Army jeep he was restoring. His father had been a soldier in World War II. The son had placed an old, framed picture of his father in uniform on the front seat, and he was meticulously restoring the jeep to help keep alive his father's legacy, and the legacy of all the World War II veterans.
In Glasgow, we passed out some campaign literature and then had a problem with our carburetor. It's a '78 vehicle and, well, those things happen. Glasgow Tire and Auto took care of it, 600 bucks later. Ouch! (Have I mentioned it's a low budget campaign?)
Traveling further north, we stopped in La Grange, Kentucky, where we passed out more campaign literature. We then stopped in the downtown area to view two rather poignant memorials.
On the square in downtown La Grange is a Law Enforcement Memorial and a Fallen Heroes / Firefighters Memorial. On the plaques were the names of local police and firefighters who had lost their lives in the line of duty.
At about 11 a.m. EST, we crossed over the bridge at Cincinnati and into Ohio for the next phase of the campaign.