7/21 & 22/04

We stopped at the “Common Grounds Cafe” in Lancaster, New Hampshire today where Dale Martin told us I was the first presidential candidate to stop at his establishment “since John Edwards almost came here.” (Leading up to the New Hampshire Primary earlier this year, Edwards was scheduled to come to the Cafe, but last minute wasn’t able to.) Over a cup of coffee, Martin told me he was a member of the “12 Tribes,” a Christian Community of people living together in three houses here and sharing everything in common — because that’s how the Bible says to do it. (There are 12 Tribe Communities worldwide.) The community members pray, eat, exercise, raise children, work… together. They, for instance, own the Cafe and a number of other businesses throughout town. We spent the day touring their facilities, sharing stories and praying together. I told the local Coos County Democrat newspaper I was quite impressed with the camaraderie, the atmosphere of prayer and, well, the love that seems to be here. I was also left with the question (one I’ve thought about often): If the Bible says so clearly that this was how the early Christians were meant to live: why did that ever change? The next day we went to Jefferson, New Hampshire to catch up with some of the 12 Tribe Community members who had taken their children swimming in a rather isolated pond here. They don’t want their children exposed to the immodesty of modern public swimming venues. What’s more, the women and girls ‘swim wear’ consists of quite modest, sort of puffy pants that come down to almost mid-calf, and quite modest t-shirts and the like, the men and boys wear long shorts and keep their t-shirts on even in the water. Our children dress likewise when they are swimming, and for the first time in quite some time on the road, our family didn’t feel out of place. What’s more, I can’t tell you how much respect I had for these parents and their concern, not so much for their childrens’ fashion statements — as their childrens’ souls.


In East St. Johnsbury, Vermont today we met with Beth Ridley, a para-educator working with special needs children at the 3rd and 4th grade level. She said the school employs a “team approach.” For each student, there is usually some combination of a case worker, a physical therapist, classroom teacher, para-educator, mental health therapist, an advocate from the Social Rehabilitation Service. Ms. Ridley cited a number of success stories. And while seemingly a lot of resources, I couldn’t help but think how worthwhile this comprehensive model is. I mean, these are all children of God and deserve the best help available. Period.


St. Johnsbury is the host of this year’s Babe Ruth Youth League Baseball Playoffs. Teams from all over the state were here, and I took our kids to a couple of the games. Fairly good attendance. There had to be about 200 people. I have often said, as president, I would be way more apt to throw out the “first pitch” at one of these youth stadiums than at, say, Yankee Stadium or Camden Yards… It is these young people who need our attention most.


I met with Fr. Joseph Towle in St. Johnsbury, VT today. He is a Maryknoll missionary who spent 10 years filming the video series Children of the Earth. Youth from Japan, Africa, Central America… are featured as a way of getting American youth more familiar with (and sympathetic to) what is going on with their contemporaries in other cultures. Fr. Towle travels the country talking in schools about the videos and trying to plant a new curriculum idea: Fr. Towle suggests a student in the 7th grade “adopts a country.” Then for the next six years, the student follows events in that country, writes reports, and so on… as a way of being more connected to the global community.


At the St. Johnsbury House in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, I gave an impromptu “front porch” speech, in the tradition of another Ohio presidential candidate, Warren Harding. (The only difference being Harding would do these things from his front porch.) The St. Johnsbury House is a home for seniors here. I later told reporter Rachael Morrow, of the local Caledonian Record, that our platform calls for maintaining the Social Security fund, but more… “social security should be just that: social security.” That is, instead of being pushed off in nursing homes, assissted living facilities and RV travel, the seniors should be restored to their rightful, and respected, place in our family homes and communities — like it was in the old days, and like it still is in other cultures.


In Montpelier, Vermont, the state capitol, we met with Doug Wells, a representative of Solar Works. He said across the country a type of solar system is starting to be installed where once you’ve used what you’ve needed for the month, the excess goes back into the grid. And as it does, “your meter actually starts to spin backwards,” said Wells. Wells said he got involved with the solar company because he wanted to be part of the solution toward a more sustainable world. While a philosophy major at Miami University, Wells said he came up with, well, this philosophy: “It doesn’t matter whether the glass is half full, or half empty — if it’s polluted and you can’t drink it anyway.” [A picture ran in the Times Argus newspaper here with me talking to Doug Wells. The caption said I wanted to make the country safe for kids, cut down on Federal Government, end crime, stop pollution… I mean, who wouldn’t want to vote for that? Yet the polls, surprisingly, still show we’re behind.]


Vermont is one of the most “walking friendly” states in the nation, with all sorts of “Yield to Pedestrian” signs about, including in Burlington, Vermont’s biggest city and where we headed next. With people everywhere on the street early this evening and the outdoor cafe tables full, we couldn’t help but think: “Bullhorn Country.” So we got out our $3 garage sale bullhorn, and in the tradition of the old-time campaigns, drove about the downtown slowly and told anybody within earshot (range of about 100 ft.): “VOTE JOE, HE’S THE WAY TO GO!” About the third pass through town, we came across a swank cafe, with outside tables filled primarily with couples. Couples all lost in conversation. That is, they were lost in conversation until the street light adjacent to them turned red and I trained the bull horn toward them: “VOTE JOE…” was all I could get out as people at each respective table jumped, upsetting water glasses and the like. (Our six-year-old Joseph had apparently turned up the volume on the bullhorn before handing it to me.) And there went a few votes…


We toured the National Morgan Horse Museum in Shelburne, VT today and archivist Kathy Furr told me the Morgan, which was the first horse bred in America, was yesteryear’s version of “today’s SUV’s”. That is, they were fast, could plow a field, pull a wagon… I told the Shelburne News that our agricultural platform calls for a return to the small family farm, the use of these types of horses again (like they do in the Amish communities) in tandem with, say, some “low tech,” small solar powered tractors and the like. One of the reasons for this is because the bigger, and more “high tech,” tractors, super-combines, and the like… have opened the door for corporate farming in a big way — pushing the small farmer off the land.


We met with Fr. Jim Noonan in Shelburne, Vermont today. He grew up in Shelburne, but is now a Mary Knoll missionary in Cambodia. He said in Cambodia 50% of the children are illiterate, and 50% are also malnourished. What’s more, the per capita annual income is a mere $300 there. And many of the children in Cambodia, as is true throughout the Third World, die of what are now considered “prevenatble diseases,” said Fr. Noonan. Fr. Noonan said it’s hard to say we live in a “civilized time” when a majority of the people in developed Western countries carry on with their lifestyles, spend billions on defense, and so on… while these little children are dying by the scores elsewhere.


We met with Fr. Gerard Leclerc in Vergennes, Vermont today. Fr. Leclerc was a priest in Bolivia for 20 years and said except for Haiti, Bolivia is, peerhpas, the poorest country in the world. His parish was on the Alti Plano, some 12,300 feet in elevation and where kids were hungry and barefoot, while their parents worked exceedingly long hours for excruciatingly low pay in the mines. And what’s more, the air in the mines is laced with toxic sulphuric and choleric acids. I told the Addison Independent newspaper here that if Americans, at almost any socio-economic level, would cut back some on heating, cooling (We actually used to live without air conditioning. Remember?), driving, junk food… what a tremendous pool of money, and other help, we could generate for the poor in Bolivia, and elsewhere. Note: We’ve been in I can’t tell ya’ how many towns in America, and today was a first. The backs of town city limits signs will frequently say things like: “Come Back Soon!”; or, “Thanks For Visiting!”; or… The back of Vergennes town limits sign simply says: “Farewell”.