I stumped in downtown Arlington, Ohio (pop. 1,455), today.  While passing out campaign cards, I ended up in a conversation with a local, retired teacher.  He said he was particularly flummoxed by Federal Education Department standards as they relate to, say, the standardized tests tied to initiatives like No Child Left Behind, Common Core…  But even more than this, he said there was a lot of extraneous learning.  He said, for instance, studies show that what’s learned in Algebra is hardly, if ever, used on the job later.  “Yet we keep teaching it,” he said in an exasperated tone.  Good point.  It’s actually my contention that a significant portion of what is being taught these days, across the (subject) board, is extraneous.   On the far end of this continuum are four year college degrees — the current American “gold standard” — that are chock full of courses that are exceedingly extraneous.  For instance, Business majors fulfilling “elective requirements” with such courses as: Intramural Recreation Methodology.  I mean, c’mon!  So these students are spending tens of thousands of bucks on, say, 40 to 60 hours of electives that aren’t directly applicable to their major.  Meanwhile in the Third World, many youth can’t even afford the basics in high school education.  And the money we’re wasting here, could go such a long way in helping them.  Note:  For more on our position on education, see…

local campaigning, NFL footballs, Bulldogs… Main Street

While other presidential candidates are jetting from state to state across the country for rallies, media spots, and such; I’ve zeroed in on Northwest, Ohio, where I’m driving my work van around about a 75-mile radius to campaign at nights and on the weekends.  (And we’re asking our supporters to do the same in their locales.)  I’ve been meeting with people on the streets of such towns as Ada (where they make the NFL footballs), Coldwater (where there’s this great “Grill on Main” restaurant), Columbus Grove (home of the Bulldogs), Beaverdam (where, well, there’s got to be something), Gomer (where everyone says: “shazzaam” — my spell check is telling me that’s not a word), Crestview, Ottoville, Jenera…  When I’m not passing out campaign cards, I’ve been posting them, and flyers, on store, post office, town square… bulletin boards.  My answer to the SuperPAC million dollar TV advertising, and so on.  Call it a hunch.  Note:  And unlike the “other guys,” this last weekend I actually had to stay home at our house on Main St., literally, (How’s that for populist?) because my wife wanted me to get the garden ready out back for planting.  Well, when you’re an “average Joe” candidate…  Note:  For more about the ‘almost First Family’s’ life on Main Street, see…

…creating chemical cocktails

Met recently with Dan Kremer in Yorkshire, Ohio.  He is an organic farmer who is an absolute evangelist for Catholic Rural Life Association teaching.  He grows organically because he believes the artificial herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers are bad for the environment and bad for peoples’ health.  (On an earlier stop at Oberlin College, we met with David Orr who is an author and the director of the college’s Environmental Science Department.  He believes the ingestion of the toxic farm chemicals are creating “chemical cocktails” in our systems that are exploding into things like cancer.  Note: One in three Americans now get cancer in a lifetime!)  Our administration, in concert with the EPA, would work to get many of these artificial farm chemicals banned.  I once told the Bellefontaine Examinar in Ohio that this could actually be construed as a lethal form of “chemical warfare.”  Incidentally, Bellefountaine is in the heart of rural America.  That’s right, I’m willing to take tough stands in tough places.  For more on our agricultural stance, see…

“…how thirsty they were.”

A few weeks ago, I was campaigning in St. Mary’s, Ohio.  During lunch, I read a front page story in the Dayton Daily News about a local scientist who had invented a patch to monitor an athlete’s fluid levels at any given moment (depending on the degree of perspiration, amount of exertion, et. Al.).  Not more than 10 minutes after I read the article, I met –wouldn’t you know — a retired high school science teacher who was also a former head football coach at St. Mary’s High School.  When I mentioned the article, he smiled and said his players could actually tell their fluid levels based on “…how thirsty they were.  And even then,” he continued to smile, “that didn’t mean they’d get the water right away.”  After the conversation, I couldn’t help but think:  How ludicrous!  Here we are spending all kinds of money, and using all kinds of scientific smarts, on athlete hydration research — while billions of people in the Third World don’t have access to clean drinking water, period.  But that’s how unbelievably spoiled and self-centered we’ve become in this country.  What an absolute tragedy.  Note:  Prior to campaigning in St. Mary’s, I’d stopped in Wapakoneta, Ohio — hometown of astronaut Neil (“When giant step for mankind…”) Armstrong.  Here’s another phenomenally tragic case.  That is, we’re spending billions of dollars to go to the moon, to Mars… where there is no water to speak of, no oxygen, no gravity, no food…  Common sense says:  Wouldn’t that, oh, be a hint God didn’t want us in those places?  And wouldn’t the money be better spent getting, again, cleaning drinking water, food, adequate shelter, and so on to the billions of people in desperate straits on this planet?

autism, pastorate, wind, adoption, outreach…

In the last couple months, I’ve written a number of stories for my wife’s magazines.  Just a few of them include:  I did a story about a youth who has autism and uses art therapy, in a pretty phenomenal way, in order to help express himself and communicate with others.  I also did a story on a local man who gave up pursuing a professional baseball career because he said he felt God calling him to be a pastor.  The title:  Batter Up! …for God.  For a “green living” section, I did an article on a new “Wind Campus” going up in Findlay, Ohio.  It highlighted a new industrial park that is going in, with each business being tied electrically to wind turbines.  In addition, I did a quite poignant story about a local couple who adopted the baby of a teenage girl who was in “crisis pregnancy.”  I also did a story on Rally Point, which is a Youth For Christ outreach program to kids living in quite a rough, hardscrabble area of Lima, Ohio.  Note:  Each of these stories express some of the ethos, to one degree or another, of our campaign.  And the overarching essence is that it is, for the most part, about local people rolling up their sleeves to make a difference locally.

Football fumble, er foible, er…

While stumping in Wakakoneta, Ohio, I passed on a campaign card to a family from Canton, Ohio.  Canton is the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  After recently watching the movie: Concussion, the name might well change to the: “Hall of Shame.”  And that’s hard to write, because I played football in high school and love the sport.  But mounting CTE evidence is starting to become quite damning.  What’s more, every year there are also deaths and paralysis — at every level of the game, from youth football to the NFL.  I was just reading the book Christianity and the Culture of Sports.  This book noted that in 1905 — 20 people were killed in football.  That should have been a bellwether right there — but it wasn’t.  Shailer Mathews, who was the dean at the Divinity School for the University of Chicago at the time wrote:  “Football today is a social obsession — a boy killing, education-prostituting, gladiatorial sport… I don’t know what will take it’s place, but it shouldn’t require the services of a physician, the maintenance of a hospital and the celebration of funerals.”  Note:  They play “rough touch” football in Philadelphia (and other urban centers).  There was a few scenes about this in the movie Invincible.  Ironically, the movie’s main character goes from this style of play to the NFL.  Maybe it should be the other way around — for everybody.

truck stop stumping; VA concerns; firefighters and guns

I’ve picked a 75-mile radius to campaign in on nights and weekends in Northwest, Ohio.  [And we’re asking our supports to do the same in their areas.]  Last Saturday I stopped, first, at a Pilot Truck Stop about five miles down I-75 from us.  I passed on campaign cards to people from West Virginia, Ohio, Oklahoma… and I approached a guy who turned out was from Canada, but he wished me luck anyway.  I smiled…  The people from West Virginia had a Sierra Club sticker on their car.  I, in turn, said I was “pro-environment” — which I am.  See our position paper on the environment…  I then headed to Gomer, Ohio (pop. not much).  At Uncle Al’s Pizza there, I talked with Cody Woods, who had recently graduated from Columbus Grove High School and was going in the Navy next month to serve on submarines.  He said a vet he works out with at a local gym discovered a tumor, but it seems it took him the longest time to get in to see a VA doctor.  Woods said he’d definitely like to see improvements in the VA around healthcare for vets.  I passed on a campaign flyer to Cody and said when I got to D.C. I’d work on that.  He smiled…  In Middle Point, Ohio (which is in no way close to the middle of the state), I dropped in unannounced on a volunteer firefighter meeting in the downtown station.  This turned into a town hall meeting of sorts, with the main topic being: guns.  Two of the firefighters were adamantly opposed to the government banning any sort of weapons — which, they said, would be a “slippery slope” in then banning more, and more… types of guns.  Because we saw the gun violence up-close-and-personal in a rough neighborhood in Cleveland for five years, I’m in a different camp.  While I back the Second Amendment, I believe (as does President Obama) that there should be more “common sense” gun laws to cut down considerably on shootings in America (we have an astronomical 100,000 a year now).  For more, see our position paper on guns.  After the conversation with the firefighters, I passed on some campaign cards and asked them to tell others about the campaign — since we’d decided to use word of mouth instead of millions of dollars in TV advertising.  Call it a hunch.  They smiled.

 

 

 

after school tutoring; Cuban Missile Crisis; Bible study; Joe Basketball

Yet still more catching up on the last few months…  I’ve done a good number of articles for my wife’s magazines over the winter.  For instance, I just interviewed a woman who volunteers at a Youth For Christ outreach to youth in a hardscrabble area of Lima, Ohio.  She helps in the After-School Tutoring Program.  What’s more, one of her daughters and a son-in-law have just returned from Liberia where they were exhaustively working to place orphaned children in the aftermath of the Ebola crisis…  I also interviewed a man in Lima who had found himself at the epicenter of the now famous “Cuban Missile Crisis.”  For two weeks in October of 1962, a high stakes geopolitical chess match played out between the U.S. and the Soviet Union — over nuclear missiles being secretly placed in Cuba.  The man I interviewed was in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and his division was standing by at the time to be sent in on the front line, if President Kennedy ordered an attack…  I have also been attending a Tuesday morning (6:30 a.m.) Bible Study at Arby’s Restaurant.  In recent weeks we’ve talked a lot about how our society is devolving spiritually.  The conversation has revolved around, say, media addiction — and what that media is predominately relaying (massive amounts of sexual imagery, violent imagery, rampant materialism…) these days.  What’s more, we’re allowing children at younger and younger ages to view all this, too…  And on a lighter note, I’ve been playing a lot of Thursday morning (6 a.m.) basketball with the local guys at Bluffton University’s gym this winter.  I’ve made some shots, missed some shots… and go by the philosophy:  “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

B-ball reporting and “average Joe” stumping

Still catching up on the last couple months…  I write columns for our local newspaper, The Bluffton News.  However in recent months, I’ve turned my attention to sports.  I’ve been asked to write the boys varsity basketball stories, not because I’m a Sports Illustrated quality sports reporter — but rather because our son Joseph plays on the team and the editor knew I’d be going to most of the away games.  This has turned out to be kind of like: Dave Berry writes small town sports.  Exhibit A from the lead of a recent article:  The boys basketball team from Wapakoneta [“One giant slam dunk for mankind”], Ohio, landed on “Planet Bluffton” Friday, only to fine a band of hostile aliens (read: hostile pirates).  And what ensued made the new Star Wars movie battles seem, well, tame.  When the “planet dust” had settled, Bluffton came out on top: 65 to 55.  Note:  Wapakoneta is the hometown of famous astronaut Neil Armstrong.  Note 2:  The other thing that’s been good about covering the basketball team is it’s proving helpful to the campaign as well.  No, the Bluffton Pirates haven’t officially endorsed the campaign.  But rather, while traveling to the away games, I often do some “average Joe” campaign stumping in small towns along the way.  That’s right, while Trump is jetting about in his 737 wide body plane,  I’m in a decidedly less-wide, 1998 Villager mini-van stopping in Beaverdam, Cairo… on the way to the Delphos-Jefferson game.  Which, by the way, Bluffton won — if you didn’t see it on ESPN.  Note 3:  For more on the campaign’s Ohio Strategy…

outreach to the homeless; Catholic Workers; Little Libraries…

More catching up on the past two months…  I volunteered at an outreach to the homeless in Cleveland on Christmas night, during a trip back to the city to see relatives.  This is run out of St. Malachi’s Church on W. 25th St. and provides food, clothes and a medical clinic.  During a talk with the director, I learned he is lobbying for clusters of “small houses” for the homeless in the Cleveland area — as is being done in other parts of the country.  Excellent idea…  While in Cleveland, we also spent Christmas Eve with a group of Catholic Workers who take homeless people in, have a “Storefront” to feed those on the street, have set up an “urban farm” and volunteer for various neighborhood projects in a quite hardscrabble area of the city.  For five years, our family intentionally moved to this area in order to work in solidarity with this group.  We can’t leave people in these places abandoned.  We just can’t…  Note:  And speaking of community building:  Just prior to going back to Cleveland, I interviewed a woman in Findlay, Ohio, who had a “Little Library” installed in her front yard right on the sidewalk.   About the size of, say, a pretty big bird feeder, there are two shelves for books.  The concept is for neighborhood people to “…take a book, give a book.”  And as people in the neighborhood start to read the same books, it helps lubricate conversation drawing people closer together in community — in part, like it was in the old days.  There is a “Little Library” website that indicates some 30,000 of these have been put up around America in the past five years since the initiative started.