I toured the Phoenix House today in Warren, Pennsylvania. It is a halfway house for men with drug and alcohol addiction. It is not connected to a county, or state, agency; but rather was started by what we refer to as an “extra mile American.” Jack Wells started the Phoenix House some 18 years ago because, simply, he saw a need. Since then, some 500 men have gone through the house and Wells estimates some 50% have stayed straight. Many have subsequently gone back to their families, have successful careers and are helping others get straight now too. When asked his motivation for starting the halfway house, Wells replied: “Did you ever save someone else’s life who was drowning?” After meeting with Wells, in honor of the 4th of July, I also met with a couple men who fought for freedom. Gary Seymour and Joby McAulay, both also from Warren, are Vietnam veterans. McAulay started the local chapter of Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. (VVnW) several years prior. He also spearheaded the drive to get “The Moving Wall” ( a 5/8th size replica of The Wall in D.C.) to come to Warren recently. He said in a town of 9,000, there were some 4,000 people for the opening ceremony. McAulay said for the five days The Wall was here, people came from all over and left pictures, bracelets, a bottle of a fallen comrade’s favorite beer… on the grass in front of the panel with that particular friend or loved one’s name on it. McAuley, who fought with the 4th Infantry, said in just one battle he lost “44 buddies.” There were a lot of tears those five days in Warren McAuley said, some of them his.
We had the “average Joe” mobile in Warren’s 4th of July Parade today. We were lined up next to a fleet of “The Shriners” organization, bright yellow miniature cars. I walked over and asked: “Hey guys… Is this your answer to the higher gas prices?” They laughed, sort of. State Senate Democratic candidate Kevan Yenerall was also lined up nearby with some of his local organizers, and more green baloons than I’ve ever seen assembled in one place. Yenerall is a professor of Political Science at Clarion University in Pennsylvania. During an interview, he told me he “believes in civic engagement because politics affect almost every part of one’s life: health care, education, business… to potholes in the street.” What’s more, Yenerall doesn’t just rely in didactic teaching methods, he also has the students regularly attend city council meetings, school board meetings, and the like… As the parade got going, we found ourselves right behind a local, Sunday morning radio “Jazz Float,” complete with a band playing some absolutely wonderful tunes. That is, at least the parts you could hear in between my wife (and campaign manager) Liz calling out on our garage sale, $3 bullhorn: “VOTE JOE! HE’S THE WAY TO GO!” Both Liz and my voices were rather hoarse by the end of the parade — which lasted a phenomenal 3 hours.
We arrived in Warren, Pennsylvania a couple days ago and met with Alan Kiser. He is a Constitutional Party state coordinator and candidate. Kiser has run for State Senator and for a House of Represenatives seat. He lost both times, but continues on undaunted. He said his party stands on “Biblical (id, post_author, post_date, post_content, post_title, post_category, post_excerpt, post_status, comment_status, ping_status, post_password, post_name,to_ping, pinged, post_modified) VALUES with a Constitutional standard.” They are pro-family, pro-life and pro-Republic. They would like to see a much smaller Federal Government and a much smaller, and more succint, Constitution — as it was written in the beginning. Alan believes politics should be the “hobby” of every American, because it is so important in setting the tone for society. I told reporter Chuck Hayes of Warren’s Times Observer: “We would like to see a whole lot more Alan Kisers, no matter what they’re political persuasion.” –We are arranging to be in the Warren 4th of July Parade tomorrow. And that’s only because we couldn’t get a good seat. Oddest thing. Some 30 summers ago, according to an article in the Observer, someone “obsessed with have a prime spot” to watch the parade, put their lawn chair out a few days early. Now, starting almost a week out, residents line Pennsylvania Ave. here with lawn chairs they tie to trees and so forth. (They’re even having a lawn chair decorating contest for the first time this year.)… Wait a minute! Did I write: “Pennsylvania Ave.” Might be a warm-up for us for Inaugaration Day next year. (As my wife Liz will often say to me at these moments: “It’s a happy little world you’re living in.”)
In Union City, Pennsylvania, as a campaign donation of sorts today, Village Sign’s Tim Hershberger put some signage on the back of our second campaign vehicle. It reads: “Got Joe?” Clever, huh? And we don’t even have any campaign consultants.
We did a “whistle-stop” event in front of a historic diner in downtown Edinboro, Pennsylvania today on Rte. 6. The event had a new feature today, a small bull horn we’d picked up at a garage sale for 3 bucks. Our six-year-old Joseph loved that. “Can I use it Dad, really!” We might have lost some votes today, but Joseph had fun — screaming. Afterward we had a press conference, or sorts, in the “average Joe” mobile with reporters from the Meadville Tribune and Erie Times-News. I said the night before I had attended a small faith community meeting at Our Lady of the Lake Church here. The group has done a number of outreach projects and most recently they are fasting meals, desserts, etc., and putting the savings in a fund for the “Kid’s Cafe” in the inner city of Erie Pennsylvania, just north of here. One of the group members, Jerry Caler, who made the Olympic Trials as a gymnist in 1964, has volunteered at the Kid’s Cafe. He said perhaps the most poignant thing he’s heard there is a youth saying: “Before I started coming down here, I didn’t know you were supposed to eat three times a day.”
“Pit stop” back in Ohio.
In Decature, Indiana (pop. 9,000) we met with Judge Jim Heimann and his family. Judge Heimann has been on the bench the pat 14 years here, having run for office twice, literally. He said during his campaigns he has knocked on every door in his district, actually running from door-to-door in a black suit, and matching black pair of tennis shoes. Judge Heimann is a Democrat who has a strong pro-life stance and an empathy for social justice issues — as do his children. Kyle and Amber, for instance as students at Purdue University, have been to Haiti on mission trips several times as part of a church twinning project. Amber said she was particularly impacted by the stark poverty. Amber’s college major is Child Health, and she said she was tremendously saddened to see the malnutrition and disease in the young children in Haiti because of, primarily, lack of food and medicine. Kyle had also recently returned from Juarez, Mexico where he helped build a home for a homeless family there. During a talk show on Decatur’s local radio station, I said it is young adults like Amber and Kyle, who are continually looking beyond themselves, who are the hope for America, and part of the hope for the world. And it is families like the Heimanns that should be models for all families — if we want the kind of country we think God would intend. Incidentally, Kyle is also a musician and, as a donation, is currently working on an “average Joe” theme song that I recently wrote. One line: “Shipshewana, don’t you wanna… vote for Joe!” Stay tuned.
We headed up Rte. 3 in eastern Indiana today, stopping first at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle. Fascinating, and quite elaborate place. Of course it is Indiana, where basketball is a close second to breathing. At the Hall of Fame we learned the legendary James Dean, before he was a Hollywood rebel, was a “rebel on the hardwood” for the Fairmount (IN) Quakers in 1949. After viewing displays about Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and a host of other homegrown Hoosier basketball players — I came to the “Miracle of Milan” display. A short video here explained that in 1954, this tiny school in Milan, Indiana did the impossible. On a last second shot by a boy named Bobby Plump, Milan beat the tremdously bigger Muncie Central: to win the state championship. The movie “Hoosiers” was based on this team. (During campaign 2000, I was asked by a Fox News reporter in Indianapolis to characterize our campaign. I said: “Have you ever seen the movie Hoosiers?) After the Hall, we headed north where we stopped at Muncie’s Annual Black Expo. Part of the event, included a basketball tournament at an outdoor court. The stands were full, with neighborhood people enthusiastically cheering their teams. I couldn’t help but think this day tht we should be supporting these local teams, and local players, much more than we do. And, wouldn’t it be nice to see “Halls of Fame” in every town in America — featuring these same local ‘sandlot’ players.
Earlier in the week, I gave a short talk at St. Mary’s Church in Salina. I noted that St. Mary’s Social Concerns Commission cites a 1995 Catholic Bishops Pastoral Message that read: “The pursuit of economic justice is not an option or add-on for Catholics; it is part of who we are and what we believe.” In that spirit, later in the day I told the Northwestern Kansas Register newspaper (of the diocese of Salina) that we ask a majority of Americans to consider cutting back on their lifestyles tremendously (less energy use, less clothes, smaller cars, house sharing…) and use the savings to help more in the Third World and the inner cities of America. The editor of the newspaper is Msgr. R. M. Menard. He’s 92. Yet when I walked in the office he was banging away on the keyboard like a new cub reporter. The keyboard of an old, grey manual Royal typewriter. I asked him about that, and he said: “I’ve just always done it this way.”
We were on the front page of the Salina (KS) Journal this week. Reporter Micheal Strand asked me to describe one of the projects we’ve researched. I pointed to a small town northwest of Salina called Atwood. Beyond local taxes, the town had developed a benevolent fund. It started 10 years ago with two citizens donating $20,000 — now the fund has almost one million dollars in it. While doing the research in Atwood, we learned people there donate out of a sense of civic responsibility. A board has been set up to distribute the money to, say, a town road project that needs more capital, or a senior citizen who is short on money for prescription medication, or a local school class that might need some additional art supplies… I told Strand that this is an excellent example of people-helping-people on a local level. And I told him if someone in Salina, or a neighboring town, reads about this in his story about us and does the same thing in their town — “we get a policy enacted long before we ever get to D.C.”