We traveled east today to Sanford, Maine (pop. 18,000) where I met with Alan Lawrence, 20. Some four years ago, just a week after he got his driver’s license, his car hit a soft shoulder, spun and hit a tree at 40 mph. The accident caused massive brain injury, he was in a coma for six months and half of his body was paralyzed. With intensive rehabilitation, he is able to walk, ride a three wheel bicycle and is now in college trying to get a degree in Digital Media. He still has limited mobility and as we talked I noticed his speech was a bit halting, and so on. Prior to the accident, Alan had been a competitive inland skater. He said the accident has not only caused physical trauma to him, but financial hardship for his family. Just a few days prior, I had told a reporter from the Berlin (NH) Daily Sun (as I’ve told reporters across the country) that our platform promotes “Walkable Communities.” Several years ago, we interviewed Dan Burden in High Springs, Florida. Burden, who Time Magazine recently called one of the top environmentalists in the country, travels America showing towns how to become much more walking and bicycle friendly with lower speed limits, diagonal paths to town, wider berm lanes for walkers and bicyclists… With the traffic speeds considerably lower, with more alternative vehicles (electric, solar powered…), with more people walking and bicycling… wouldn’t the amount of deblitating accidents be diminished in kind? Not to mention pollution. –We will be in Sanford the next couple days to conduct a whistle-stop event at the town square Wednesday.
We were invited to Warner, New Hampshire for the 30th Anniversary of Magdalen College this weekend. This small college is thread through with a tremendous Catholic ethos. The keynote speaker was a Superior from a Benedictine Monestary in Rome, Italy. And during his talk, he said people in leadership positions will be called to give an accounting to God of those they were entrusted to lead. After the talk, I told my wife Liz that that puts a whole new light on this: “presidency thing.” I mean just for one, I’m not sure the people in Northern California want to be necessarily led — by anyone. We also met Joshua Miller, his wife and three children at Magdalen. Miller said they are part of Samaritan Ministries, which is a Christian Health Insurance Group that has started up across the nation. He said because of the relatively large size of the group now, their family pays a comparitively low premium every month. And he said when someone in the network experiences medical problems, not only are they compensated financially, but a whole prayer network in the group kicks in as well. The Millers said they do their part to stay healthy too, with, for instance, a diet of only small amounts of sugar, wheat and dairy products. Average Joe truism: If we ate better, exercised more and were less stressed — we wouldn’t get sick as much. Well, it’s true.
We were in Berlin, New Hampshire today where I was interviewed by reporter Chad Dryden of The Berlin Daily Sun. He asked about my platform. I said, for one, our education position paper calls for a shift: with one-third of curriculum, from K thru12, being volunteer work out in the community. I told Dryden I wanted our children learning as much about social justice toward the disadvantaged as I did them learning about math, science, English… “I mean in God’s eyes, what would be more important?” I posed. After the interview, Dryden said he took up the “sport” of snow shoeing to cope with the long winters up here. “They say if you can walk, you can snow shoe,” Dryden laughed. I told my wife Liz that that would be the “sport” for me as well. She agreed.
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…