Common Man. Common Sense. Uncommon Solutions.
And (Are you ready for this?), my name actually is: Joe.
I’m from Bluffton, Ohio (pop. 3,875). I live with my family in a modest house there on (Are you ready for this again?): “Main Street,” literally.
And speaking of houses, I paint them for a living.
You’ve undoubtedly heard of “Joe the Plumber.” I’m “Joe the Painter.”
I haven’t always painted houses.
While the U.S. presidents for the past 20 years have either graduated from Harvard or Yale; I graduated from Bowling Green State University.
I majored in journalism.
After college, I worked on several small town newspapers. I then switched professions, and became a certified drug and alcoholism counselor, specializing in dysfunctional family systems for the better part of a decade.
Then I made a decision.
As things kept getting worse across the board in our society, I took my “reporter’s notebook” out into America on a personal journey.
There had to be common sense people out there with creative, common sense answers to all these societal dilemmas.
And there were.
I took notes, a lot of notes.
Some of the notes were about absolutely great ideas. Some of the notes were about ideas that had been turned into actual projects to: help the poor, improve education, stop violence on the streets, curb global warming, heal families, balance a town budget, and so much more.
To date, it’s been 250,000 miles and 24 years of note taking.
There are a lot of answers out there.
I took those answers and plugged them into position papers. They are position papers that have been part of my presidential campaigns. This is my fifth consecutive run.
Well why not? This is America.
As I talk in media interviews (more than 1,000 to date), or at colleges, or one-on-one on the streets of hundreds and hundreds of towns now, I try to plant seeds about these ideas and projects. During a talk at Toledo University, I said that if someone picks up on an idea and tries it in their town, I get part of a “policy” enacted long before I ever get to D.C.
“So, in effect, I’m already a kind of president of the U.S. now,” I said.
The students all smiled, politely.
On the way back to our campaign vehicle that day, my wife Liz wasn’t smiling, oh, as ‘politely’ in regard to the ‘kind of president now’ comment.
In fact, she leveled a rather astounded gaze at me and said: “It’s a happy little world you’re living in, isn’t it?”
Oh yeah, that’s one of the other things I’ve been doing these last couple decades or so. I got married to Liz. We’ve had kids. And, like most middle-class families in America, it’s been a roller coaster ride of ups, and downs, and… then there was that one month when Joseph started listening to rap music regularly and asked about a tattoo; Sarah started dating, and our youngest one, Jonathan, broke his arm doing something stupid.
To deal with all this stress, I spend a lot of time working in the yard. I also lift some weights and play Thursday basketball with some older guys in town who just, well, can’t seem to “hang ‘em up.”
As I’m sure you can tell, I live with my family in “the middle.” I work in “the middle.” And I even run for president in “the middle.” That is, I go out to campaign mostly on the weekends. And Liz will only let me do that if the grass is cut first.
And so it goes… in “the middle.”
Note: What’s driven me to go the “extra-mile(s)” all these years has been my faith. I’m Catholic. And my Catholic faith, and the gospel message in general, calls me to make this a better world for those who are struggling. To that end, for instance, I’ve researched numerous projects to aid those in the Third World, and those struggling with rural and inner city poverty in America.
What’s more, our family intentionally moved to a hard-scrabble, gang war zone in Cleveland, Ohio, for a number of years to help with outreach programs there to aid, not only adults who were in a bad way, but innocent children who were in even worse ways.
Sometimes we “average Joe’s,” in the face of overwhelming odds, still have to step up. Our nation has a long and storied history of that.
And it may well be all these unsung average Joe’s and Jane’s that I’ve come across out there (and those I’ve yet to meet) who may, ultimately, have the “real” answers to saving this country — before it’s too late.