Goodbye, and thank you Kokomo, Indiana

Shaimaa and I jumped in our hire care today for the last time to hit US Highway 31, the road that cuts through Kokomo that we have come to know so well over the last couple of days. This time we were headed south to Indianapolis, leaving for the last time.

We came to Kokomo because it was a typical small American town, doing it tough in the recession. And because the state of Indiana was very evenly split between McCain and Obama it seemed like a good place to go to get a fair assessment of the President’s first 100 days.

All day Wednesday we sped around like mad things speaking to different people in the Kokomo community and feeding live into BBC news programmes. From the high school, to the local glass factory, to the childcare centre we tried to find out what Kokomo’s residents were thinking, culminating in a special World Have Your Say live from Kokomo’s rescue mission. See the special news page on Kokomo here.

So what did we discover? Well firstly what many of us at WHYS had suspected – that the benchmark of 100 days is something that the media like to mark, but that doesn’t mean that much to ordinary people. Most of the Kokomo residents we spoke to said it was too early to make a serious decision about their President’s performance. As the Mayor of Kokomo, Greg Goodnight said during WHYS, “Here in America we want everything now. We want instant weight loss… we want instant results.” But, he went on to say, some things take time to incubate, and a Presidency is one of them. It was interesting to see even many of the avowedly Republican heads nodding in agreement.

The other thing we found is that there is still deep unease within communities like Kokomo about a possible move to government involvement in all aspects of their lives. From national pre-school testing to involvement in the management of the big auto companies, many people fear that the policies Obama has laid out in his first 100 days will lead to bigger government and less individual rights. It’s a concern his opponents played on greatly during the election campaign and it seems he has done very little in his first three months in office to assauge that worry.

From Kokomo we did hear more scepticism than approval, which I suppose is to be expected given that McCain got 56% of the vote in the local county. But we were disappointed during the WHYS programme that a lot of the Obama supporters who had said they were going to come down didn’t make it. We wanted to present a room full of people that was representative of Kokomo voters and I’m not sure we quite got as many Obama fans as we could have. (One reason was that the Chrysler Union was voting on whether to approve a merger with Fiat and therefore possibly save the company – we suppose we can forgive them for not showing up to our radio programme.)

But our overwhelming image of Kokomo was of a friendly place filled with genuinely kind, courteous people who love their country whatever their political persuasion, and care deeply about the direction it’s going in. Coming from the UK it’s always overwhelming to find a town full of people who are so open and willing to help. And it gives us a kick that people tell us they could listen to our accents all day.

So thank you Kokomo. Ros was very disappointed he couldn’t make it because of his swine flu quarantine, but we just about got by without him (although he was missed) and we had a real education in small town America in the process.

8 Responses to “Goodbye, and thank you Kokomo, Indiana”

  1. 1 Dennis Junior
    April 30, 2009 at 03:57

    Shaimaa & Madeleine:

    Thanks for the excellent coverage that was provided of Kokomo, Indiana on Wednesday….

    I am sorry, that Ros was not able to join the rest of the staff in Indiana…

    ~Dennis Junior~

  2. 2 M. Carter
    April 30, 2009 at 05:29

    Having been born an raised (1941-1960) on a farm (very happy childhood ) located 40 miles east of Kokomo I found your broadcast fascinating.
    After high school moved to San Francisco and from there traveled the world . Now, and for the past 25 have made my home on the island of Cyprus which I believe was my destiny. (Long story.) A few days ago I had a phone conversation with a childhood friend who was more a brother than a friend. He told me that his father had been a member of the KKK and the small town where we attended school was a BIG center for the KKK! BIG shock, I had no idea! My parents were 180 degrees from a KKK mentality. Thank you for the very informative broadcast.
    Mary Carter

  3. April 30, 2009 at 08:14

    I jumped in our hire care today

    Hire car?

  4. 5 Ron (Don on the script : } )
    April 30, 2009 at 14:26

    Hello ladies! We were glad to host you here at the Rescue Mission. Hopefully you recieved a tiny taste of what a ministry such as ours does on a daily basis, and as you were with us, I hope you could sense that our desire was to minister to you with kindness and l;ove as we do to all that come through our doors, from the poorest person in need, to the well to do supporter. May God bless you as you continue on in your work, where ever that may lead you.

  5. April 30, 2009 at 16:22

    My name is Sahid,am a student living in Sierra Leone.I just wanna thank you all for your good work you have done.I really know you missed Rose,but guess you have done well.Once more i wanna say thak you to all of you.And dont forget to be checked for the flu before you live there.Bye

  6. 7 Scott
    May 1, 2009 at 02:49

    Madeline interviewd a woman and several young boys about what they thought about the first one-hundred days of Obama’s presidency. She then went on to refer to the young male as a “Young African Man”. What ? Did she forget that she was in Indiana. Does she consider every person with skin darker than hers to be an African. She was having obvious difficulty with racial identification. So I suggest to her that she just refer to her interviewees by gender and nationality only and in future avoid offending listeners.. We are Americans! Period end of discussion.

    Scott J. from Oklahoma

    • May 1, 2009 at 03:19

      Hello Scott,
      I haven’t listened back to that insert into Newshour to check, but I can assure you that if I refered to either Nathanial, Jamal or Jeremiah as being ‘African’ rather than ‘African-American’ it was a slip of the tongue and one which I apologise for.
      I am well aware the Africans and African-Americans are not one and the same.

      I wouldn’t say that identifying people only by gender and nationality is necessarily the way to go though. Those boys strongly identified as being African-American – that’s why Barack Obama being President was so important to them. They said explictly that his being African-American like them was an inspiration. It’s not up to me to censor how they identify themselves.


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