Monday, July 04, 2016

Obama's Years: Road Trip Kentucky

Listen· 3:52

July 4, 20165:03 AM ET

Heard on Morning Edition

Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep talks to Americans about how their lives have changed under President Obama. Here's what he heard from a group of travelers he met in Paducah, Kentucky.


An NPR team traveled much of the country talking with voters about how their lives have been over these past eight years. The road trip led from Denver to Philadelphia, and we're hearing parts of it this week. We pick up the journey with my colleague, Steve Inskeep, as he arrives in Kentucky.

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: From southern Illinois, we've now crossed the Ohio River. I'm on the south bank of it now looking out at a barge - several of them - being pushed by tugboat.

We stopped there for the night in Paducah, Ky. It was once a Civil War battlefield. Now it's a tourist town. We stayed in a bed-and-breakfast where some of the rooms were adorned with dolls and baby chairs. And in the morning, over the breakfast, we met five other travelers...


INSKEEP: ...Who were in a cheerful mood as our host served up pancakes. Some of travelers were heading south. Others were heading north. And they were about to get on the road when we asked if they would take a few questions. They included Paul Czarzasty of Marion County, Fla.

PAUL CZARZASTY: I'm actually a deputy sheriff. I've been there for 31 years. We have concerns with the way that the president has divided the country. There's been some problems - you know, officers that haven't handled themselves correctly. And in any profession you're going to have good and bad.

INSKEEP: You're talking about these highly publicized incidents where...


INSKEEP: ...A white officer shoots a black man...


INSKEEP: ...And variations on that.

CZARZASTY: And, you know, it's made our job harder for the president, you know, with his lack of support. Another thing that is a totally different subject is the illegal immigrants that are coming over, receiving these benefits when our own veterans are having to wait to receive theirs. That bothers me a lot.

INSKEEP: In Kansas City, Kan., we met an illegal immigrant, and he also complained. And his complaint was the opposite. His complaint was I've got this job where they're actually taking out taxes. So I'm paying taxes, but I can't get benefits. What do you guys think about that?

CZARZASTY: Well, I understand his concern. But at the same time, whoever hired him should be held responsible for that. I mean, obviously he knows that his employee is illegal.

INSKEEP: Some people also raise objections to immigration because they fear it's going to change the culture of the country some way. Does anybody here...

CZARZASTY: ...No, we're all immigrants in this country.

CHRISTIANA LEMKE: I am a naturalized citizen. My parents came here from East Germany. And I have - especially since we were immigrants, you know, I feel for these people. But I do agree they need to do it the legal way.

INSKEEP: That's Christiana Lemke (ph), another of the five travelers. She sat at the table with Doug and Joyce Clark (ph) of Nebraska.

DOUG CLARK: Just within the people that I know and part of my network, there's been a huge increase in the amount of people that are going out and buying firearms, handguns, ammunition, getting concealed carry permits, things like that. They're worried that, you know, with the president signing these executive orders that those freedoms are going to be taken away from us. And I could just go on and on. I mean, I could talk all day about it.

INSKEEP: Are you a gun owner?

D. CLARK: Yes.

INSKEEP: And so you're concerned about your own firearms being taken away?

D. CLARK: Yes.

JOYCE CLARK: On another level, we have our sons that are employed, but we have a granddaughter who's 3 years old. And that's who we're worried about. We want to make sure that she has quality of life, that - some of the quality of life that we've experienced.

MONTAGNE: Those are some of the many people heard in Steve Inskeep's Obama's Years. It's a special broadcast now on NPR stations and on the NPR Politics podcast.

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