Postcard From The Road

Instead of covering the conventions, David Greene got a very different assignment — to hit the road, and chat with Americans about their views on leadership, far away from the convention halls. He gives us a look inside this reporter's notebook.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

NPR's David Greene fully expected to cover the conventions. Instead, he got a different assignment: to hit the road and chat with Americans about their views on leadership, far away from convention halls. He also filed this Reporter's Notebook.

DAVID GREENE: So this is what I'm used to.

Unidentified Woman: NPR's David Greene has spent much of this campaign on Clinton's plane and he joins us this morning to talk about...

GREENE: Campaign planes, rallies, following candidates. Of course, I expected to be at the Democratic Convention in Denver.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California): Welcome to the convention that will nominate Barack Obama and...

GREENE: Instead, when Nancy Pelosi opened the show Monday, I was buying a ferry ticket to cross the Mississippi. How much do I owe you?

Unidentified Man #1: Eight dollars.

GREENE: This assignment is definitely a departure. I'm not asking my usual questions, like, who are you voting for? Mostly, I'm listening to people like Kevin Nolle(ph), a ferry captain.

Mr. KEVIN NOLLE (Mississippi River Ferry Captain): I get to see sunrises and sunsets that most people only pictures of on their walls every once in a while and say, oh, that's pretty. I get to see it all the time. So...

GREENE: It's been liberating out on the road in an SUV, not boarding a plane four times a day. And my mission is simple: talk to people about who they look up to. It doesn't have to be a politician. And with Kevin, it wasn't.

Mr. NOLLE: Being a hunting fanatic, I'd have to say Ted Nugent but he is not really my idol. I'd have to say Jesus because he is the man.

GREENE: I didn't get a lot of answers like that while following Hillary Clinton. Oh, Senator Clinton? Her big night in Denver was Tuesday.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): In America, you always keep going. We're Americans. We're not big on quitting.

GREENE: As for me, I was at a jam session in Arkansas.

(Soundbite of a guitar)

Unidentified Man #2: We leave it in the key of D.

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah, we leave it in the right key for a change.

GREENE: These musicians, like Scott Blake(ph), were convincing me that playing music under the stars made it worth missing the convention on TV.

Mr. SCOTT BLAKE: These songs have stood the test of time. They're hundreds of years old.

GREENE: Then I heard from his eight-year-old son, Sam.

Mr. SAM BLAKE: That guitar was in my baby bed before I was even born.

Mr. SCOTT BLAKE: That's true.

(Soundbite of music)

GREENE: Now, I admit, I had to tune in for Barack Obama's speech Thursday and I'm going to do the same for John McCain next week. But for a political reporter, a night like this in Arkansas can keep politics in some perspective.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: NPR's David Greene.

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