'100 Days' Tour Kicks Off With Tales From Michigan

NPR's David Greene bundles up for outdoor interviews in northern Michigan. i i

NPR's David Greene is bundled up while conducting outdoor interviews in northern Michigan, where he kicked off the "100 Days" road trip. NPR hide caption

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NPR's David Greene bundles up for outdoor interviews in northern Michigan.

NPR's David Greene is bundled up while conducting outdoor interviews in northern Michigan, where he kicked off the "100 Days" road trip.

NPR

Staying In Touch

Follow David Greene as he travels the country, and help him find interesting stories along the way.

Shane Bailey, 35, of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., recently lost his job. i i

Shane Bailey, 35, of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., recently lost his job. David Greene/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Greene/NPR
Shane Bailey, 35, of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., recently lost his job.

Shane Bailey, 35, of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., recently lost his job.

David Greene/NPR

When Barack Obama took office Tuesday, he inherited what he called "the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression."

As Obama spends his first 100 days in office, NPR is launching a project called "100 Days: On the Road in Troubled Times." NPR's David Greene is going to spend most of the next 100 days roaming the U.S. And, with some help from our audience, he wants to tell stories about the recession, how it's affecting people and their communities, and how Americans feel about their new president's handling of the economy.

Greene talks with Lianne Hansen from his first stop, the blustery Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

"The first month or so, we're doing I-75 — the industrial Midwest down all the way to Florida," Greene says. "But starting here in Michigan, and this state, as you know, has been hit so hard — the auto industry and the economy in general."

Even before landing in Sault Ste. Marie, a town at the very top of Interstate 75, Greene says he was meeting people somehow touched by the economy and all of its troubles.

On the plane, he sat next to a woman who works for one of the local tribes on housing issues. She had flown back from Chicago, where she had a meeting with housing officials. She said the topic was the economic stimulus package that is expected to come out of Congress soon.

"She sounded almost like this package is a pie that's not even cooked but everyone's just dying to get a piece of it already," Greene says. And the advice she got was that her housing program better have some ideas ready to go when that stimulus money comes, or else they'll be passed by.

The headline that greeted Greene as he arrived in the state was "Mich. Jobless Rate: 10.6 Percent," he says. As he sat eating in an Applebee's restaurant, reading that newspaper, a man walked in, sat down and told the bartender that he had just lost his job. Greene met with the man, 35-year-old Shane Bailey, the next day and talked to him about what his plans are.

Coping With Recession Around The U.S.

Staying In Touch

Follow David Greene as he travels the country, and help him find interesting stories along the way.

A roadside going-out-of-business sign for a hardware store on I-75 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. i i

A roadside sign reveals the plight of a hardware store off Interstate 75 just south of the Canadian border. Our "100 Days" tour spans I-75 from Michigan to Florida, then heads to points west before returning to Washington, D.C. David Greene/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Greene/NPR
A roadside going-out-of-business sign for a hardware store on I-75 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

A roadside sign reveals the plight of a hardware store off Interstate 75 just south of the Canadian border. Our "100 Days" tour spans I-75 from Michigan to Florida, then heads to points west before returning to Washington, D.C.

David Greene/NPR

When President Obama took office Tuesday, he inherited what he calls "the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression." Americans are losing jobs. Families are losing homes. Workers are seeing retirement savings vanish. Communities are cutting services. People are facing difficult decisions that seemed unimaginable a year ago.

In any modern presidency, the first 100 days are considered a yardstick for what can be accomplished in a first term. In 2009, the new president faces a global financial crisis and the need to restore the confidence of Americans.

To mark this crucial period, NPR has decided to launch its own "100 Days" project. We're setting off on a 100-day road trip around the U.S. Our broad goal is simple: To come away with a portrait of the country in these defining times. And we'd like your help putting it together.

For the first phase, we set off after Inauguration Day on a monthlong trip along Interstate 75, beginning in Michigan. The state's pride and economy are tied to the struggling auto industry.

We'll slice through the heart of the industrial Midwest and end up in Florida. From Americans along the way — snowmobilers, auto suppliers, bankers, farmers, parents, retirees, college students, everyone who will talk to us — we'll hear about the decisions they're facing and how the economy has affected their plans and hopes. We'll seek a better understanding of the challenges facing President Obama.

After that, from points yet to be determined, we'll spend a few weeks exploring the massive economic stimulus package that Obama is expected to push through Congress. How is the plan helping the farmer in Iowa, or the cash-strapped family in Virginia? We'll pick apart the policies and try to understand the impact on Americans' lives and mood.

Finally, we'll spend the last month or so driving across the country, coast to coast, measuring the president's appeal and success in his first 100 days. Are homeowners in California and Nevada feeling like the worst of the foreclosure crisis has passed? Are young professionals in Denver feeling more confident about investing in the markets? Have laid-off aluminum workers in Pittsburgh found new work, or at least new ways to get by?

We'll land finally in Washington, D.C., to deliver our final report.

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