I learned a lot. There’s a high school in northern New Hampshire that had only 4 students in its graduating class. Some of the towns in the north have lost as much as half of their population in the past twenty years. An Ethan Allen furniture manufacturing plant and a paper mill both closed in the past number of years, impacting hundreds of workers each. When the plants closed, new jobs were hard to come by and many people left.
Northern New Hampshire is heavily rural. It’s beautiful country. But the issues facing the region are similar to those facing other rural areas. Brian Bresnahan told me that opioid addiction is rampant. New Hampshire has the 3rd highest rate of opioid addiction and overdoses in the country, about two times the national average, right behind West Virginia and Ohio.
What is the path forward for these towns? It may be one of the central challenges of the 21st century. We need to do all we can to address this challenge for the sake of our shared future.
I also spent time with Fred Ramey, an ex-convict who coaches other ex-convicts on how to re-integrate into society. He has an inspiring story—he is now a truck driver and small business owner who is thriving. He spent 3-and-a-half years in jail for stealing cars as a teenager and struggled with substance abuse throughout his twenties. He suggests providing businesses with tax incentives to hire ex-convicts to give people a second chance. I love the idea, but I have a feeling that it won’t be enough. Businesses aren’t designed to give people second chances, and it’s going to get tougher and tougher for many people with a criminal record to get their foot in the door.
The trip wasn’t all work. I went snowmobiling for the first time with Steve, which was a lot of fun.
New people are discovering the campaign all of the time. Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert both featured the campaign in their monologues, and theNew York Times,CNBC,FiveThirtyEight, and others wrote features about us last week. FiveThirtyEight now considers me a ‘major candidate’ and theNew York Timesbroke the news that we are exploring having a hologram of me traveling the battleground states in the Midwest so I can be in multiple places at once.
Second, my bookThe War on Normal Peoplereleases on paperback on April 2nd. It looks like we are in striking distance of the bestseller list. If you’re looking for a gift, it would make a great one. (Amazon|Local Independent Booksellers)