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End of the road

  • Jon Kelly
  • 18 Oct 08, 03:10 AM GMT

PALISADES, NEW YORK: The bus rumbled into the quiet cul-se-sac before juddering to a halt. This was my final destination. It was time to step off for good.

Since the start of my journey, I'd travelled more than 7,500 miles across 16 states. I'd spoken to dozens of Americans about their hopes and fears as election day approached.

But having made it from one coast to another, I reasoned that the US had probably endured quite enough of me by now.

Jon Kelly with the BBC Talking America bus I had one last appointment to keep. Kurt and Kristan Bridges had been following my blog, along with the rest of the BBC's Talking America coverage. They'd invited me round to their home to give me a send-off. Not for the first time, I was touched by Americans' capacity for hospitality and kindness.

The couple's home in upstate New York looked like the sort of place most of their countryfolk would aspire to raise a family. Kristan and Kurt had worked hard to get here. There were no Republican or Democrat banners on their lawn, just Halloween decorations.

We talked politics. Kurt, 41, who ran his own audio-visual technology firm, was for Obama. Kristan, 32, hadn't made up her mind yet: she saw good and bad in both candidates. Having quit her job as marketing executive to look after her two small boys full-time, however, she marvelled at Sarah Palin's ability to balance her career with her family.

Kurt was fascinated by how a foreigner like me saw his country. "We're all interconnected now," he said. "This might be my house, but we're all neighbours."

Like so many of my readers, Kristan wasn't afraid to tell me, in good humour, what I could have done better. "You said you'd put on weight," she scolded, smiling. "But you didn't tell us what you'd normally eat back home. That would have been interesting for your readers in the US."

A load of rubbish normally, Kristan, just less of it. But so much for the notion that Americans are insular. If I'd learned anything on this trip, it's that preconceived notions won't get you very far here.

I'd met conservative Texans who were green energy pioneers and gun enthusiasts who turned out to be cheerful, homely moms. Likewise, there were the gay activists who espoused family values and religious faith, and the evangelical Christians who believed the church ought to stay out of politics.

I wouldn't dream of claiming that any of the people I met were representative of America as a whole. How could they be, in a country so magnificently vast and diverse?

To truly do justice to the range of experience here, I'd have to interview 300 million people: a feat that would test the BBC's resources, not to mention my shorthand. But I hope everyone I spoke to provided a snapshot of how surprising and illuminating this place can be.

These were nervous times for Americans. In Memphis, Mississippi, Las Vegas and West Virginia, I heard how the least fortunate face hardship and uncertainty. Even the traders on Wall Street and the socialites in Manhattan were edgy.

But against backdrops of poverty, I also heard truly inspiring tales from the Native American runners of New Mexico and the ballet dancers of Harlem.

I encountered some individuals whom I deeply admired - among them Rahim Al-Haj, the Iraqi oud player turned anti-Saddam dissident, and Dusty Flynn, who was compelled to help others after the death of her husband.

Kristan and Kurt Bridges with their sons Harrison, six, and Tate, fourIn particular, the story of the incredible James Meredith, whose lone stand against racism was one of the defining moments of recent US history, showed me how far this country had come. Within a lifetime it had gone from segregation to an African-American man running as a prime contender for the presidency.

Yes, race was still a sensitive issue here. There was the (very) occasional ugly remark. And one politician's comments landed him in hot water. But I don't think any comparable nation has made so much progress in so little time.

And despite the acrimonious tone of this election, I'm confident that Americans will continue to come together. You only have to look at their music - be it nominally black or white - or their food to see that this nation of immigrants is the world's biggest and most successful melting pot.

Sitting across the dinner table from Kurt and Kirstan, I didn't want to leave. But I knew I shouldn't outstay my welcome, either.

As I stood up to go, I told them what I'd say to any American right now.

Thank you. And good luck.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Thank you, Jon, and BBC for taking the time, trouble and expense to travel across the United States. Well done, especially as you got your 'America legs' underneath you!

    I have colleagues in the UK, and I constantly encourage them to do exactly what you have done--drive across this country, meet the people who live here, and get a sense of who and what we are.

    Now that your journey is complete, I will encourage them to explore your reports. I hope BBC will keep this part of the site up for a few weeks, and further let you create some sort of permanent record. You happened to travel amongst us in truly historic days, and the value of your work will become more evident with the passage of time.

    And now, the traditional Southern farewell:

    'Ya'll come back soon, you hear?'

  • Comment number 2.

    Thank you for your unbiased view of America. We are a greatly diverse nation. We have our problems as every nation does, but we want to be the best. We have different views but we love peace and sometimes that brings out the best and some times the worst. We love the Uk even those of use who are not English desendents (I'm 3rd gen Norge). This new world is for everyone. Viva the difference.

  • Comment number 3.

    In the spirit of our final (last) state of our Union , Hawaii, I can simply offer this tribute....

    Aloha.

    I have personally enjoyed the third-party critique, including foreign and domestic voices, which have enjoined the conversation to paint who, or who we are not, are as a culture...as a collective.

    But the truth be told, as insightful as it has been along the way, the blog has sampled only a fraction of of this great country. In fact, it has been somewhat dominated by those indiginous to this great land.

    My hope is that those of you who will never have the first-hand opportunity to enjoin and explore the vastness of that which is the AMERICAN experience take this chance to take a second look regardless of tainted voices that have tarnished the intent - even with the best f intentions.

    If nothing else, America is a part of all of you..a breathing , international social science experiment so to say.

    We, Great Britain, the United States, and a mind-numbing collection of other countries/ethnicities, share a unique and wonderful connection....

    I for one say embrace it all...

    It's all good in my book!

  • Comment number 4.

    Thank you. I enjoyed this blog very much.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    Bravo Jon,

    It's been a great pleasure to read your blog as you've traveled our vast country. Like many of the Americans that have been keeping up with you, I've found it fascinating to hear an outsider's perspective as they actually travel the nation.

    We so often hear the opinions of europeans that never venture beyond New York, Washington or Los Angeles. Journalists that claim to know and understand America without ever venturing into our interior, which makes up so much of the American mythology and experience. It was refreshing to see your honest and thorough take on our lands.

    Thanks for letting us tag along!

  • Comment number 7.

    OldSouth, it means a lot that you've responded to my posts. I appreciate the time you've taken to educate this outsider!

    MinnesotaGuy, it would be a terrible shame if the interior were neglected. I hope I've had a proper shot at reporting what goes on there. Thanks!

  • Comment number 8.

    Just have to chime in and say how much I've enjoyed following this blog about your travels through America. One of the most difficult things to do is convey exactly how diverse and different all the different parts of this country is to foreigners.

    I am myself from a family of German, French, English, Welsh, and Irish background with a hint of Native American(Cherokee not enough to claim benefits.) :P My family has lived here since the early 1700s so we are quite removed from our European roots. But I've enjoyed learning about our family origins. And I appreciate outsiders views of our great nation.

    Wish you could have made it through some of the South-Eastern states. We have some diverse views on things down here as well. :)

    Charleston, SC

  • Comment number 9.

    Thank You,
    Maybe now Europeans will find it less complicated to know what being an American truley means. Diversity can be a very scary concept for those who wish all things to be equal and nicely packaged.
    In America, most opinions are heard and consequences are deeply felt.
    With your bus tour, the BBC journalist still can not place American citizens or illegal immigrants into a box which easily explains our country and those of us who live here.
    One thing we do appreciate is European interest and the respect for humans struggle to figure out right from wrong!
    Thank You for not giving up on America!
    Continue digging for what make the world a better place, we are listening!

  • Comment number 10.

    "I wouldn't dream of claiming that any of the people I met were representative of America as a whole."

    You're right.... America is diverse and that is its strength. Threaten the diversity with some narrow ideology and you threaten the country as a whole. That is why politically and socially th country must find the broadest recipient, not the narrowest one.
    Those are true small-town and big-town values. And that is why I believe that at least one of the person's on the ticket is way off in her rhetoric.

    For me, that reduces the choice of presidential candidates to exactly one this time round.

  • Comment number 11.

    Remember that speaking English and having a common history, British folks have a special role in and relationship to America, you view us in a unique way. There are many differences, I went to university in England for a bit, however our closeness is more like family for many Americans, and much greater than our differences. You saw the USA as many Europeans could not. Even here, I just realized, I still don't think of the British as Europeans! I hope you enjoyed yourself, learned alot and will come back soon. I have looked forward to my trips to the UK, and feel part of me belongs there too, and not just as another tourist. What a wonderful heritage we share.

  • Comment number 12.

    Jon,

    You didn't go to my home, the Pacific Northwest, what gives? Ok, I know you had a lot to cover and only so much time to do it in.

    Should you travel to the US again might I suggest that you visit Washington and Oregon and see some of the most beautiful scenery within the USA?

    We tend to be strongly opiniated too and have our own culture to an extent due to our geographical separation from the rest of the country.

    But even if you don't find us newsworthy you can still show up and enjoy a nice salmon dinner.

  • Comment number 13.



    Thanks to you and BBC for reporting your journey's impressions of America both in general and in regard to this seemingly endless presidential election. I love BBC and try to access it's excellent reporting as much as I can. Hope I can visit the UK again someday...I think the UK is a part of the US and vice versa in certain ways...all good ways in my book

  • Comment number 14.

    This is the first time I've noticed this blog. Is it the first time there's been a link to it from the BBC News front page? What a shame!

  • Comment number 15.

    Thank you Jon. For those of us back in Britain this has been an insightful and interesting experience, and a relaxing counterweight to the high-pressure election coverage going on (particularly those of glued rather unheathily to Justin Webb's blog). Indeed, the fact it's been both connected to the election, and yet set apart from it, has shown us a lot more than either could do on their own.

    You may remember some early comments moaning about what the BBC was doing with licence payers' money (which may be irrelevant anyway, if it's been funded by BBC Worldwide?). Well, I hope you realise how valuable this blog has been, and I would be proud to have it come from my licence fee. It's exactly what the BBC should be doing.

    I hope you've enjoyed it and I'm sad to see it end so soon, hadn't realised it was 6 weeks already! Take care and hope to hear from you again.

  • Comment number 16.

    Why the poor grammar and spelling? I expected more from the BBC. In first few paragraphs I noticed:
    -- "cul-se-sac" or should that be "cul-de-sac"?
    -- where you invited to a round house or did they invite you "around" to their home instead?
    -- "the sort of place most of their countryfolk would aspire to raise a family". Did the countryfolk or the place do the aspiring and raising? Perhaps you meant "the sort of place to raise a family that their countryfolk would aspire to own". Or "the sort of place where their countryfolk would aspire to raise a family". (Is "countryfolk" really one word?)
    Otherwise an informative, if perhaps a bit naïve, blog.

  • Comment number 17.

    Good stuff, Jon. I only read a few of your blog entries, but they were fair, generous and humorous. I don't have anything deep to say, but it would be good if you came back again, took a different route, then reported on your findings. I'm originally from the Midwest, but have lived in several parts of America. It truly is an amazing country, and most of that for the good, in my opinion.

  • Comment number 18.

    This has been a perfectly wonderful read! I found this blog one day when I finally got fed up with the local news agencies' attempts to make the campaign into something akin to Jerry Springer, so I went wandering on the BBC website. (Okay, okay, I mistyped the address while trying to get to the Doctor Who games.)

    I am a 9-1-1 dispatcher, which is sort of like your 999, but I don't route calls anywhere; I'm the one-stop answer person for emergencies. As I also have a degree in sociology, I was fascinated by both your opinions and the wide variety of people you sought out. I laughed often, and occasionally annoyed tetchy coworkers by reading bits out loud to folks nearby. (Yes, tetchy isn't an American word, but it works so well!)

    I took a trip like yours shortly after graduating from university. I spent 5 weeks on the trains, visiting mainly cities where I knew folks who would let me sack out on their couch and a couple of cities where I knew no one. I spent a lot of time chatting with people on the trains, in the stations, and at the various and sundry tourist traps that I deliberately walked into. I never had the courage to bring up politics or religion with strangers, though, so I was quite interested to see if you had the same experience of polite warm welcome that I did.

    I adored seeing what perspective a foreign national would have of a trip like the one I took, even when I was cringing and hoping that you were exaggerating accepted stereotypes. Well, except for Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a bit odd. We love it, anyway, though.

    This blog has been well worth my time, and has made the end of my night shifts that much more pleasant. I'm in the Pacific Northwest, which you sadly missed (email me if you ever need someone to play tour guide or recommend lodgings), so your blog entries with the time difference were usually posted before the sun had started to rise.

    In short, thank you. This was a lovely piece of work.

  • Comment number 19.

    Congratulations on the end of your trip. It's too bad they chose to have you end the trip in Downstate New York, sinces there is so much of the country and even New York that you should see. I think you have done a wonderful service educating your fellow Brits about our country. You have knocked down a few stereotypes showing Britian and the Rest of Europe that we are not all the same over here. It really seems sad that most of the world judges all Americans by the actions of its government when in reality most of the people disagree with our current president. IT has been nearly thirty-five years since we've seen a president with approval ratings this low.

    Sadly, most Americans do not pay much attention to Foriegn Policy and focus only on domestic issues. They don't realize how their vote impacts the rest of the world they might be more carefull in whom they selected. If they had realized how how thirty years of republican foriegn policy would make the US one of the least respected countries in the world, I doubt they would have voted for Reagan back in 1980.

    There is a myth promoted in this country that Republicans are better at foriegn policy. And public opinion polls see to rate John McCain stronger on that issue why historically Democrats have been stronger on Foriegn Policy. Roosevelt stood up to the Germans and Japanese in World War Two, Traded arms for hostages. Kennedy went toe to toe with the Russians, while Nixon's secret plan to end the war in Vietnam was four more years of war. This currenty president lied to congress, ignored intelligence, and used the media to promote a war that was illegal. He should have been impeached.

  • Comment number 20.

    #16: you need to get out more. And you need to make sure your unbelievable pedantry doesn't contain spelling / grammatical errors yourself ("WHERE you in a round house") indeed.

    Jon, your blog has been great and you've won over the sensitive souls who assumed a foreigner would conclude that all Americans are dunderheads. Perhaps you've helped a few from the US to relax, ever so slightly, about the way they think the world perceives them.

  • Comment number 21.

    America is indeed a complicated country that you second guess and generlise at your peril. I tend to do a lot of miles when I visit the US, especially in the South West, and I am told by my friends to 'keep my mouth shut' when I visit. I am on the left of the political spectrum, and I am outraged by US foreign policy, yet this does not get in the way of how much I enjoy the country and its people.

    In many ways I do keep my mouth shut. Far be it for me to be a guest in a country a critisise it, so, like you I listen, and it is not anywhere near as bleak as it is often made out to be, especially by those so called comics and commentators who just love their stereotypes.

    Bush has been a disaster for America and the west. Cometh the hour did not in this case cometh the man. As an outsider I can see they are upset by the turn of events. Shear bad luck it was not President Dole at the time of the World Trade Centre attacks, and many thousands have died and much wealth has been wasted as a result. The Middle East is now far more radicalised against the west, so this all round disaster has made Americans think far more seriousy about this election. Digging deeper in their assessment of the implications of their choice than many have ever done before. They have made a mistake and they know it.

  • Comment number 22.

    Apart from those who just want to exchange burger recipes, it saddens me that the opinions expressed are so obviously 'tribal' in nature and so juvenile in content. " Mine's bigger than your's".

    It might prove helpful to remind ourselves that we are all of the same species. Homo Sapiens living on a small bluish planet's endangered bio-mass during a period when all world economies and financial structures are on the threshold of major upheaval.

    America is seen as rich and powerful and thus often hated. Europe, an uneven conglomerate of tired nations, attempts to speak with one voice but sings like a choir whose members each has a different sheet of music. So what? It makes a rich fabric.

    Empires and nations grow, blossom, become old and die. The world needs the infusion of America's youth and energy. So they make mistakes.

    Let nations without sin in their history heave the first rock.

  • Comment number 23.

    One of my favorite vacation spots here in the States is everywhere! I love stuffing the kids in the backseat of my car and just picking a road to travel for a week or so! I am very happy that you got to have a similar experience while you were here.

    In over 30 years (my parents had the same vacation plans I use), I have seen only a small portion of my own country - and every single part of us is different, amazing and interesting. It is more than a bit daunting to realize that I have not seen some of the greatest wonders of our country (the Grand Canyon, for example) simply because it takes about 3 days to drive out there and I just haven't done it, yet. We frequently dip our toes in the frosty waters of Lake Superior or Lake Michigan (we live in Northern Wisconsin), swim in the Mighty Mississippi, hike the great North Woods and canoe or boat in the many beautiful waterways. We enjoy eating the various "local" cuisine - even though the kids didn't like grits or okra, at least they tried them! We also enjoy all the friendly, welcoming and proud people of our great Country.

    In discussing your trip with a friend last night, we would also like to point out that the porch light is always on - that is to say we welcome everyone regardless of faith, ability, color, or country of origin and that is sometimes our strength and sometimes leaves us open for hostility. We are not, as a nation, inclined to try to take over any one else in the world (I just got done reading a post by militant Iraqi's who think we want their country), nor do we need to. We are a vast land already, and while I do truly believe that as we become more interconnected globally some lines between nations will blur, there is no way to make a single, unified, global governmental entity and there should be no fear anywhere that we believe our system of government is the only good system. Obviously, England has been in operation for many centuries with a great deal of success (why mess with a good thing) as have most Asian, African and Middle Eastern cultures. I do not have to agree with how another country is run, but I have the choice to live where I want and believe what I want, and in the USA I have the right to express my personal convictions without fear of reprisal.

    So welcome, everyone around the world. Bring a happy heart and an open mind, and you will see that there is a little bit of each of your own cultures embedded within ours.

  • Comment number 24.

    And thank you, Jon, for you efforts. Don't forget to thank the British "tax payers" for sponsoring you excellent coverage on the USA.

    Most of us (minorities) are not given the opportunity to express our hopes, our thoughts, and yes, our disgusts about what is happening in and to the USA.

    I say USA because the USA is not "America", but just a geographical location in the Western Hemisphere and it tend to confuse the rest of the world as to where the the nation begins and where it ends. The rest of the Americas are not like most in the USA, bragging, ignorant, arrogant individuals who think the entire world owes them a living and rotates around them.

    But with Obama and Biden, perhaps a change will come for the better and the USA will again take it's placeof honor in the conference table among the civilized nations of the world.

    Than again, we shouldn't be surprise that the nation is in for another four to eight years of chaos, turmoil, racism, bigotry and distrust if the GOP gets back into power by whatever method they will device.

    In finale, I must say the USA, for all it goods and bad, is holding it's breath!

    Adios, mi amigo, hasta la vista and buena suerte en el futuro!

  • Comment number 25.

    Very interesting take on my country. However, you missed visiting the beating heart of America - Chicago. When my widowed granddad brought his children to the U.S. from Wales he knew the place for a man to become successful was the city by the inland sea - misnamed a lake - Lake Michigan.

    Jon, you must come back again soon and explore the City of Broad Shoulders.

  • Comment number 26.

    Jon - thank you for the insights conveyed in your trip. As a UK BBC-licence payer (and happy to pay) now back in the UK, I just had to write and agree that the only way to see 'America' (sorry #24, I meant the USA) is to get away from the places that mean the U.S. to most Europeans (NYC, Orlando & Las Vegas) and travel to the other cities, the little towns and farms off the beaten track. My wife and I spent 5 weeks this summer travelling 3500 miles by car from LA to Seattle (via the Grand Canyon) and from Boston throughout the New England states. We stayed in dozens of places, got to know literally scores of people and I'm sorry to disappoint your correspondent #24 but we found no "bragging, ignorant, arrogant individuals..". On the contrary we found one offhand motel clerk, no rude people, but a mass of kindly, courteous, and generous people who went out of their way to make us feel welcome. We only had to pause for a moment on a street corner to be approached by someone asking us if we needed help. Perhaps the highlight of our trip [which began, incidentally, littleLewisgirl (#25) in Chicago] was the train to LA. At each meal, the staff placed us with a different couple of passengers and we left the train with invitations and offers of hospitality - I can't think of a better way (no, not even by bus!) to travel and see the country. Our only regret is that we aren't there during the Election.

    Great stuff Jon.

  • Comment number 27.

    Good Bye, Jon Kelly!

    I have enjoyed your blog and I hope you have enjoyed your visit here.

    Safe journey home and God bless.

  • Comment number 28.

    Thank you John! I really enjoyed reading about your travels. I thought you got a terrific cross-section of Americans...I hope someday you'll come back to see the places you missed.

    And as a last note, which I wouldn't add but for my username, anything that close to Yonkers and that far south of New Paltz is about as upstate as Central Park -- a couple of trees do not an upstate make. So on your next trip be sure to pass through the real thing =)

  • Comment number 29.

    foxtrottango1 : Oh for the love of god when it comes to the word "America", unless your from Latin america almost the entire world considers the "Americas", notice the "s" at the end to be seperate continents. So if you are referring to the continents North and South America the correct term would be "Americas" instead of America, but if you are from Latin america then its understandable why you would call the landmasses america. And if you go by Geologists in what they think continents are then America is definately not the correct term to use.

  • Comment number 30.

    Thank you, Jon. This has been such a wonderful and interesting journey to follow. Thank you for giving the sights and people of the US a decent change to present themselves. I have truly enjoyed not only your perspective, but that of other Americans you met along the way.
    You will be missed, and I hope you get the opportunity to come back soon. Best of luck to you and all of your crew.

  • Comment number 31.

    Thanks for stopping by John!

    You didnt visit my hometown of Boston, but that's ok, you can't see everything in one trip, and it's just one more reason to come back.

    I thought you did a great job of recognizing the vastness and diversity of the United States, not just in terms of scenery or demographics, but also opinions and backgrounds.

  • Comment number 32.

    Jon, please excuse #1 OldSouth's bad spelling: here in the South it's y'all, not ya'll; y'all is pronounced y•'awl.

  • Comment number 33.

    Thank you so much for showing the "Real USA"! I have been living in the Midwest for over 11 years. I grew up in India and the Middle East and travelled extensively with my family before I settled in the US.

    Growing up and listening to BBC, my family and I had this narrow image of the country as well as Americans. Contrary to the negative opinion, Americans are the most hard working, honest, and law abiding individuals.

    They love their children, their faith, the communities they live in - they give their time and money to causes around the country and the world. This country is truly the melting pot - we are diverse in culture, ethnicity, socio-political, etc, and that what makes the USA stand out.

    You have the intolerants among both the "Liberals" and the "Conservatives". But deep down, most of us are moderates and extremely optimistic.

    With the upcoming elections, it is sad to see a country so divided which is fueled by the polarizing media, that have lost credibility. In the end, whoever comes into power has to move to the center and do what is right for this country and not pander to special interests as well as what the rest of the world wants.

    Again thank you for your insightful and honest blog! This is the America that I have grown to love and call home!


  • Comment number 34.

    Great blog Jon, as an Englishman, I really enjoyed it. It's a real antidote to endless pictures of politicians, which all get a bit repetative after a while.
    Is there any chance of the BBC doing something similar for other parts of the USA? Also, as suggested above, what about a reverse visit, an American visiting UK, and possibly other parts of Europe?

  • Comment number 35.

    By the way, to all US writters readers of this page. It's been nice reading some of your thoughts also, I feel like I'm already friends with a lot of you!
    Jon, I was quite impressed by how you managed to keep it (mostly) so friendly.

  • Comment number 36.

    Jon, I have absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed your writing. I'm of the firm opinion that you cannot judge or understand any country unless you take the time to live in it, travel to different areas, and talk to the people. I'm immensely gratified you were able to do so and glad you've enjoyed your stay in my adopted country.

    America is breathtakingly diverse, due in no small part simply to its geographic size - it's hard to imagine a country with mountains and deserts, forests and tundra that isn't varied in its people. Much of that vastness and diversity gets lost in the public discourse, especially to people on the outside. Thank you for providing a different perspective.

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi Jon,
    I just wanted to say thanks, and that I hope you have a safe trip home. I have enjoyed this blog. I am an example of American youth—growing up in these every changing times, and trying to find my place in this world. I liked how you interviewed the youth in Akron, because we have some strong ideas, and big dreams, and one day it'll be us deciding how to rule the country. Thanks again, and come back soon.
    Cheers!

  • Comment number 38.

    Thanks for the blog Jon. Maybe you can find another country to travel across and continue the trend - I might suggest Australia or France.

    Seriously though, enjoy your first sip of IRN BRU when you get home, and think about those of us have been missing it for years.

  • Comment number 39.

    Maybe you should write a book about your experience ? !

  • Comment number 40.

    Jon,

    Farewell my "friend" as I feel we have become friends through your writings.

    I really think you should consider staying and doing a piece like Alister Cookes "letters from America.. You could do it justice.

    Good luck in all you choose to do(just like an American would)

    Phil

  • Comment number 41.

    7,500 miles! It will be nice to get back home!

    I hope you revisit this experience on its anniversaries and communicate with us again.
    I was in Europe in '89,'92. I think very fondly of those memories.
    I think it will be much the same for you years from now.

    Do keep in touch from time to time, you always have a place in the west.

    Cambones

  • Comment number 42.

    Jon Kelly is one of the most tallented writers the BBC employes. Most of the time when I read about America or Americans in the BBC i get a simplified character I can't recognize. Mr. Kelly is different. I appreciate him taking the time to get to know us.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    A trip across America has added considerably to BBC's understanding well beyond it prior preconceptions, stereotypes, and limited views from a handful of large cities but it is only a snapshot of a moment in time. The real story of America cannot be understood without reading its history which explains how and why it evolved the way it did. Unlike just about every other nation I can think of, America is not defined by a shared personal history of its people but of shared core values. A reading of that history would put what was seen on the physical trip in much clearer context. I hope you make the effort to finish the intellectual journey in this important way.

  • Comment number 45.

    Time was, we Americans would look to the British expecting an erudite literacy. Today, we find reporters who don't know the meaning of the word 'homely'.

  • Comment number 46.

    Jon K.,
    You CAN'T wear out your welcome in the USA!

    I've enjoyed and appreciated your blog through 16 united American states (one of which was mine)... but you've not yet seen, or heard, the other 34!

    You and other BBC reps. have well explored the big complicated continent we call the U S of A, but only scratched the surface.

    Well done,
    Trey

  • Comment number 47.

    Whichever route you'd taken, you'd have missed something worth the experience. But the fact that you went at all was in a sense a road you chose to go down. Here's a famous poem by one of our best poets Robert Frost called "The Road Not Taken."

    TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

  • Comment number 48.

    Jon:

    I hope that you had a nice time in America, And you are welcome to come back anytime....

  • Comment number 49.

    Jon:

    I read your blogs religious and it is sad that you are leaving the United States to go back to London!

  • Comment number 50.

    Thank you, Jon. It's been an interesting ride. I hope you find your way back to the States again. You are always welcome. :)

  • Comment number 51.

    #45. watermynameisal

    This made me giggle. Actually, he IS using the term homely correctly! We Americans (and probably a whole lot of others) though use that word to describe someone (usually a woman) who is not very attractive or who is plain. ;)

    Homely, though, does refer to home. :)

    I will really miss this blog.

    Thanks, Jon!

    Safe trip home.. come again!

  • Comment number 52.

    With a name like "Jon Kelly," he's already almost American. Come home, Jon.

  • Comment number 53.

    You don't think another nation has made as much progress in a short time on the race issue?! I think South Africa did in terms of going from apartied to Mandela as PM!

  • Comment number 54.

    Hi, I would like to know how much it has cost the BBC to send a team to the USA for the coverage of the presidential elections?
    What a waste of BBC licence money.

  • Comment number 55.

    This is the only article that I read. I wish I would have seen your postings before.
    Like many others I thank you for such straight comments without injecting any political trend. I wish that European in general will know more about America. I believe that we all have a misconception of each other. You (Europe) think that we are naive and spoiled and we think that you are our unconditional allied. We both are mistaken. I hope that many of your countrymen and fellow europeans had time to read about us and not just to see us through the hollywood lens.
    I have visited many time Europe and do have better appreciation of your values and our differences.
    Again, thank you. You did a great job. Please do that again. It's necessary for you and others like you to bring us together. Cheers,
    from Minnesota.

  • Comment number 56.

    #53. South Africa was effectively a regime change. Replacing all the white politicians with black ones overnight doesn't change the mindsets of the general public. I think the point about the US's rapid change is that the change took place at a grass roots level. 50 years ago a huge amount of whites truly thought black people were 3rd class citizens. Thats not the case now. In South Africa I'd suggest that very few black South Africans have changed their view of Whites and given the mass exodus of white South Africans to Europe I suspect many Whites aren't too happy either.

    On the broader topic this has been a great blog and I've learnt much about the US. I've also had the very amusing phenoma of being constantly mistaken for an American because I have defended a country I have a lot of respect for from the usual 'all things US are evil mob' that seem to dominate BBC forums. Hopefully a few Europeans have learnt that the US isn't a nation of 300 million George Bush's.

  • Comment number 57.

    #54. This has been discussed elsewhere: this trip was financed by BBC worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC not the UK licence fee payer. Frankly I'd rather pay for this blog than have my licence fee go towards the 6 million pound a year salaries of two 'celebs' that I don't need to name.

    THAT is a waste of our money.

  • Comment number 58.

    I really enjoyed this story. Thank you for postively representing America and Americans. Also, thank you for reminding everyone how diverse and vast this great country is(even us Americans). Even if our elections last an annoylingly long time! I always enjoy when people come here from other countries and find out what a great place this can be and that many of the misconceptions about us are not true.

  • Comment number 59.

    24. At 2:27pm on 18 Oct 2008, foxtrottango1:

    That is a ridiculous statement; talk about arrogance. Sterotyping 300 million people "Americans" who are actually immigrants as self serving, arrogant and insensitive people. This is simply not true. Don't let Hollywood cloud your views with their exaggerated life style. Most Americans are very hard working people who are working to climb up the ladder here so they can retire one day. Our current administration has tarnished our reputation that is true. Hopefully new leadership will restore our good name. If you fall into the "imperialistic" America trap, then you are no different from the names you are calling us. Because you don't take the time to actually educate yourself about basic Ameican culture.

  • Comment number 60.

    Dearest Jon:

    I enjoyed this blog very much and it provided a break from all the ugly election coverage. Like others have said, I am glad you took the time to get to know us a little. Do write a book, you are so talented and really captured the spirit of America. You didn't come to Tallahassee, I forgive you, there is so much to see. True to our nature, after November 4 we will go back to normal and move on.

    Come back soon and if you are ever in my town, stop by for some good pulled pork, hush puppies, killer grean beans and Brunswick stew. Bring all your friends! God bless.

    Sandra

  • Comment number 61.

    Thank you, Jon, for getting in touch with everyday America. It's too bad that you didn't get up to Michigan and the Great Lakes...a truly beautiful and friendly part of our country. I agree with many of my campatriots when I say you should return. I think a follow up is definitely in order!
    Safe home and you are most certainly welcome back!

  • Comment number 62.

    Nice Blog.

    I always have the impression that most Europeans I meet don't really have a clue about the USA .. they tend to drop in one of our larger cities and come away thinking thats America.

    If the Europeans viewed the USA as a large EU ...(one with 50 independent/opinionated countries) they may have a better ability to understand just how large/diverse we are .. and why simple things (even std voting procedures) are often difficult.

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 64.

    America's influence to wane?

    America will be better able to weather the global economic crisis than most other countries because it has within its borders all it needs to maintain a good quality of life for all its citizens. We have a very productive agricultural base that is capable of producing much more food than we need to feed all our citizens. It's simply a matter of rethinking our priorities. Once we get down to business and dedicate ourselves to developing and using alternative sources of energy, we can be totally self-sustaining.

    Given the world's rejection of our attempt to inhibit the global reach of Middle East terrorism, and given the overwhelming task of solving our own economic crisis, I suspect that in the future we will focus inward rather than outward. Of course, it all depends on what happens in Iraq. If Iraq, like Japan and Germany after the devastation of WW2, evolves into a strong and thriving deomocracy, and becomes an example followed by other nations in the Middle East, we are more likely to be willing to use our power to try to effect a positive outcome in other parts of the world. On the other hand, if the Middle East devolves into a violent and primitive power struggle, like much of Africa, and becomes just another symbol of failed American foreign policy, like Vietnam, it will be a long time before Americans will be idealistic enough to think we can use our power to exert a positive influence in the rest of the world. Of course, it all depends also on whether or not there is another successful attack on the U.S. by terrorists. Another attack could quickly shift our priorities.

    But if there's one overarching message in the recent election, it's that, for now at least, U.S. citizens want to focus on solving our own problems, forget the rest of the world. Domestic policy is much more important than foreign policy: Pragmatism has replaced idealism.

 

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