ABOARD THE ELECTION EXPRESS, West Memphis, Arkansas (CNN) – Veda Hardy received a present last Christmas that no one would want. Had it arrived by postage, she would have handed it back to the mailman with a simple message: Return to Sender.
Hardy said she was one of 80 people laid off by her company in December 2006, while another 350 workers from another business nearby were let go. At 46, receiving a pink slip can be particularly hard. But Hardy, who lives in nearby Searcy, decided to do something about it. She went back to school.
Hardy had seen coverage of our cross country trip from South Carolina to California, where we are making stops along the way to talk to Americans about how the economy is impacting their lives, and possibly their votes.
She approached us to say that the number issue for her is job creation.
“I am currently going to school with a lot of 40-plus age bracket, and I think our concerns are with the job market,” Hardy said.
The issue of jobs even trumped Iraq, a war her son served in for 14 months as a gunner on a M1 Abrams Tank. She supports the U.S. efforts in Iraq and quotes her son about how we hear very little about the achievements being made in the war torn country.
“We tend to look at the negative so much of the war, of the cost, and yes we have loss of lives, oh my goodness,” Hardy said. “But he came home and said ‘Mom you just don’t hear the news reporting about getting electricity, getting running water, clean water. Women can vote.’”
Still, for Hardy it is about jobs.
“We just need more businesses brought back into our community, and especially the smaller communities, the ones that are hometown communities,” she said. “We need that economy, we need that boost, we need the manufacturers to come into these small towns, and give people that are out in the rural areas an opportunity to boost their income.”
For now, Hardy does not have to worry about a job. But when she graduates with a degree in marketing and management, she fears that will change.
“My concern is when I get done in December am I going to have a job after or am I going to have to relocate to some place like Memphis or St. Louis or Fayetteville,” she said.
Hardy said she is voting for the state’s former governor, Mike Huckabee, on Super Tuesday. She likes his stand on the flat tax, and his commitment to children’s health care.
- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston