John Rich remembers what life was like growing up in a mobile home in Amarillo, Texas, in the 1980s.
"My dad worked two or three jobs to pay his bills," he said. "If he didn't, they'd repossess his car, our trailer, whatever it was we owed them for."
So when he watched the U.S. government spend billions of dollars to bail out the struggling financial and automotive industries in this country last year, it rubbed him the wrong way.
"I don't believe somebody's too big to fail," Rich said last week via phone from Nashville, where he is now a country singer. "Our government picked up major, major interests in large sectors of our economy, and that is really, really frightening."
Rich was sufficiently motivated by those events to put together a rally and concert tour aimed at giving voice to that discontent. The Taking Our Country Back Tour kicks off at noon Saturday, March 13 at the Tulsa Convention Center.
"Taking Our Country Back is exactly what it says," Rich said. "The people we elected and put in government have not handled our business the way we elected them to handle it."
Rich and his band will headline the event, which also features best-selling country artist Gretchen Wilson, radio and television host Glenn Beck, and former presidential adviser and best-selling author Dick Morris. Former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was added to the lineup two weeks ago.
"I doubt there's ever been an event like the one we're putting on," Rich said, noting that none of the speakers making an appearance are running for office.
For now, the Taking Our Country Back Tour includes only two stops, Saturday's show in Tulsa and an April 10 appearance at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. But if the first two shows are successful, Rich said he'd like to schedule more in locations across the country.
"I'd like to have one in the middle of Las Vegas and send (Sen.) Harry Reid out in a blaze of glory," he said.
Rich hopes those who attend the event will be galvanized to send a strong message to their elected officials in Washington, perhaps even removing them from office in the upcoming mid-term congressional elections.
Rich emphasizes the tour is nonpartisan in nature, but many of the causes he endorsed during an interview -- support for public prayer and Ten Commandments monuments and opposition to President Obama's health-care reform package -- traditionally have been aligned with conservative interests. Others, such as opposition to the bailout and deficit spending, have found a more broad-based audience.
"This is not a partisan thing," he said. "Taking our country back means we've got the right to put somebody else back in there."
While he is no fan of many of the policies of Obama, Rich said he was impressed at the way millions of voters were inspired by him and turned out to vote on his behalf in 2008. Rich hopes the Taking Back Our Country Tour will have the same effect among those who are dissatisfied with the nation's direction and lead to a populist uprising. He said he votes every chance he gets and encourages others to take advantage of the same right.
"It seems like we've been asleep for decades, and now the government has encroached so much on our private lives that we're now at the red line," he said.
Rich attributes much of his own political awakening to the power of the Internet.
"My interest in politics ticked up three or four years ago," he said, explaining that his online investigations of several politicians revealed their voting records often did not match the things they said in public.
"Politician X would say he was against a bill with a lot of pork barrel spending, but come to find out, after the bill passes, that same guy had $19 million packed in that bill," he said.
Rich expressed a profound disgust with the federal government, a feeling he said is shared by the large number of his fellow Americans who feel disenfranchised. He blames much of that on elected officials who have been in Congress so long they have forgotten those they were elected to serve.
"The words 'career' and 'politician' should never be next to each other," he said.
Citing President George Washington's refusal to serve more than two terms in office, Rich believes today's politicians would be well advised to adopt a more public-minded approach to their careers.
"That attitude is virtually gone in Washington, D.C.," he said. "The people there are making decisions based on what's best for them personally, not what's best for their constituents."
The Taking Our Country Back Tour is designed to convey that message, and others, through a mix of music and oratory.
"Music is a great communicator," he said. "It doesn't matter what your politics are or your religion. If you like music, you like music. My crowd is not any one persuasion."
Rich said he's never injected political commentary into his live performances before, but he believes this tour's combination of speakers and artists is the proper forum for that.
"Great speakers are important," he said. "And music binds people together, creating a unifying experience."
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