Ohio Values: How this photo of the Snake River in Idaho restores Michael Kearns' faith in our nation

'It's a great, great place to be'
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Posted at 5:00 AM, Aug 26, 2020

CINCINNATI — Michael Kearns and his friends have a saying that people don’t live a single life – they live lives.

“I think I’m on No. 10 or 12 right now,” he joked.

These days, Kearns is a freelance photographer and writer. In the past, he was an insurance adjuster. He also practiced law at his own firm for 20 years before he stopped working to take care of his twin sons after they were diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Kearns takes long trips in the car as a means of meditating and recharging, and he takes photos during those trips. He talked with WCPO 9 News about what travel has taught him about himself and his beliefs as part of an audio story series called Ohio Values.

Michael Kearns

The idea behind the series is to give local, national and global audiences insight into what matters to Ohio voters in advance of the 2020 presidential election.

To create Ohio Values, journalists from six news outlets spent the past several months interviewing Ohio voters throughout the state to get their perspectives.

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All interviews were conducted using the story-gathering tool A Picture’s Worth, where voters selected a photograph that is important to them and then discussed that photo and the values they hold dear. WCPO 9 News published its first Ohio Values story earlier this month.

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Kearns chose a picture he took of the Snake River in Idaho from a trip in 2018.

In the photo, he sees much more than a breathtaking landscape. Kearns sees the unsullied beauty of the United States and recalls the good people he met along the way.

He thinks about how much he learns by traveling outside his home state of Ohio and how much he appreciates the diversity of thought and experience he encounters.

He said he selected the picture because it represents a snapshot of his political beliefs.

“That was a dirt road that I just pulled off a two-lane highway when I took that photograph. And I stopped, and I was taking photographs, and I looked around and I saw that bird. It’s in the second picture (below). And that’s a River Pelican, which is completely different than a Sea Pelican,” Kearns said. “I did not even know that there was such a thing. And that’s what I love about America. It’s still big enough, it’s still beautiful enough, it’s still full of creative people enough that even during dark, dark, dark times like we live in, it’s a great, great place to be.”

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Michael Kearns took this photo of a River Pelican in 2018 while traveling in Idaho.

Listen to the full audio story below:

Go to the Ohio Values homepage to discover more stories in this series and to subscribe to the Ohio Values newsletter.