In Texas, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see someone with a “Willie Nelson for President” bumper sticker, and it can sometimes seem like the singer is actually an elected official in his home state: There’s a statue and street named in Nelson’s honor in downtown Austin, and Willie T-shirts can be found in many tourist shops. In a recent interview on his tour bus for his new Rolling Stone cover story, Nelson, 81, opened up about some current events, including the recent population influx in his hometown of Austin (the city’s population has grown almost 20 percent in the last decade). “Music had a lot to do with it,” he says. “You can go to Austin any day and find good music all over the place. I know some people who are not that happy because it’s getting so crowded and the keep moving further west. But you know, it’s progress.”
Nelson also offered his thoughts on the 60,000 Central American children who have crossed the Texas border in the past year who are now sleeping in makeshift holding cells. “I’ve been watching, and the only thing we can do is take care of those kids, whatever it takes,” says Nelson. “Take them in, give them some medical attention. I’m sure there are homes all over the country that would be glad to take care of one or two kids.
“They’re scared,” adds Nelson, whose parents left him to be raised by his grandparents when he was an infant. “They’re being mistreated. And it’s not a good way to start off your life. But it’s a good opportunity for us to show a little bit of humanitarianism and take care of those kids. I know a lot of people want to send them back. I guess the closer you are to the situation, the more extreme emotions you have about it, but it seems to me the old golden rule, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ or ‘treat other people like you want to be treated’ … Treat those kids like they were your kids.”
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When we caught up with the singer, President Obama was actually in Austin. “I think he should have gone to the border,” says Nelson. “To be that close and not go is kind of crazy, I think. But I’m sure he had all kinds of advisers, and he quit listening to me a long time ago.” (He might not be kidding: Barack and Michele Obama have been on Nelson’s bus more than once). Nelson also expressed frustration at the government’s resistance to Obama policies. “I’m not happy with any of it. Any of it. They’re not doing anything, and a lot are blaming him for not getting things done and they’re not doing anything either. I mean, Congress is just sitting there and saying OK, let’s get him out of the White House and then we’ll get something done. They’re not willing to do anything good. And they’re willing to take the country down with them to do that.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Texas Governor Rick Perry also recently spent time on Nelson’s bus. “Yeah, he and I are friends. We probably disagree on some things, but we probably agree on some also. He’s a good guy.”