Biden’s Visit to the SouthCoast Evokes Vice Presidential Memory
When President Joe Biden comes to Somerset on Wednesday, it will surely put a national spotlight on transitioning from fossil fuels over to offshore wind and solar energy.
As I read the breaking news, my mind went from a coal facility in Somerset back to Arkansas in the late 1960s. I had just started working at KZNG in Hot Springs. News came that the very next day, then-Vice President Spiro Agnew was coming to town as a surprise guest for the National Republican Governor's Conference.
The radio station was energized, and I was anxiously looking forward to my first big event to cover, if I could just stop my heart from banging on my chest so loudly.
I never got the memo that the vice president was not taking any questions from the press. I slipped the recorder in my back pocket, and started making my way through a very congested crowd of people pushing this way and pulling back that way, the kind of feeling you get when you're packed like sardines.
I couldn't even raise my hand to try to get the vice president's attention, so I raised my voice instead. As I was on my tiptoes trying to catch a glance, I hollered, "Mr. Vice President, I'm a fellow Greek!"
You know in the movie The Ten Commandments when the sea is parted? His Secret Service detail grabbed my body from all angles, and fearing I'd end up getting shot or something, my hopes and dreams were dashed. I could envision my face plastered all over the nightly news.
But then, the next thing I knew, I was suddenly looking at the twill weave pattern of his suit. There he was in front of me, smiling away, and he repeated, "So you're a fellow Greek!"
I asked him one quick and mundane, stupid question, and just like that, he was gone. A reporter for the Associated Press wrote a short blurb about the rare occurrence, writing how no other reporter was granted permission for an interview except for "a fellow Greek."
The reporter inquired what questions I asked, and my mind went blank. I couldn't even think straight, because it was like being intoxicated from the enthusiasm and high spirits of the event.
Since those early days, I've interviewed a host of presidential candidates and one sitting president. With each one, I made it a personal point to glance over to see the pattern of the weave of their suits, and smiled inwardly.