Before he spent more than 30 years in the Senate and way before he rose to the ranks of vice president, Joe Biden had a far less glamorous job. He was a lifeguard.
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It was the summer of 1962. The civil rights movement was gaining steam, racial animus was rising in cities, and freedom rides and sit-ins were regular features on the nightly news. As a 19-year-old college student working at an inner-city pool in Wilmington, Del., Biden stood out.
“I remember it well, the fact that he had the job at the pool,” recalled David Walsh, Biden’s friend and one-time law partner. “He was certainly the only white person around, that’s for sure.”
Spending his days at a pool where some swimmers had never conversed with a white person before, Biden had an educational experience that others lacked. In his autobiography, “Promises to Keep,” the lifeguarding gig plays a surprisingly prominent role. Prices Run Swimming Pool, he wrote, did more to mold his views of race, society and the triggers of unrest than did all the press coverage he consumed from newspapers and television. It taught him one of the “most valuable lessons about what divided people — and what unites them.”
That sounds racist.