Joe Biden Returned To The Pool Where He Used To Lifeguard, And Shared How Much He Learned There

"I’ve always had your back, and I’ll always have it as long as I’m around."

In 1962, a 19-year-old Joe Biden got a job as a lifeguard at the Prices Run swimming pool in Wilmington, Del. This week, 55 years later, the former vice president returned to the pool, which has been renamed the Joseph R. Biden Jr. Aquatic Center in his honor.

A photo of Biden once again sitting in the lifeguard's chair (wearing very different attire, no doubt) made a splash on social media Monday, as pretty much anything to do with the former veep tends to do. Some Twitter users even joked about him "diving into" the 2020 presidential race.

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This latest honor holds special meaning for Biden, whose experience working at the pool was a formative one. Biden was the only White lifeguard at the pool, and he shared at a press conference on Monday that he "learned so, so much" about race relations during his time there.

"I wanted to get more involved," he said of his decision to take the job, according to Delaware's News Journal. "I'd turn on the television and I'd see and listen to Dr. (Martin Luther) King and others, but I didn't know any black people. So, I wanted to work here." 

Biden added that the dozen Black lifeguards he worked with treated him "as an equal," adding that he "was the only white guy they really knew." Their conversations opened his eyes to some of the harsh realities of segregation in the United States.

"I remember one lifeguard asked if I had a five-gallon can for gasoline," Biden recalled. "I said 'No I don't. But what do you need it for?' He said, 'I'm going down to see my grandmom in North Carolina. We can't stop at most gas stations. They won't let us stop at most gas stations.' I learned a lot." 

"The neighborhood's always had my back," he told members of the community, "and God-willing, I've always had your back, and I'll always have it as long as I'm around."

The Washington Post reports that Biden wrote about the lessons he learned at the pool, and the friends he made that summer, in his autobiography, Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics. "Every day, it seemed to be, black people got subtle and not-so-subtle reminders that they didn't quite belong in America," Biden wrote in the book. "It was a dozen small cuts a day."

Delaware Gov. John Carney, said of the pool's new dedication, "I'm sure there are going to be other things we name after Joe ... but I'll bet you there won't be anything more important to him and the young people of our state ... than to know Joe's commitment to civil rights started right here." 

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki, meanwhile, explained, "It's not the Medal of Freedom, but for people around here, it means every bit as much, if not more."

(H/T: Huffington Post)

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