Before he was a senator and a vice president, Joe Biden was the only white lifeguard at Prices Run Pool in Wilmington, Delaware.
And 55 years later, that same 3000-square-foot facility inside Brown-Burton-Winchester Park was renamed the Joseph R. Biden Sr. Aquatic Center.
Biden, 74, was all smiles on Monday at the dedication ceremony, even taking a seat in the lifeguard’s chair and pretending to take a dive.
Though he was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Biden calls Wilmington his adopted hometown and the place where he broadened his perspectives on race relations, specifically while working as a lifeguard.
“I owe you all. I owe this neighborhood. I learned so, so much,” he said at the ceremony, according to The News Journal.
“I wanted to get more involved. 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 continued.
Reminiscing about his part-time job, Biden said the dozen black fellow lifeguards “treated me as an equal.”
“They’d ask me questions — because I really was the only white guy they really knew — about things that just startled me,” he said. “I remember one lifeguard asked if I had a five-gallon can for gasoline. 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.”
Concluding, “I’ve received an awful lot of wonderful honors all my career. The greatest honor is serving you for so long. But this does mean more to me than anything that’s happened.”
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“It’s not the Medal of Freedom, but for people around here, it means every bit as much, if not more,” Purzycki said.