- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - In 1962, Joe Biden rejected the more typical summer activities for a 19-year-old and took a job as a lifeguard at a public pool in Delaware’s largest city.

The former vice president was the only white lifeguard - and one of the few white people at the Wilmington pool at all, he wrote in his autobiography, “Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics.”

“I wanted to get more involved,” Biden said Monday at that pool. “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.”

At a ceremony renaming the pool the Joseph R. Biden Jr. Aquatic Center, Delaware Gov. John Carney said Biden’s experience as a lifeguard was the start of his commitment to civil rights.

Biden said he and the dozen black lifeguards he worked with taught each other about race and privilege.

“They’d ask me questions - because I really was the only white guy they really knew - about things that just startled me,” Biden said. “I remember one lifeguard asked if I had a 5-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.”

“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 his book, where he described that summer. “It was a dozen small cuts a day.”

Carney said Biden’s experience as a lifeguard “inspired him, in a way, to change our country.”

“Naming this facility after our former vice president is a message to these young people and young people across the state and city about what Joe stood for and continues to stand for,” said Carney, a Democrat. “I can’t think of a better way to honor our Joe.”

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