High Fiving Joe Lieberman

March 28, 2024

I thought about this photo of Senator Joe Lieberman when I heard that he passed away yesterday. I took it at EKU during the 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Lieberman was a senator from Connecticut and was Gore’s running mate.

The vice presidential debate between he and Dick Chaney was at Centre College in Danville that October. While Chaney chose to fly into Kentucky on the day of the debate, Lieberman chose to stay in Richmond (in a Super 8 on Exit 87 of all places) and prep at the University. He made a public appearance on campus that brought in the secret service and the national media that included CNN, Fox, and other national affiliates.

The one thing I did well at that point in my career was study other photographers on the national level. I was so excited to learn that the White House was sending one of Gore’s photographers, a woman named Callie Shell, whose work I had followed. Our president Bob Kustra and football coach Roy Kidd wanted to meet Lieberman, and I got to shoot that with Callie Shell, while the rest of the media had to stay back in what was known as the press pool. I was plum ga-ga about it, because I got to stand shoulder to shoulder with Callie Shell.

But the secret service failed to tell me that after that shoot with Kustra and Kidd that I had to go back into the press pool with everyone else. Lieberman then went to the grille in the student center to meet some students, when he saw this little boy who was there with his grandparents because they were both on staff at EKU. Lieberman couldn’t pass up the obvious photo-op and gave the kid a high-five.

Here’s where things went south! I thought to myself, “It’s my campus, and I’m the University Photographer, and I can go anywhere I want!” Not!!! I got down on my knees for a low angle and was moving in on the scene, when the folks in the pool started yelling at me to back off. And then it happened. I felt a big hand on my back as two secret service agents dragged me back. But…I got my shot before they got me.

Looking back on this, if that had happened earlier in my career I would’ve been mortified. I probably would’ve just walked out and never came back and spent the next few weeks in the fetal position. But, I shrugged it off, thinking, I would probably never see most of those people again. And, I was right. A few hours later, they all left and I got my campus back.

-30-
 


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