The Times West Virginian

In Today's TWV

August 14, 2008

Primer for president

‘90-year-old youngster’ Sen. Byrd offers ‘unique observations’

GRANVILLE — U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd stayed an hour past the scheduled end of a book-signing here for his new book, making sure that more than 220 people standing in line Wednesday got either his autograph or a bookplate that he had signed before the event.

Exchanging pleasantries and posing for numerous photographs with every person, Byrd displayed the stamina of a person half his age.

“I felt this 90-year-old youngster had some unique observations which might help the next president better understand the daunting job ahead of him when he assumes office on Jan. 20, 2009,” Byrd said, reading from prepared remarks.

The book-signing at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers in the University Town Centre was for “Letter to a New President: Commonsense Lessons for Our Next Leader,” (Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2008, $23.95).

The 173-page book, written with Steve Kettmann, is a primer for the next president who, Byrd believes, must rely on his faith, be honest and humble, and reject the politics of anxiety and fear.

Those who waited for up to two hours to shake his hand and get their photo taken with him seemed aware of his frailty.

Byrd sat in a wheelchair, flanked by several aides and bookstore workers. A contingent of Capitol Hill police, assigned to Byrd because of his role as Senate president pro tempore emeritus, and several State Police troopers also circulated in the crowd.

For the first half-hour of the event, which started at 6 p.m. and lasted until 8 p.m., Byrd signed copies of the book, his hands visibly shaking.

Dabbing tears from her eyes, Connie Katsakis of Westover, a retired school secretary, said she arrived at the large bookstore at 9:40 a.m. to get a signed copy for her son, Nick Katsakis, 31.

“My son has always admired Sen. Byrd,” she said. “He’s coming home later this month for leave, and I really wanted to get this signed copy for him.”

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