Scotty and I shared a table in Mrs. Kerner's kindergarten class in 1984. He was the classroom's centripetal force, always drawing the teacher's attention away from the rest of us. He rarely finished even the simplest assignment, instead wandering the room or doodling on his desk. He cried easily and threw raging tantrums. Other days, he was so sleepy he laid his head on his desk and napped for two hours straight.
Dan St. Louis may never grace the cover of BusinessWeek magazine or dash off to board meetings in a Gulfstream jet. He works in a cramped, windowless office in a former Nickel's department store that is now home to a branch of Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, N.C. But he is a man on a mission to save an entire industry. Specifically, socks.
For many of Hickory's residents, the hosiery industry has provided good hourly wages -- today, $12 or more -- as well as health insurance, paid vacations and retirement benefits for three generations of workers. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Catawba Valley is responsible for roughly a third of the hosiery produced in the United States. But its share is shrinking fast.
Christopher Mixen, 23, looks very much like a college student in baggy cargo jeans, clean white sneakers and an oversized navy sweatshirt. His blond hair is cropped close, and his sharp, blue eyes gaze out from behind wire-framed glasses. But clipped to Mixen's shirt is a photo ID badge that sums up his adulthood thus far: ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, INMATE. His mug shot stares out from beneath the shiny plastic.
It didn't take long for people to start conjuring the ghost of Bill Clinton in the person of Wesley Clark. In fact, long before Clark declared his candidacy, supporters and detractors alike were mining the similarities between the two men -- both Rhodes Scholars and Arkansas natives -- for deeper significance. Ironically, both liberals and conservatives seem eager to tag Clark with Clinton's imprimatur -- liberals because they long for a candidate with Clinton's political skill, conservatives because they want a Democrat with Clinton's political vulnerabilities. But both camps are probably engaged in a little bit of wishful thinking.