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From the Editor’s Notebook:

By Staff | Feb 9, 2020

There have been a lot of interesting speakers at the Minnesota Newspaper Association Annual Convention over the past 50 years or so.

And yes, to be honest, there have been a few who were not all that interesting.

The first convention I ever attended had the vice-president of the United States there as a speaker.

His name was Spiro Agnew. I wonder if anyone under the age of 40 has ever heard of him. And if you really want a great trivia question, ask folks what was Spiro T. Agnew’s actual birth name. It was Spiro Theodore Anagnostopoulos, by the way.

Agnew was famous for coming up with quips, quotes or observations. In today’s world he would be a master of the Tweet, I suppose.

At the newspaper convention one of his quips during his speech in front of 700 newspaper folk was “Some newspapers are fit only to line the bottom of bird cages…”

I remember, too, his line was the country is filled with “nattering nabobs of negativism.” Whatever that is.

At the time I just thought it was quite something that a vice president of the United States would be at the convention, and I, a 21 year old nobody, would have a chance to shake his hand.

Other vice presidents have attended as well, but they were Minnesotans like Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale.

I don’t remember any presidents ever showing up. But, let us just say Senator Amy Klobuchar gets herself elected to the presidency (I know, a big, big long shot), I am sure she would show up.

Actually, Sen. Klobuchar has not missed a convention since she was elected to the senate. She has either shown up in person, or, if she can’t make it, she has sent a video of herself greeting the newspaper people gathered and giving an update on what was going on in the senate.

She has a soft spot in her heart for the Fourth Estate. It had a lot to do with her father having been a career newspaper man at the Star Tribune.

This year she didn’t show up or send a video. I suppose she might have been busy, you know, criss-crossing Iowa, visiting New Hampshire, and occasionally having to be in Washington so she could be at her real job.

You know, like attending that Senate impeachment trial thing going on. But, I digress.

Senator Paul Wellstone was also a frequent guest at the convention before his death. So have many other of the state’s U.S. Senators, although I don’t think Sen. Al Franken ever made an appearance.

There have been plenty of other politicians at the convention over the years, from governors to legislators to other state elected officers. One of my favorites was the governor of Oklahoma, who spent an awful lot of his speech poking fun at Minnesota and the people who live here with his slow southern drawl.

He was so hilarious some of us thought he was some wacky comedian just impersonating being the governor. But, no, he was the real thing.

There have been plenty of other people, some pretty famous, many from Minnesota, like Garrison Keillor, Will Steger (North Pole explorer) and Andrew Zimmern (the bizarre foods guy), just to mention a few.

But, I have to say I have never seen one quite like one of the people who spoke at this year’s convention, held on Jan. 27-31.

You may or may not have heard of him, but his name is P.J. Fleck. He is, of course, the head football coach for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

This guy has more energy than 100 normal, average people have combined.

When he was introduced he was nowhere to be seen, but he came running to the stage from the back of the ballroom, bounded onto the stage and grabbed the mike from the newspaper association president and proceeded to talk.

He spoke loud and fast and paced back and forth on the podium and proceeded to give a speech about his life, his family, football, the Gophers, coaching, the media, life skills, the people of Minnesota and a whole lot more.

He spoke for an hour, at least. Never hardly paused, never hardly took a breath. Never stopped moving.

Nobody dared move or look away, or, you know, get up to go use the restroom.

The audience was captivated and riveted on his every word. You could have heard a pin drop, except, you know, he was talking so loud you couldn’t have heard much of anything.

When he was done he answered a couple of questions in his rapid-fire manner, then ended by leaping off the stage and running out of the ballroom.

I was exhausted just listening to his speech and had to go take a nap afterwards.

And, since he says he has aways been this wired and high energy, I truly feel sorry for his poor mom and dad…