I hope you had a chance to see NC People this past weekend. I was honored to be invited to be one of Bill Friday’s “people.” It actually started as part of the Council’s 75th anniversary last year, though it didn’t make it to the airwaves (an outdated term, if ever there were one) until now.
Bill Friday celebrated his 90th birthday last summer. Even if you are new to the state, the hoopla surrounding his birthday would have made you aware that he is one of the state’s giants. I don’t know that there’s anybody alive today who is more respected or beloved or who has had more impact on the state for a longer period of time.
I had not met him before the taping (another outdated term, I suspect). But talking with him – both onscreen and off – was like talking to an old friend. He is well-informed and current on a whole range of topics. We talked about everything from church-state separation (we’re both Baptists) to the day’s news about poverty to my decision to go to law school after seminary. And he went on from my interview to tape one with Gen. Hugh Shelton, for former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he had command of a whole different set of issues.
For those of you interested in the behind-the-scenes details: NC People runs every week. Mr. Friday (those who work with him do NOT call him Dr. Friday) tapes two sessions back to back, every other week. The taping is done in a studio on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, on a set that looks and feels like it is his living room (except, of course, for the lights and cameras and hairspray guy). The interview is done straight through, no do-overs, and they do no editing before broadcast.
Here’s what I think I was most impressed with out of this experience. I had been given instructions to park in the lot in front of the Morehead Planetarium. When I pulled in to the ticket booth, I told the lady inside that I was there to be interviewed by Bill Friday. And she launched into a three- or four-minute monologue about what a wonderful person he is and how he always stops to talk to her, etc., etc. How remarkable! This man has walked and continues to walk in the state’s and nation’s most influential circles. This woman may not be the person of greatest influence at the planetarium parking lot. But it’s clear that he has treated her with the same respect and attention that he’s shown to the high and mighty (e.g., Presidents, Governors, and Chairs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff). How remarkable!
–George Reed, Executive Director