In 1980, I was the "student moderator" for an out of control Young Democrats debate at Eastern Kentucky University.
Student Regent Rick Robinson represented Jimmy Carter and Rob Dollar, the editor of the student newspaper, represented Ted Kennedy. Young Democrats president Jim Biaso was for Jerry Brown.
The "debate" grew more and more raucous each passing round. As moderator, I lost control of the room and it started to resemble a professional wrestling match.
In the final round, Dollar knocked over the podium and gave an impassioned, from the heart, speech about how the country had lost its focus under Carter and needed new leadership.
Robinson responded by singing "God Bless America".
Robinson went on to have a tremendous political career, first as an aide to Congressman Jim Bunning and then as a candidate himself for Bunning's seat in Congress. Dollar went on to be an award-winning journalist in Hopkinsville, Kentucky and Clarksville, Tenn.
Now both are successful authors. In a way, both of them can trace their careers back to that debate at Eastern Kentucky University.
Rick's career as a political insider is a central part of his books and Rob's passionate advocacy, as a journalist and activist, play into his new book.
Robinson has put out four outstanding works of political fiction. All four are regulars in the Amazon top 100 bestsellers on the political fiction list.
The latest, Writ of Mandamus, was the Grand Prize Winner at the London Book Festival. It is a stunning masterpiece. It has all the plot twists and turns of a Grisham or Tom Clancy novel.
Robinson, who was named 2010 Independent Author of the Year, has a main character based on Robinson himself and Rick's campaign for Congress.
Kentucky references and especially Eastern Kentucky University references are peppered through all of Robinson's books but especially Writ of Mandamus.
Robinson dedicated the book to Dr. Thomas Myers, the longtime Vice President of Student Affairs at Eastern Kentucky University. When Dr. Myers died, Rick told me that he based his life on the standards that his father, Dr. Myers and Senator Jim Bunning set for him.
A pretty good group of mentors.
Both Rob and Rick reference me in their respective books but Rick has the most creative twist. He has me as a saloon keeper in Ireland. Based on my family tradition as the 'son of a son of a gambler" it was an inspired choice.
Rob Dollar co-wrote, When Newspapers Mattered: The News Brothers and Their Shades of Glory with award winning editor Tim Ghianni.
When Newspapers Mattered is funny, profane, zany, profound and an autobiographical history of how their work at small newspapers made a difference in an era before a "bottom line" mentality set in the media business.
It is easy and fun to read but the passion and empathy for the common man that Rob showed over 30 years jumps out of the book. Tim and Rob see newspapers as a way to make a difference in society and bemoan the downsizing of that public trust.
Warning to those in that part of the country, Rob and Tim name names and lots of them. Including mine (but in a friendly way.)
Tim and Rob were the consummate journalists in an era when they could use the power of the press to go after bad people.
They also developed a "News Brother" persona with funny outfits, a movie, and outlandish behavior that reminds you of a latter day Hunter Thompson.
Both Rick and Rob have remained close and loyal friends since college and I have been proud of their success.
I'm proud that both men have stayed true to the same values they exhibited in college and never "sold out" or stopped following their dreams. Being an author is hard work (I can tell you about that myself) and I am proud of my friends for making their books a reality.
My alma mater also should be proud. The education they received at Eastern Kentucky University shaped the rest of their lives.
We had big dreams in 1980. Rick and Rob made their dreams happen.