I am fairly passionate about my barbeque, like most native North Carolinians. We instinctively know all the best barbeque places in the state and can discuss with vigor the subtleties of sauces and smoking techniques.
But when Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., stepped in front of me in the buffet line for a luncheon event in Charlotte, I didn’t exactly expect it would become an opportunity to discuss the merits of N.C. BBQ. Sen. Hagan was very pressed for time and graciously asked if those of us in line minded if she cut in front of us. We were there to hear her speak, so of course we waved her to the front of the line.
Someone (who wasn’t from N.C.) in line told Sen. Hagan that the lunch buffet included N.C. barbeque. Sorry, but barbeque tepidly “smoked” somewhere in the bowels of a chain hotel in downtown Charlotte just doesn’t qualify as authentic N.C. barbeque. I admit freely that most of us in the Tar Heel state are insufferable barbeque snobs and wouldn’t touch this type of hotel-smoked pork with a 20-foot BBQ fork.
I said something to that effect to Sen. Hagan, as she grabbed a plate for the buffet line. She peered into the serving tray filled with the pork and nodded her head agreeing with me wholeheartedly. “It’s definitely not Lexington,” I said to her, “Or even Stamey’s, from your hometown [Greensboro].”
Sen. Hagan looked at me and smiled. “Looks like you might be right,” she said. “You know, Wilbur’s [Goldsboro] is my favorite.” Now that’s an excellent choice for a favorite N.C. barbeque, and in just those very few words, I understood immediately that the good senator knows her North Carolina BBQ, which certainly boosted my respect for her.
Just moments after our BBQ encounter, Sen. Hagan spoke to the group gathered for the luncheon and demonstrated that her understanding of key workplace issues might just exceed her knowledge of good BBQ. She spoke authoritatively and with passion about her efforts on Capitol Hill to improve work skill development opportunities both locally and nationally.
She said that North Carolina and other states needed an educated and highly trained workforce to be competitive in the global economy. She told the event attendees that workplace flexibility policies go hand-in-hand with training and development initiatives. Because once employers have the skilled workers in place, they need to keep them engaged and on the job. She added that flexible workplace policies are proven to improve both productivity and retention. She urged everyone at the meeting to work with her and other like-minded business and political leaders to increase the nation’s workforce development opportunities and to support workplace flexibility policies.
So in a manner of minutes, I found myself agreeing with a politician twice, which sad to say is much too rare these days.