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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

For the past several weeks, behind the scenes here at ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, we've been doing something a little different.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Mr. Vice President. Robert Siegel.

Vice President JOE BIDEN: I know, Robert. How are you? I listen to you all the time.

SIEGEL: This is Julia Buckley(ph).

BLOCK: Now, usually when we do a mic check before an interview, we'll ask a mindless question, such as, what did you have for breakfast? And you'd be amazed by how many people don't eat breakfast. But lately, we've been asking newsmakers this: What summer job influenced you, changed your life, shaped your values? Well, here's what Vice President Joe Biden had to say.

Vice President BIDEN: Thing that formed my values and life experience, being a lifeguard in Wilmington, Delaware. The only Caucasian in a all-black neighborhood with 13 lifeguards, and it was a real education for me. Price's Run swimming pool, it's an area they now call The Bucket. It's on the edge of a public housing project, and the guys who got the jobs were the athletes in town, in the suburban areas, and I got the opportunity. And it helped inform me in a way that few other jobs I've ever had have.

BLOCK: Now, see, that's a much more revealing answer than coffee and a bran muffin. Here's another summer job story.

Secretary ERIC SHINSEKI (Department of Veterans Affairs): Well, I swept floors for my uncle, who ran an upholstery shop. And if you know anything about upholstery shops, they create a lot of trash, a lot of dust, a lot of debris, and it cured me from ever wanting to sweep floors for anyone ever again. So I had to think about other things to do in life.

BLOCK: And boy did he. That was Four Star General, now Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. So, summer jobs can be motivatingly awful, they can be fun. They can also be a springboard to your future.

Ms. LAURA BUSH: I had a summer job as a swimming teacher.

BLOCK: Long before she was first lady, before she taught second-graders, Laura Bush confirmed her career choice in a swimming pool.

Ms. BUSH: It was a lot of fun in Midland, Texas. And I can remember swimming, teaching the little kids to swim, where they would all grab the swimming teacher, and I would be the one who was almost drowning as I was holding them up. But it was one of the very first teaching jobs I had, and it just showed me that I really did want to be a teacher. And so it gave me more of an idea of what I wanted to study in college and then what I wanted to do later.

BLOCK: Over the next couple of months, we'll hear more about summer jobs that had a personal impact, not just from newsmakers, celebrities and the occasional NPR personality but also from you.

We want you to tell us about your summer job, the work you did, the people you met, the lessons you learned, the unexpected experiences that became pivot points in your life. Please write to us at npr.org. Click on contact us at the bottom of the page and include summer job in the subject line.

And this wasn't exactly a pivot point in my life, but I do remember a summer job when I was in high school at the Natural Foods Caf� in my hometown in upstate New York. I was in charge of making eggrolls, which involved getting up at an ungodly hour and stir-frying pork. And that smell memory has stayed with me ever since.

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