UCSB Arts & Lectures has a strong performing arts component presenting shows by top music and dance acts, plus a wide variety of other “entertainers,” but their lectures program is equally wide-ranging and important, bringing fascinating people to give enlightening talks about their lives and professions. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s impassioned speech at the Arlington Theatre last month was a perfect example of the power and value of this part of the 58 year old program, fulfilling their mission to “educate, entertain and inspire.” Mr. Biden began by talking calmly and soberly about his past experiences and the current state of poilitcs, stressing a message of hope and faith that the key to a good future is in the hands of today’s students. Sometimes his voice dropped to a near whisper, but about three quarters of the way in he began to become a lot more animated as he listed some of the many injustices and tragedies this country is grappling with today, and the sold-out house responded with hearty applause. Part of what makes A&L’s lectures so important is hearing people who have been in a position to know what’s happening at the highest levels, and it doesn’t get much higher than a former Vice President. After a short and moving Q&A with UCSB sociology professor Kum-Kum Bhavnani, I had the privilege of photographing Mr. Biden with A&L donors at a backstage reception. Just before he rushed off to meet UCSB students out on campus he insisted he wanted a photo with me and that I hand my camera to one of his assistants who took a photo of this startled photog with the great man. Now that was a pretty rewarding shoot!