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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: John Andronaco
Interviewee: Terry McCoy
April 9, 1996
A: Good afternoon, Dr. McCoy. My name is John Andronaco, and I am
conducting the interview today. It is April 9, 1996, at 2:00 p.m. We
are conducting the interview in 319 Grinter Hall, which is Dr. McCoy's
office at the University of Florida Campus. How are you sir?
M: Very Good. Nice to have you.
A: Well, thank you. Could you give me your full name and spell it
M: Terry L. McCoy.
A: Now the middle initial, what does that stand for?
A: Is that just a standard spelling?
M: Yes, Luther--like Martin.
A: Okay, good. Dr. Proctor gets testy if we do not have that.
M: No problem.
A: Dr. McCoy, would you please give me your parent's names, mother's
maiden name, and spell them?
M: My father's name is Frank Adolph McCoy. He never used the Adolph
for obvious reasons. It was a very unfortunate name to have during
the World War II. My mother's name is Marguerite Louvia Jones.
A: Could you give me your date of birth please?
M: April 4, 1940.
A: Place of birth?
M: Columbus, Ohio.
A: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
M: I have a brother and a sister.
A: What are their names?
M: Michael McCoy and Molly McCoy Harris.
A: You said your place of birth was?
M: Columbus, Ohio.
A: Was your family there, long history?
M: My family on both sides is from Ohio. My parents moved to
Columbus after first getting married from northern Ohio.
A: Why did they move there? Was there a job?
M: Yes, it was during the Depression, and my father was working his
way through school. At that time, he was at Ohio State. They got
married. My mom had finished her degree, so they moved so he
could finish. In the meantime, he got a job in Columbus and they
stayed. My mother is still there. My father died in 1991, but they
basically lived there since moving there. It would have been in the
late 1930s, I guess.
A: So after finishing up his degree what did they do?
M: My mom was a housewife all her life. Well before she got married
she taught high school. My father was a business executive.
A: How was life growing up for you in Columbus?
M: It was interesting. I grew up in what we would call today a suburban
environment. Although when I was twelve, we moved to a rural
setting. We had animals, a large garden, and lived out in the country.
Eventually, the city grew out around us. For a while it was in the
country. I used to spend summers with my grandfather on a farm. I
had the advantage of growing up both in an urban area and also in a
rural area, which made it quite interesting.
A: Where was the farm?
M: In northern Ohio. It was my mother's family farm. It was small but
typical for that time. It was about eighty acres. My grandfather made
his living off of that farm. That is all he ever did.
A: You went to high school in Columbus. Do you remember the name?
M: Upper Arlington High School.
A: How was life there?
M: It was okay. It was during the late 1950s.
A: Beatnik period?
M: Yes. The big things were sports and cars, I guess, really to be
honest. This was a high school in which most people went on the
college. There was a sense even early on that probably that was
what people were going to do. The student body was fairly
homogeneous. It was not the cross-section. It was entirely white.
There were no African Americans in this school, and no other
minorities that I am aware of. Of course that is somewhat unusual
A: Are you noticing that in retrospect, or did you notice that when you
when you were there?
M: No, I noticed it then because in Columbus, there was a significant
black population. Even then they were largely in the inner city
schools, and I was aware of that. We actually had a black student
who transferred to Upper Arlington, but he was there for a very brief
time--not so much because he was discriminated against, but
because he was such an oddity that it was quite uncomfortable for
him. Everybody paid attention to him, talked to him, and everything.
Certainly, that was something you were aware of growing up in a
white environment. There were relatively few Catholics or Jews in
this school as well. I was aware of one student who was Jewish, and
there were a few Catholics, but not very many. So it was pretty much
a white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant environment.
A: You mentioned religion. So your folks were protestant?
M: Yes, I grew up as a Lutheran. My parents were Lutherans. They
became Lutherans upon getting married. I grew up Lutheran, and
was a Lutheran until about ten years ago, when I became an
A: Hence the middle name Luther?
M: Actually, it has to do with my grandfather's name, and he was not
Lutheran, [laughter] ironically enough. It is an unusual name; that is
A: You already talked about high school sports and cars. Were you in
M: Yes, I did sports, not terribly successfully. I did wrestling, which was
a new sport, but because I was so light I made the weight. I never
particularly liked it, but it was a way of doing sports when you only
weigh When I started out, I weighed 100 pounds as a
sophomore. I could make the weight. I think it was ninety-nine
actually. Then I wrestled at 120 at one point. Then I did football and
I did track, as I said not terribly successfully. The best known athletic
figure from my high school was Jack Nicklaus [American golfer]. He
was a year ahead of me in school. He was the one that put us on the
map. His name is the "Golden Bear". Our mascot was the Golden
Bear. So that is actually where he got it.
A: I did not know that.
M: It is not that he made this up or because he has blonde hair, which he
has, but because he was a Golden Bear.
A: I thought he got it early in his career.
M: He probably carried it on. He was very successful in high school too.
He won the U.S. Amateurs as a high school student. The guy was
well known from the get go. My story I like to tell is I played golf with
him once, and I shot the same score that he did. Mine was for nine
[holes] and his was for eighteen. [Laughter]. So I decided that I
would look for other athletic pursuits. Actually, I shined shoes in the
country club that he played in, so I also sort of belonged to the same
country club because I was shining shoes. It was my first high school
A: My father likes to tell a story of how he learned to play golf at a
country club where he was a caddie.
M: Yes, right. I did caddie as well. I loved to caddie. That was a great
thing to do.
A: You mentioned earlier that most of the people at this high school
were planning to go off to college. Was that the same with you?
M: Yes, I always assumed that was it. Although, on my mother's side, I
come from farmers. I probably very early on used to talk about that.
The truth of the matter is I have fairly significant hay fever, so it was
really not an option for me. I fairly early on assumed I was going to
go college. Keep in mind that Columbus is the home of Ohio State.
I lived very close to Ohio State. I was in the shadow of a major
university, so you are always aware of the universities. Many of my
friends' parents were professors. My dad was a graduate there, so it
was very much a part of our life.
A: I think we will get back to that in minute. You taught at Ohio State
later, but you did not actually go there.
M: No, I did not. That is right.
A: Because you wanted to get away from home?
M: Yes, that was it exactly. Ohio State was in my mind this big,
impersonal place that I definitely wanted to get away from. I did not
know exactly where until fairly late, as a senior, which is odd now
because everybody makes up their mind pretty early. I happened to
decide on a small liberal arts school, DePauw University, with a friend
essentially. I went to visit with him and liked it a lot. I ended up going
A: Where is DePauw?
M: It is in Indiana. It is in a small town called Greencastle, which is a
little bit west of Indianapolis.
A: Now was that a big change for you--going from a fairly big city to a
M: Yes, not so much the small town part. Going to a very competitive
academic environment was really a significant change. I thought I
was a reasonably good student, and I never had to work very hard. I
had to work hard there the first year. That was difficult. The small
town was nice, actually, for about three years. It was very
comfortable. It was easy to fit in. About the third or fourth year, it
starts to get a little bit boring. I liked it for a place to go.
A: Now was this your first time away from home?
M: Except for the time that I lived with my grandfather, yes. I had
experienced living alone with him because he was a widower. In the
summers, I was in many respects away from home on my own. In
those days, even though it was only about two hours by car, you did
not talk as much by phone and things like that. I was away for maybe
two months at a time. I had not really gone any place significant. We
had taken one family vacation to the Great Smokey Mountains. That
was about it until I went away to school.
A: A driving vacation?
M: Yes, that one. You know that one? [Laughter]. They pile everybody
in the car--yes that is the one.
A: The one where your father keeps you in arms reach.
M: Right. You got it.
A: Did you join a fraternity?
M: I did.
A: Were they big?
M: They were real big. It was a Greek school. If you did not get into a
fraternity, it was definitely not cool. There was a real premium on
becoming a member of a fraternity. You did not necessarily know
that until you got there. This all happens in a week. If you pledge a
fraternity, you move right into it. It was not like most places where
you have a period of time. You go there, you go through rush week,
and you pledge. Then you move into this fraternity as a pledge,
which of course was difficult enough when you were adjusting to
school. I was in a pre-engineering curriculum which really was a
difficult one. It was a difficult semester, but I was in a fraternity.
A: Which one?
M: Phi Gamma Delta.
A: Yes, we have them on campus.
M: They closed down this last year.
A: Is that right?
M: For reasons that...
A: When I was an undergrad they were here.
M: Yes, they were here. That is right.
A: You said that you did a pre-engineering program?
M: For basically a semester.
A: What prompted you to do that?
M: I think growing up in the 1950s, engineering was sort it, at least for
somebody out of my background. I never really considered medicine,
nor business for some reason. I went into engineering. The
curriculum was calculus and chemistry. Then I had a history class
and an English class. Calculus and chemistry were really tough. The
calculus was particularly difficult. I just did not like it, and had rough
time at it. I liked the history class, so it was easy for me to make that
shift, even though I did not end up being a historian. I do remember
calling my father and telling him that I was going to change, and him
blowing a gasket (as we used to say) and questioning this. How
could I possibly want to do this because a job was [not] guaranteed if
you were a historian, etc. It was not something that he enjoyed, but
eventually he accepted it. I think [he] took a certain amount of
enjoyment out of it. He was kind of an amateur historian. He liked to
read and stuff like that.
A: Do you remember which history course that was? Was it a basic
M: It was a western civilization class. It was called History of Civilization,
I think. It was a good class. It really opened my eyes up. It had not
only political and social history, but it [also] had art, music, and stuff
like that. It was really good. You could get a sense of all these
things that had been around on the edge. So for me it was a
A: I think the history department ought to position those courses for
freshman. They do with the 2010's and the 2020's, the basic
courses, but with the western civilization courses, they wet your
appetite for what is out there.
M: Yes, right. It is a little bit of everything. The guy who taught it was
pretty good at weaving it together too, so you could see. At the end
of the second semester, we had to write an essay for the final on
what we saw as the future western civilization. Even then (this would
have been 1958), I wrote that I thought that the future lay in
democratic socialism. It was just ironic given everything. In any
case, it was a good experience, and it was a good class.
A: You graduated in 1962 with a BA in history. Why did you choose
Tulane? Was it a money issue? Did they offer you [anything]?
M: Yes, they offered me a fellowship. I applied to Tulane, Vanderbilt,
and Stanford. Tulane is the one place that I got money. I think I
applied to Vanderbilt. I remember applying to Stanford. Had I gotten
a comparable offer I would have gone to Stanford because I knew
that Stanford was a better university. It was the romance of going to
the west coast and California. Tulane turned out to be great because
of the location. New Orleans was a great place to go.
A: Yes, that is a wonderful place. And you were there two years?
M: Yes, I did my masters. Actually it was less than two years. I did it in
a year and a half.
A: Why Latin American Studies?
M: I got interested in it, and I do not really know why. In part, I was
interested in a field that had a certain amount of adventure to it,
foreign travel, and foreign involvement. I took a Spanish class, and I
kind of got interested through that. I do not know exactly. I have no
family ties to Latin America or anything else. For me, it turned out to
be a career that has really been great, so it was a good fit. The
alternative probably would have been law school. I went to the
University of Michigan, which is a very good law school, and did an
interview there. I went to Ohio State which is a recently good law
school. I considered it, but I decided graduate school over law
school. That was one choice. As I remember it, I was interested in
Latin American Studies for some reason as opposed to going right
into history or political science.
A: That brings me to the next [question]. Now you are fluent in Spanish,
and I believe Portuguese.
M: Yes, I can speak Portuguese.
A: At what point did you pick up Spanish?
M: Well, I did not pick it up as an undergraduate. I took two courses, but
I found out that does not take you very far. I had only Latin in high
school. I had no languages until I was a sophomore or junior, so it
took that long for me to get into the language. When I went to
Tulane, I had to take an advanced composition and conversation
course. That was a real stretch for me because I did not have
enough background for that. I really had to work hard at it. The
summer after my first year in graduate school, I went to Mexico.
Then I started to get comfortable with the language. It took me well
into my dissertation living in Chile until I could handle the language
well. There are levels of it. There is casual conversation, reading
newspapers, listening to the radio, and stuff like that. Then you
eventually get to the point where you are actually able to do things in
a language like make presentations, teach language, or give
speeches. I am still far from a native speaker, but I feel reasonably
confident in doing things like that. What I found was that you struggle
with it, and then all of a sudden you wake up and realize that you can
do it somehow. It is kind of there. It is second nature. I guess that is
the key. When I go anywhere (I am going to Mexico next week), I
just slide into it. Basically, it just kind of happens.
A: My father worked for most of his life in Latin America. I remember
one of his first stories that he liked to tell, which was that he learned
the Spain Spanish. When he went to Mexico for the first time,
everyone laughed at him.
M: It is kind of affected. It sounds like British English in the United
A: He said very quickly he got rid of that Spanish.
M: Well, that is interesting. In my case, I have been everywhere, so I do
not have a distinct accent. I can sometimes fall into the local accent.
Sometimes it is too much of a stretch. Argentina is very distinct;
Cuba is very distinct, so I do not try that. Mine is kind of an all-
A: The speed does not bother you? The speed that they talk does not
M: Sometimes it does. Some Spanish is harder to understand than
others--no question about that. Columbia is reputedly the purest. I
like Mexican Spanish. I find that very easy to follow. Cuban Spanish
is quite difficult.
A: Well, I would like to find out, but I cannot really get a chance. Did you
find the graduate program difficult at Tulane?
M: No, it was not too hard, except for the language which was hard. I
took Portuguese for the first time as well. Otherwise, I did okay--A's,
B+'s. I had to write a thesis. Then you begin to move beyond
something you are familiar with, into independent research and
writing of a longer piece of work. That had some challenges to it. I
actually came to the University of Florida and used the library here
back in the summer of 1963 because there was a professor here who
had written a book on the topic I was writing on, Peruvian political
parties. I came and used the materials they had in the library that he
had special ordered. Although I did not go to Peru to do the
research, I did actually leave the campus to go out and do the
research. Your first experiences are doing independent research,
and pulling things together on your own. Writing was a challenge.
My committee chairman was very laissez-faire, but one of the
members was much more of a interventionist and wanted certain
things done. I learned from that experience as well. In fact, the
document I defended I had to rewrite because it did not include what
this other professor wanted, which was a conclusion. That is a
completely legitimate thing to ask for, but my chairman had not asked
for it. So I remember having a discussion with him saying, I do not
mind rewriting this, but I do not think that it is fair to ask me to pay for
it. Back in those days, you paid a typist to do this and it was quite
expensive. They agreed to pay for the retyping of it, and it was done.
A: That is good. We have a professor over at the history program who
says, if I am on your committee, you better read my books and you
better you know. So I think I am going to be reading a lot.
M: Some people are more demanding than others in these regards, but
that is good. You will learn a lot. That is why you have a committee,
so that different people do different things. I learned a lot from one of
the three members (I forget which one), who did a lot of editing. It
really helped me learn about writing, ironically enough. He only
edited one chapter. He said, I cannot do the whole thing, but I will do
this to show you how to do it. I find myself doing that now with
A: Yes. It is important. In my case, since the English was not my major,
I did not really pay a lot of attention to it. Now I find myself having a
little handbook when I write history, checking to make sure it is not in
passive voice. I know that professors look for that.
M: That is right. Part of a thesis as an educational experience should be
exactly that, where you learn new things, and you advance your
writing and your research skills. That was true in my case, and I
appreciate that a great deal.
A: What aspect of Peru did you do it on?
M: It was on a political party. When I went to Wisconsin, I finished the
thesis in December of 1963. I had an opportunity to spend the
summer of 1965 in Peru, which was a year and one-half later. I was
able to actually follow up that research with actual field research.
Peru is the first place where I did field research. As I said, my thesis
was the basis for that research.
A: It was one thing going to Mexico in the 1960's, but what was it like
going to Peru in the 1960's?
M: It was interesting. At that time, it was before all of the problems that
beset Peru. In fact, it was in the middle of a bomb triggered by, of all
things, fish meal and anchovies. They were just beginning to realize
the value of fish meal, and people were making small fortunes on
this. There was this whole economic boom and everything
associated with it, which was interesting. It was a period of
democratic rule in Peru so I was able to meet a lot of people in
government--senators and people like that. I talked to party leaders.
The head of this political party was a figure in Latin American
intellectual history. I got to meet and talk to him. It was my second
[field] experience, but first experience in South America, living in the
society, having to get along in society, and interacting with
universities. Universities in Latin America, at that time and even
today, are quite different than here. They are very radical, [and] very
anti-American. Having that experience was an interesting one. I can
remember being invited to a ceremony in which they awarded
diplomas. I forget what particular college it was. The colleges were
called faculties, and they did it individually. We walked in and sat in
the back. The guy running the show motioned us up to the front. We
actually went up on stage, and then he had us handing out these
diplomas. I had all these images about how they hate Americans and
everything. It turned out of course that was wrong, but it was a real
interesting experience. Then they took us out to party afterwards.
Boy, those people really party. They drink, and they go on and on.
We got integrated into that culture. The other thing was that we go to
travel a lot. We traveled by train up to the highlands. We traveled by
plane to Cuzco and into Machu Picchu. On the way back, I stopped
in virtually every country between Peru and the United States. That
was my first real introduction to Latin America. It was a great one.
A: That is my background and that is where I was from. I am from
Venezuela. I just like Latin America very much. I think it has great
potential. Unfortunately, it is floundering.
M: Part of it is how you personally relate to things like that, and how you
get along in those kinds of situations. Growing up in Venezuela is not
the same for somebody from Columbus, Ohio to be off doing this
stuff. You are using your language for the first time. It is not just in a
classroom, but you actually have to use it to get somewhere, to order
dinner, ask directions, or to engage in a public discussion. Say you
go to visit a classroom, and then all of a sudden they ask you to say
something. You see all that stuff is pretty heavy duty.
A: I am sort of in that same position now because I left when I was six
years. My Spanish is terrible at best. I want to spend the summer in
M: Oh, that will be excellent.
A: It will be great, and I am looking forward to it. I just think it is going to
be a culture shock for me.
M: Why Maracaibo?
A: My family is from there. I was born in Caracas. We stayed there until
I was six, and my father worked there. I went back several times to
Caracas but never to Maracaibo. I have hundreds of aunts and
uncles, and that is where they are all from. I saw that you taught
there for one year.
M: I taught a course there. It was not a year; it was two weeks. That
was the first time I taught in Spanish, so to me it was a real baptism
by fire. I taught every day for two hours. [I thought], holy toledo, this
is serious business. Then I got to know something about Maracaibo.
A: Did you like the city?
M: Yes it is interesting. I was there during the oil boom. The thing that
struck me was the incredible consumption that went on in Venezuela
in those days. For example, you would go into a building and freeze
to death because they have the air conditioning turned as low as they
could get it, in this city which was hotter than Hades. I remember one
woman wore a fur coat to the restaurant one night. Venezuela is not
like that now. I had some good experiences there. I did, in fact,
A: Yes, they are having some problems financially.
M: Venezuela is a big time mess right now.
A: I wish it were not.
M: It will be good for you to go.
A: Yes, I think it will. Now after getting your MA, you went to the
University of Wisconsin in 1964?
M: January 1964. I went from New Orleans to Wisconsin in the middle
of the winter. That was a great experience. I was also going from
the South to the North just as things were getting quite radicalized the
United States. I was at Wisconsin during the civil rights struggle and
also during the beginning of the Vietnam War protests. Wisconsin
was one of the centers of opposition.
A: But as a Ph.D student, not as an undergrad. Is that different?
M: No, but the graduate students were pretty much involved in this stuff.
I was not, but I was aware of it. I went to meetings, I listened, and I
learned. When Martin Luther King was killed, I marched in a large
demonstration. The first thing that I remember there that I got
involved in was [the] U.S. intervention in the Dominican Republican in
April 1965, which was just as Vietnam was heating up. This was a
big thing, and there were lots of protests against that. We organized
meetings. I remember also as a graduate student in political science
that we somehow got the notion that students should have a say in
tenure decisions. We organized ourselves and made this
presentation not realizing how sacred tenure is. We thought it was a
reasonable request, but the people were just kind of blown away by
it. It was the beginning. I remember the free speech movement in
Berkeley occurred just after I arrived at Wisconsin. We reflected a lot
on that. The thing we thought was they would never do that--they
would never limit free speech the way they had at Berkeley at
Wisconsin. Wisconsin had this tradition of open public debate.
Wisconsin was a great university, and it was an absolute pleasure to
be there. I must say during the Vietnam War protest, there was a lot
of tension there. After a while, it kind of got you down. I was glad to
leave by the time I finished. I enjoyed the time that I was there. I
think for me, Wisconsin has always been a model of what a large
public university should be.
A: Did they have a Latin American program?
M: They had a good Latin American program.
A: Why did you do political science?
M: I pretty much decided that I was more interested in contemporary
questions than history. I always thought in terms of perhaps a career
outside of academia. I did not know exactly what, but something
maybe with AID or some government agency. I guess that would be
the quick answer to it. That was kind of it. Even though I was a
history major as an undergrad, I never considered becoming a
historian. That is a fair statement.
A: Was there someone at Wisconsin that you wanted to work with?
Why specifically Wisconsin?
M: I went there because of its tradition. Being from the Midwest, I was
aware of it. They had a program there called the Land Tenure
Center. It was a program dedicated to studying issues of agrarian
form. They actually gave me a fellowship, and that is the reason I
went. I applied to Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and maybe
another one. I think I got an offer from Ohio State as well, but I pretty
much did not want to go to Ohio State.
A: Did you have to do another Ph.D dissertation?
M: Yes, my other was a master's. I did a Ph.D dissertation on the
agrarian form in Chile.
A: Sticking with Latin America.
M: But changing topics. Yes, I had to do agrarian form because of the
Land Tenure Center basically, although I got a Fulbright to do it on. I
went to Chile because in those days, Chile was where the action
was. It was a place that was really interesting and intriguing to
somebody like me, so I felt fortunate to be able to go there.
A: How was that? Was that a different experience from Peru?
M: Chile is very different. It had a long tradition of democratic politics. It
had an organized Marxist left. The universities were very lively. It
was a focal point because of large U.S. foreign aid programs at the
time. Chile is a more developed society, as well. Peru has this large
indigenous population, which colors the nature of events in Peru. It is
no less interesting; it is just different kinds of issues.
A: Is Chile as European as Argentina?
M: Yes, Chile and Argentina are quite similar in that regard. It is less
Italian than Argentina and less German, but there is English,
Spanish, Portuguese, some Italian, and some German. The Indian
population is relatively small.
A: Are they in the outlying areas?
M: They are in the South. They are confined to an area in the south not
unlike the west of the United States.
A: Did you notice that when you were down there? When looking back
on it now, obviously women's rights issues and indigent issues are
foremost in your mind or at least in the forefront. Back then was that
M: Not so much, although there was a sense that the Indian issue was
not dealt with in a appropriate manner. The Indians had really
suffered a great deal in Chile. You had the feeling that someday the
society was going to have to cope with this. Because they were
relatively small in numbers, it was unlike other places. You did not
see a lot. In Peru, you see Indians all over the place, and they are
obviously much poorer than everybody else. That is not the case in
Chile. You do not see many Indians.
A: America likes to cast stones at different people for doing things
wrong, [or at] different countries for doing things wrong. Now has
Latin America dealt in a better way with the [issue]?
M: Not necessarily, no. Some of it is out and out genocide. A place like
Guatemala is genocide. They killed Indians, and they repressed
them for five centuries. Peru was not exactly that. Bolivia was not
exactly that, but there were elements of that.
A: You mentioned earlier a government job. I guess after leaving
Madison, Wisconsin, you started with the Brookings Institution?
M: No. Two things. When I was at Tulane, I had an interview with the
CIA. That was one of the options in those days, but I decided I did
not want to work for the CIA. It was not this huge sense of outrage
with the CIA; it was more a sense of not wanting to work at a place
where you could not talk about what you did with anybody, and you
were always representing yourself as something you were not. So I
discarded that. At Wisconsin, I actually went through the process of
getting a Foreign Service appointment, and I got it. I passed the
interview, and I got the appointment. I delayed it until I finished my
Ph.D, which meant going to Chile. I had a chance to observe the
Foreign Service while I was in Chile, and at that point then the
Vietnam War was really getting hot. There was a lot of unrest in Latin
America, and a lot of protests were aimed at the United States. I just
decided that I would not have felt comfortable in the Foreign Service
either. Part of it was the whole notion of moving around a lot which
never appealed to me.
A: Was the Foreign Service what we would call the Peace Corps?
M: No, the Diplomatic Corps.
A: The Diplomatic Corps.
M: You know eventually you become an ambassador, but you start out
in an embassy and you work you way through. It is an attractive
career in many respects. I think I misjudged it, as a matter of fact,
but I am glad I chose an academic career. What I hoped I would
have been able to do to a certain extent was to spend some time in
Washington that one summer at the Brookings Institution. I traveled
there frequently. I have never gone for a year the way many people
do or taken time out to go. Now I am not particularly interested in
doing it. That was sort of in the back of my mind. When I made the
change between Ohio State and here, I considered going to
Washington instead of continuing in the university.
A: I know that you are married now, but at any time were you married
M: Yes. I was married early, right after graduating from college. My wife
went with me to Chile. I went by myself to Peru because it was only
for ten weeks. We had a child only fifteen months after we were
married, so we were quite young and had a child. My daughter is
now thirty-three and has two children of her own. Yes, I have been
married forever. I divorced in 1988, and remarried that same year to
the same woman I am married to now, who works on campus here.
A: What was it like for your first wife to be in Chile?
M: It was not easy. We had a household. We lived there for fifteen
months. She had to raise a child there. She had to fit into a culture.
She had studied Spanish, and so she tried. I think we did well. All in
all, it was a good time, but it was not all easy, fitting into a foreign
culture, being far away, and having a young child. She was not
working. She did some volunteer work. She had a maid, which
North Americans are not used to at all. It was a good experience,
and I have a very soft spot in my heart for Chile because I had a
good time there and I think highly of the place.
A: In 1968, you went to the Ohio State?
M: Yes, right. I went as an assistant professor of political science.
A: Was it a question of you going home?
M: No, on the contrary. I did not want to go home. I wanted to go
someplace else. I wanted this notion of going to the east coast, the
west coast, any coast, not back to Ohio State. The first job interview
I had actually was at Ohio State. When the guy called, it turned out it
was a guy I had gone to school with at DePauw, although I did not
know him very well.
A: A guy that you went with?
M: Yes, who called me. He was the recruiting chairman for the political
science department. He said, we want you to come and do an
interview at Ohio State. I laughed, and he said, why are you
laughing? I said, Ohio State is the one place I swore I would never
go under any circumstances. He said, well you know you never can
tell about these things. You can come and visit us, and you can see
your parents. The truth of the matter is that it turned out to be a good
offer. It turned out to be a good time there. Although in the end, I did
not get tenure, so it turned out to be difficult. I am glad in fact that I
did not because then I got to move on. I was ready to move on. If I
had gotten tenure, I might have stayed there because it was just the
easiest thing to do.
A: You were there seven years?
M: Seven years, right. I liked being around my parents because with
young children, it is really an ideal situation. They were good
grandparents. I can take or leave Columbus; it is not a very exciting
place in my opinion. When I went to Ohio State it was kind of
exciting, but it got increasingly to be something that I did not really
feel comfortable with. Obviously, they did not feel comfortable with
me. It was a good parting of ways. I was happy to get away.
A: It is a big setting. It is a big school. Is it bigger than UF?
M: 50,000 to 55,000 students. It was quite large.
A: You taught political science?
M: Yes. I taught Introduction to Political Science, and I taught Latin
American courses. Those were my main courses. I was there during
the height of the protests for the Vietnam War. I was obviously there
in the spring of 1970, when Kent State occurred. The same situation
was happening at Ohio State. The campus was closed up because
of demonstrations, and the National Guard was on campus. The
National Guard was facing the students, much as what happened at
Kent State. I was part of a faculty monitoring group that put our
bodies between the students and the National Guard. We literally
locked arms. When had green ribbons on to identify us. I remember
the guy next to me--his arm was literally shaking. [I remember] these
guys with their guns, and these kids screaming epithets at them. Up
until then it had been kind of a lark. You think, well I have never seen
anything like this. After all, we all know each other. What is going to
happen? I grew up in the town. You would finish, go home, and
have dinner. So this guy with the shaking arms said, you do not think
those guns are loaded, do you? I said, nobody would be that stupid.
About an hour later, the word came about Kent State--the guns
indeed were loaded and they had killed students. At that point, I said,
I am going home; this is crazy. There is nothing worth this.
A: We are doing the history of the Plaza around here, and I interviewed
the police department. We started talking about the protests during
the Vietnam War. I did not realize it, but it was a big thing here too.
They closed off Thirteenth Street, [and] the National Guard was out
M: It was an amazing thing. It is like nothing before and nothing after
that I am aware of.
A: I have never experienced that, and that is just amazing.
M: The thing that impressed me was the National Guard was the same
age as the students. Some of them were probably students for all I
know. Here they were with the power to shoot these students, and
the students were yelling at them that they were the authors of the
atrocities in Vietnam. It was just completely crazy.
A: That is ironic.
M: After the Kent State thing, they closed the campus down period. You
could not go into your office for anything.
A: For how long?
M: It was for like a week or so. It was something. That was in the spring
of 1970. That was the bombing of Cambodia. In fact, that is what
provoked the demonstrations. Also, the student riots in Paris were
going on then. The world was just in total chaos at that time. I was at
Ohio State during that period basically.
A: Did you think it would pass?
M: Yes, you figure one way or another it will pass. At that time, I think
there was a sense that there would be a real change in peoples
attitudes and the culture. In retrospect, it was pretty naive to think
that. It was not very clear what it was that the protesters wanted in
terms of longer term changes or anything like that. I do not think that
there was any fear that the United States was going to collapse.
When you think back on it, that might have been a possibility.
A: After 1978, why UF?
M: I came here in 1975.
A: That is right.
M: I did not get tenured at Ohio State, so I was on the job market and I
looked at a number of things. The thing that was most attractive
about this was the Latin American part and the Latin American
program. I liked the setting in Gainesville as well. There are other
things that I had wanted to do with my life. I wanted to get into
sailing, and this is a really good place to do that. I have become a
A: I do not know how good it is, since you are an hour away from the
M: Yes, but in Columbus, Ohio, you are days away. Even in Madison,
which is on lakes, you cannot sail six months out of the year. Mainly
it was the attraction of the Latin American Program at the University
A: Quickly on the boat issue, do you have a boat now?
M: Yes. I have owned nineteen, twenty-two, twenty-five, twenty-seven,
thirty, thirty-four--so I have owned seven boats. [I have a] thirty-eight
A: Where do you keep it at?
M: In downtown St. Pete.
A: So you drive down there then?
M: Yes, right. I started out with trailable boats.
A: It is difficult with the sailboats.
M: Yes. Since 1980, I have a had a boat in the water. They were on the
St. Johns River for a while and then in St. Augustine. That is like an
hour and one-half drive.
A: Since you have been to Cuba and studied them, have you ever
thought about sailing [there]?
M: I was going to go this spring.
M: Yes, until they shot those guys down. I do work on Cuba, and I do
work on marine issues. I have a perfectly good reason to go there. I
have been to the marina outside of Havana. I was ready to go.
A: Usually, for faculty it seems...
M: As a researcher, I could go. I could get a license from the U.S.
government, which would allow me to spend money there. The
Cubans are not a problem in any case. They want people to come.
Yes, I was going to go.
A: I have a friend who has a thirty-four, thirty-five Hunter. [It is] a nice
boat, and we have sailed up to Fort Jefferson.
M: Yes, that is where I went this summer.
A: That was beautiful.
M: Where did you sail from?
A: They keep it in Miami. They sailed to Miami, and then we sailed from
Miami out to Marquesas one night. Then from Marquesas out to
Fort Jefferson. That was gorgeous. We stayed there two days in
that little harbor that they have there.
M: That is exactly where I did last spring.
A: We had a wonderful time. It was beautiful. We had beautiful weather
on the way out.
M: I know, but going back you have to go against the wind.
A: Yes, but we had a storm. There was a storm coming about to hit Key
West. Just as we pulled into Key West and tied up, it hit. We were
so thankful. The swells were so high just getting there that all of us
stayed in the back. There was about five or six of us. As you looked
off to the side, you saw the front of the hull come out and you saw
just the tip of the Then it slammed.
A: This was the year after Andrew hit, and the boat had survived
Andrew. I thought, they put this thing back together with glue and
gum. I was thinking, we are going to fall apart.
M: But you made it.
A: Yes, we made it. It was great. I always tease him. We went through
a Rescue at Sea course to make sure everything was okay. There
was a story about lifelong friends. You have to hold each other doing
your necessities. The one guy would not hold the other guy over, so
they became enemies obviously and they never talked to each other
since. I always told my friend that he could count on me to hold him.
M: That is interesting.
A: So was the program here at UF, the Latin American, a fairly large
M: It was a good one even then. It was well known. Florida was one of
the places that they did Latin America and did it well. It has a long
history. It was recently large, yes. It is one of the programs of
excellence that the University of Florida is known for. It was true
A: The history program lost Firestone. [[Explain this]].
M: Right, in the African history? No. We have actually gained some
people. It is stronger than it has been for awhile. We have gained
two historians--Turner [Eldon Turner, Assistant Professor of History
and Associate Chairman] and Burns [Augustus Merrimon Burns, III,
Associate Professor of History].
A: When did you get the Bacardi grant?
M: The Bacardi grant we got in 1992.
A: Could you tell me a little about that?
M: We had a program in the early 1980s funded by the Mellon
Foundation. Mellon is a major foundation dealing with Latin America.
It is a major educational foundation. We had a program on the
Amazon called the Amazon Research and Training Program. They
liked it so well. We did such a great job. They came back to us
probably in 1988, maybe earlier, and said, we are going to give you a
large grant--a challenge grant. The deal with a challenge grant is you
only get the money if you match it. It was $200 thousand if you
doubled it, and $250 thousand if you tripled it. You could take $250
thousand, and tripling it turns it into $1 million, basically. We took the
challenge in this case. Obviously, the University president was
involved and everybody else because this was a major thing. We
sought to endow it through the eminent scholar chair, triple the
challenge grant, and build an eminent scholar chair. It took longer
than we thought it was going to take. It was more complicated and
more difficult. When Lombardi [John Lombardi, president, University
of Florida, 1990-present] came, we were on to the Bacardi
Corporation as a potential donor. There was a UF graduate, a former
Gator, in Bacardi who was vice president for marketing. He is a
really great guy. He was approached, and he said, I am going to see
what I can do. Eventually, he moved it through. Once we knew that
Bacardi was interested, it took about another year to actually get the
commitment. They came in with $350 thousand, so that gave us six.
With six, the state puts in four, and you have $1 million. That is how
we did it. It was really great. It was not only great to have the chair,
but it was fun doing it because Bacardi is a class operation. You get
to meet with a lot of interesting people. I got to work close with
Lombardi on it. Lombardi was really good at doing it. Obviously, he
is good at fund raising generally, but he loves this kind of Latin
American stuff. Bacardi Corporation is a Latin corporation. You have
your covisito and everything is done just right. Lombardi speaks a
really good Spanish. He really buttered them up one side and down
the other. It was just a great thing to do.
A: Now you have visiting professors every semester?
M: One semester every year we have a visitor. It generates about
$60,000 a year, I think, with the interest in it. For that, you can have
a major figure one semester a year. We started with Oscar Adious,
and we are on our fourth person now. It has been good. It has been
a real contribution.
A: In your state of the department letter, you mentioned that Lombardi is
a Latin Americanist, and he teaches the History of Sports course.
M: This is kind of a joke in the sense that he is a well known scholar of
Venezuelan history. Down here we lost him to the presidency as
more kind of needling him a little bit and making fun of him.
A: He really is extremely busy but it would be nice if he could teach
M: He did teach Latin American History for a while. Maybe he still will, I
do not really know. I think he feels a little bit inadequate because he
has no time to stay up with it. With this sports thing, he has to deal
with it all the time, so I am sure that he is on top of it. It is interesting,
in the article yesterday he said he went out and he read as much as
he could about sports to figure out what the history was. I think he is
that kind of person. I have enjoyed having him as president because
he is so knowledgeable and he appreciates so much anything Latin
American. You take a Latin American university president or public
official to him, and he is just great. The great story I like to tell is that
we went to Caracas in fall of 1993, to open a Gator club there--The
Caracas Gator Club. It was sort of an excuse. Really he wanted to
get down there. We took a plane load of people down there. The
Venezuelan government gave him a special award called the Andres
Veiho Award which is for important contributions to education. All of
the rectors came and the minister of education came, and they had a
luncheon. Then he went to deliver a speech to the Academy of
History. We helped him write the speech. He and I and this other
guy, who was the UF Foundation representative, got in the cab and
said, take us to the Academy of History. That was the day that all of
the universities and schools were on strike for protest basically. As
were are driving down there, I said, you know I think everybody is on
strike today. So we got down there, downtown Caracas where the
old buildings are, the Congress and things like that, and we got out of
the car. We came up and we were looking at guns. These guys then
surrounded us. It was the most incredible thing. The guy's eyes from
the Foundation got real big, and he said, God, we have got to get out
of here Dr. Lombardi! Lombardi turned to me and said, Oh, no, this is
what we came for. [Laughter]. We had a great time. We walked
around and there was tear gas floating around. The building was
behind all these guys. I said [to] Lombardi, we can get in there. We
will find a way to get in there. Sure enough we got in. We walked
around and got in the back door. All the people in there were kind of
surprised when he walked in. He said, I am here to deliver my
lecture. It was a lecture of honor to the academy. The secretary
said, well I am sorry, everybody has called in. They are not coming
because of the demonstration. He did not get to do it, but there were
a lot of these great experiences.
A: Yes, that is a beautiful country. Like I have said I have never been to
Maracaibo, and I hope to go there to explore the different areas.
M: Travel around. You should go up to Merida, to the high Andes. That
is a great place; I like that.
A: I think my family has a coffee, latte shop there. They also have a
cattle farm on the Columbian border.
M: The Columbian border I am not so sure about. It is a pretty
A: They go once a week, and then they come back the next day. They
go out with guards. I said, I am not so sure I want to deal with that.
We will see.
M: Well, it is part of the experience.
A: Yes, that is part of it. I agree. When did you get offered the director?
You were assistant director in...
M: Yes, assistant then associate director until 1985. My predecessor
announced her intentions to retire as director. She is still here as a
professor. I decided that I was either going to become director, or I
was going to go and be just a regular professor. I was not going to
continue as associate director. I think there is a tendency for people
to assume that you will do these jobs forever. I definitely wanted to
move into new things and push my career a little bit. I did not want to
be stuck on the same thing. They did the search just the way they
are doing one now. It was a national search. Anybody in the world
could apply for the job. I applied for it, and I went through an
interview. They interviewed five people. Four of them were pulled
from outside the campus, and me. I eventually got it. December of
1985 was when I took over.
A: Now that you are the director, are you in charge of the search
committee, or is that entirely out of your hands?
M: No. When you search for a new director, it is independent of the old
director. What I do is I meet with the candidates, and I tell them
about the center and answer any questions they have. I try to stay
out of the way so as not to improperly influence the search in any
way. I think that the norm is that the outgoing director would not
choose the incoming one. That is done independently. Obviously, I
have an interest in it because I am staying here and this person is
going to be my boss. I care about who it is going to be. In that
sense, I am just like any other faculty member.
A: Obviously, that is not going to be a real problem because you are
stepping down. Is that going to be a real change for you?
M: It will be interesting. I have been doing this for twenty years either as
associate or director. The thing I concluded and the part intellectually
rationalized, and the part that is absolutely true, is that I have done
this. I have been there, done that. I do not need to do it anymore. I
am more than happy to give up the good and the bad. There is a lot
of good; it is mainly good. Obviously, some of the stuff is just plain
work and you get real sick of it. A lot of it is fun. It is fun to meet all
these people. It is fun to travel. It is fun to associate with Lombardi
and Sorensen [Andrew A. Sorensen, Provost/Vice President for
Academic Affairs and Professor of Community Health and Family
Medicine] and that is great fun. I will miss that, although I expect to
be involved in it in one way or another, but this will be for the new
person to do.
A: Are you just going to teach Latin American and political science?
M: Yes, I will be half in political science and half here. I will teach more,
I will train graduate students, and I will write more. I am going to
write a book. It is called The Inter-American Relations, so it is mainly
US-Latin American relations. I am going to develop and teach a
course aimed at students in business, in the MBA program. I think
one of the weaknesses of our program is we do not reach the
business community or the business college as much as we should.
A: I agree. My brother worked for three or four years in Buenos Aires. I
think that is a great market. I hate to be capitalist, and want to exploit
that. I think, especially Miami has become a center for Latin
American work. I think that would be great if this University could
turn out some people that could
M: Yes, that is the idea. We do not interface well with these, and the
students have a lot of interest in Latin America. I think there is an
opportunity there, so I intend to make that my particular project and to
reach out. I enjoy working with the business community. It is a
weakness that we need to address, so we are going to do that.
A: You are currently married to Elizabeth McCoy?
M: Yes, Lowe McCoy.
A: You have a daughter?
M: I have a daughter.
A: Do you have any other children?
M: I have a son who will be twenty-eight this year. He is married, and
lives and works in the New York City area. He has an MA in
anthropology from UCLA. He is thinking about going on and getting
his Ph.D, but I think he is going to work for a while and decide.
A: A lot of people are doing that.
M: Yes. It is sort of unclear what the job market is like and other things.
Then I have two stepchildren. Elizabeth has a daughter who is a
freshman at Drew University, and a son who is nine. Together we
have four kids.
A: What are their names all together?
M: My older daughter is Julie. My son is Dan. Her older daughter is
Alicia, and son Allen. Since we got married in 1988, I have been
part of their family. So I basically have four kids that are kind of
intermingled. We call it a blended family. I feel as though it is my
family, the whole thing. It is a very satisfactory arrangement.
A: What do you see as the future for you? In a sense are you going to
do more semester abroad type teaching or is that [inaudible]?
M: As I said, I am going to teach more here, and I am going to teach in
an executive MBA program that I have helped the College of
Business put together. It is a pitch toward Latin America. It will
actually be given in Miami over an eighteen month period. The
classes meet once a month for three days. I will be teaching the
Latin American component of that.
A: Excuse me, at UM?
M: No, it is UF down there.
A: Oh, that is right the extension.
M: Yes, UF in Miami with Vanderbilt. My research is on this book. I am
going to also continue to work on Cuba, which is a special interest of
mine. Those are the main things I think I will do academically. I write
a lot for newspapers as well.
M: I will continue to do that. That is something that I get a lot of pleasure
out of doing.
A: Are you going to continue to work with CBS News?
M: I hope so. Yes, that is kind of an odd place to work. You think they
forget about you and all of a sudden they call up and say, Dr. McCoy,
and I say, yes. You are a special consultant for CBS News. I did not
even realize that. I said, of course. Then they will interview you, and
you do not hear from them for a while.
A: Has it been rewarding for you?
M: It is good. I went up actually for the Haitian Crisis. They called me,
and flew me up there. I got ready to go on camera with Deborah
Norville, I believe. I must say I do not know many of these people.
Then of course once Carter intervened, there was not much of a
story. It kind of petered out, but ever since then I have had this
special relationship. I do a lot of interviews with other radio and
television, but I particularly like the writing that I myself do. I have
done major national newspapers. I just had a piece in The Wall
Street Journal about a month ago. That is something that I will
continue to do and take interest in.
A: Now you do not have to answer if you do not choose to but on the
Cuban issue, which side do you land on?
M: I am critical of both sides basically. Cuba, of course, is a touchy
subject here in Florida. I have been touched by it on several
occasions. When I first came here way back in the 1970s, I had a
student come in to me who was as white as a sheet. He said, there
is something I want you to see in my carrel. We went and there was
a bag. We opened it up, and there was two sticks with dynamite and
a clock. [Laughter] At least that was what it looked like. We called
the police and we evacuated the building. The bomb squad came
and they took this thing out. It turned out it was a fake, but there was
no way of telling that. It was meant to scare the hell out of all of us.
A: Which it did?
M: It did. I have been a target of the Cuban radios in Miami because I
have been to Cuba twice, and I have written about Cuba. I am
identified as being a Cuban specialist, which is one strike against
you, and one that has an open mind on these things. I have written
an article calling for the end of the embargo, but I have also written
stuff very critical of Castro. I am supposed to go back to Cuba now. I
am a little bit concerned about it because the Cubans now have
gotten rather nasty. Then of course when he [Castro] shot down the
airplanes, it was basically an indefensible act for him to do. I think it
is an act of desperation by a regime that outlived it usefulness a long
A: Yes, I love cigars, Cuban cigars in fact. I would love to travel to
Cuba, not just for that reason. For some odd reason, Cuba has a
special place in my heart. I would like to visit not just Havana
obviously, but the outlying areas. I do not have that opportunity and
that concerns me.
M: I was convinced that was an attitude that was going to be
increasingly common. Most Americans do not understand, nor do
they care about this dispute between the Cuban-American
community and the Cubans. I think there was some movement
toward relaxing the embargo so people could have traveled, but then
with the airplanes, it turned the other way.
A: I have a problem with Castro and his regime, but then I also have a
problem with the Jorge-Mascanosa types that figure that the Cuban
people are going to welcome them with open arms.
M: Now on the contrary, the Cuban people are scared out of their wits of
A: Right now, I think that they are suffering the most from this whole
M: Right, exactly right. I also work with Cuba through the Episcopal
church because we have a special relationship. I am aware of the
people that are suffering, and it is real suffering. It is not all due to
the embargo, but the embargo obviously does not help.
A: Obviously the regime is keeping the bulk of it for their booty. It
concerns me. Well is there anything else? I feel that I have covered
a good amount. Is there anything else you want to talk about?
Family? The program? I know the program. I did not touch on it as
much as I would like. I know the program is extensive.
M: No. It has just been a real pleasure to be associated with. It is very
lively and interesting. It is how I meet Sam Proctor [Samuel Proctor,
Distinguished Service Professor of History Emeritus, UF] actually.
He got involved in the Latin American conference that I did when we
were first here with him. He, his wife, and I have traveled to Mexico
together several times.
A: Let me guess--somewhere on a cruise?
M: No, no this was real business. We went and organized a conference.
We have been to Columbia, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti,
[and] Brazil a couple of times. I have meet all these interesting
people. Through him I know a lot about the Latin American Jewish
community that I would have not known. Then there are other people
like Mike Gannon [Michael V. Gannon, retired Distinguished Service
Professor of History, former director of Early Contact Period Studies,
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences] I have been to Spain with.
A: Father Gannon.
M: Yes, Father Gannon. It has just been a great opportunity. I intend to
continue to take advantage this place. It is a great place to be.
A: So the University of Florida is all that it was cracked up to be for you?
A: There is one key issue that I think that I wanted to ask you about. I
ask a lot of this of the faculty. Do you have a problem with the
attention that the sports part of it gets?
M: When I was at Ohio State, and you cannot get anymore fanatical than
Ohio State, I used to be deeply involved in this stuff as a fan. I used
to go to all of the games, etc. Down here, I have been to two football
games in twenty years. I went to a women's volleyball game a
couple of years ago. To me it does not make much difference. I
have never had an athlete in any classes I have taught. To me it is
there. I think Lombardi has got a very good philosophy about it,
much better. He has it under control which has not always been the
case. I think he is right, the thing about athletics is that there are the
winners and losers, and [with] the rest of academia you never know
what the story is. Athletics is good in that regard. It is good for the
students. It does not bother me. The one thing will not miss and I
have found frustrating is the political scene in Florida. I dealt with the
legislature a lot over the years. I do not find them to be serious
people basically. I will be happy when I do not have to deal with
them again. I think it is too bad. I do not see it getting any better, but
once again I think that Lombardi is good in the way he deals with
them. I am glad it is not me because I do not have the patience for
A: Yes, sometimes they do not realize how important that a university
like this can be--not just us, but Florida State, FlU, USF, and the
whole chain of them.
M: Yes. They will make commitments that they do not carry through on.
I have got a program that they fund and I have had to go through
these legislative sessions. They promise that they are going to do
certain things, and then they back out of it. It is embarrassing for
everybody involved. Then you have to go back and get somebody
else to put the bill back in the process. It is just not very pleasant. I
have dealt with the political scene in South Florida which is even less
pleasant. I actually took Lincoln Diezbolark to Brazil one time, so I
know the Diezbolark brothers. It is too bad. On the other hand, I
respect some of the other people here. Bob Graham [Robert (Bob)
Graham, U.S. Senator of Florida] was much more fun to be around
and deal with when he was governor. I know him. I know Buddy
MacKay [Kenneth H. "Buddy" MacKay, lieutenant governor of Florida,
1991-present] a little bit. Buddy MacKay was a congressman. He
used to call me before votes and ask my opinion on things. So that
has been something that has been fun. I have worked with Graham.
A: At least he is taking the opportunity to get informed.
M: Yes, right.
A: Yes. Dr. Proctor is working extensively with Bob Graham. He has
done I think twelve or thirteen interviews with him. It is ongoing, and
they will continue about the years as governor and now senator.
Who knows what is going on with him.
M: Well, maybe he will be governor again.
A: Thank you sir.