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Dozens of women attending a Democratic women’s conference at Cobo Center Saturday, came expecting to hear Dr. Jill Biden as the keynote speaker.

But Vice President Joe Biden needed her by his side while he taped a segment of CBS’s 60 Minutes, so she was not present.

Virgie M. Rollins, the chair emeritus of the Michigan Federation of Democratic Women, expressed disappointment, but remained calm and carried on at the conference titled, “Women Getting in Gear to Pump Out the Vote.”

“The Vice President called me and explained that he wanted his wife by his side during the taping, so what do you do?” asked Rollins, who said she’s visited the Bidens and is friends with them. “We’re just so excited that she accepted because she wanted to be here. But the vice president said he would make it up to us.”

She read a letter from Dr. Biden, who expressed her regrets, to those gathered.

Taking Dr. Biden’s place was Melissa Gilbert, formerly of “Little House on the Prairie,” and now Howell resident and 8th District Candidate for Congress. She said she already was planning to attend.

During the meet and greet before the luncheon began at the National Federation of Democratic Women Midwest Regional Conference and Issues Conference, hosted by the Michigan Federation of Democratic Women, she posed for photos with women wanting to meet her and express their gratitude for her stepping in as keynote speaker.

Asked what she planned to talk about during her speech, she said, “Well, I’m really preaching to the choir here. I want us to achieve a lot of unity and energy, going forward and getting out the vote. We’ve got a wave of women in leadership, led by Hillary Clinton.”

Attorney Charles Busse of Rochester Hills was among those attending the luncheon.

He praised Rollins for the work she has done for the Democratic Party.

“What Virgie Rollins has done for Democratic women in Michigan is an incredible accomplishment,” he said. “She has been helping women, providing a strong voice for nearly 40 years.”

The National Federation of Democratic Women was formed in October 1971, when 27 women gathered at breakfast during the Democratic Women’s Leadership Conference.

SLewis@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2296

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