Wednesday, May 19, 2004

All Politics is Loco – Part 2

There’s a follow-up in The Blade to the story I posted last week about the dust-up in Bedford Township, Michigan over the invitation by Brandon Spader, a high school student in Lambertville, Michigan, to Senator John Kerry to speak at his high school graduation.

LAMBERTVILLE – The Bedford Board of Education last night decided not to stand in the way of presumptive presidential nominee John Kerry’s plan to speak to the district’s high school graduating class during its commencement next month.

A lone board member who had opposed the Democratic Massachusetts senator’s speech at the June 6 graduation reversed his position last night after three hours of listening to nearly 80 people – most of whom supported the senator’s visit.

“I think we had this forum for the purpose it was intended,” said board member Steve Lennex after he decided against entering a motion to consider an alternative to Mr. Kerry.

“It became clear to me that he should come,” he said. “I’m only sorry this affected my kids.”

His daughter, who is in the graduating class, was in tears as she hugged Mr. Lennex after the meeting.

“My main concern was that it was divisive,” Mr. Lennex, a Republican, said. “I still have concerns, but I think there is a consensus … John Kerry is going to come on June 6.”

The divisive issue of the presidential hopeful’s speech drew nearly 250 people to an at times contentious special meeting last night at Monroe Road Elementary.

Suzanne Johnson, a senior and student council president, drew two standing ovations during a powerful speech she delivered in favor of Mr. Kerry speaking at the graduation.

“Some individuals are trying to shield us from a political arena that many of us are already members of. We have been raised in a world of politics and democracy,” Miss Johnson said. “Isn’t ironic? A student sought out and brought in the most auspicious event that has ever graced Bedford, and some school board members are working to stop it.”

The issue arose when Bedford senior Brandon Spader asked President Bush and Mr. Kerry for interviews for the high school newspaper. Mr. Kerry’s campaign responded by volunteering him as a speaker for the graduation ceremony at the University of Toledo’s Savage Hall.

Mr. Lennex said he had support from community members and parents who were concerned that the ceremony would become a media circus if Mr. Kerry were allowed to speak.

“Obviously, all the people who called me didn’t come tonight,” he said.

Carolyn Miller, a Temperance resident whose son is in the graduating class, criticized Mr. Lennex.

“The only political hijacking has not been by Senator Kerry, but by one member of the school board running for re-election,” Ms. Miller said.

Mr. Lennex, a real-estate broker, is on the June 14 ballot for re-election to the school board.

Wow, what a pleasant surprise. Way to go, Brandon.