THE Bedford Township school board showed good sense Tuesday night in standing behind a decision by administrators to allow Sen. John Kerry to speak at the June 6 high school commencement.
In doing so, the board also affirmed support for students whose initiative piqued the interest of the likely Democratic presidential nominee in speaking at the graduation, an appearance that was opposed by one school board member and some parents in the heavily Republican suburb.
It's a safe bet that the Bedford seniors won't ever forget their graduation ceremony. That's a claim that can honestly be made by few adults, anywhere.
After all the fuss, though, it turned out that opposition to Senator Kerry was harbored largely by a single school board member, Steve Lennex, a local Republican activist who, not so coincidentally, is running for re-election next month. Most of the 75 people who spoke at Tuesday evening's special board meeting favored the senator's appearance.
Mr. Lennex's claim that he was only concerned that Senator Kerry might take the spotlight away from graduating seniors was transparent. It was left to several students, including Suzanne Johnson, a senior and student council president, to articulate what the opponents had missed.
"Some individuals are trying to shield us from a political arena that many of us are already members of," Ms. Johnson told the crowd of some 250 residents. "Isn't it 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."
Those were eloquent words, indicating that the process of teaching young people about the roots of American democracy is not lost on everyone in the Bedford community.
Yes, politics is at work in Senator Kerry's appearance, and it would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise. In fact, he will be getting a rare "two-fer" in the crucial Midwestern electoral battleground, a speech before a crowd from Michigan that will be delivered on the campus of the University of Toledo in Ohio.
The prospect of such a coup was no doubt paramount when the Kerry campaign offered the senator as a commencement orator after an interview request by Brandon Spader, an enterprising reporter for the Bedford High student newspaper, The Goalpost.
Brandon had sought out interviews with both Senator Kerry and President Bush. Senator Kerry responded; the Bush campaign did not.
Even with political overtones, however, what's the harm? As long as Senator Kerry does not turn the speech into a campaign rally - which he has promised not to do - the students doubtless will learn a thing or two about public service from the Massachusetts politician.
It seems the people of Bedford Township have learned a lesson, one taught by their own sons and daughters.
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