Wait, come again? Someone’s playing a joke, right? Is this their senior prank?

Apparently this is for real: Harold Ford Jr., Democratic candidate for the US Senate, will be the keynote speaker at Elizabethton High School’s graduation tomorrow. First of all, I have a hard time accepting politicians speaking at graduations – especially high school graduations – but a politician who is actually running for office? It feels a little slimy, don’t you think? Using a bunch of high schoolers (who, by the way, probably have either recently turned 18 or will very soon – as in, before the November election) as your political sounding board/media stunt is just a bit shady. Granted, the word on the local news is that Ford won’t be talking politics, but, come on…

Ford is clearly using this opportunity not only to drum up support from the first-time voters, but to get his name in the news in an area that typically votes Republican. So now, not only is Ford playing the “high gas prices make me angry” card, but he’s also using high schoolers to garner support in a conservative part of the state. Oh, sorry, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little…

Now, back to politicians speaking at graduations (especially high school graduations) in general, I find it rather deplorable. If the ACLU is up in arms (even recently, in Kentucky) about prayer at graduation, there are those of us who feel almost as strongly about our political beliefs as we do about those of the religious sort. Why is it that the ACLU isn’t fighting against partisanship at graduation? Condoleezza Rice recently spoke at the Boston College graduation ceremony and liberal students were furious – and rightly so! Despite the fact that Condi has a fascinating past and many, many exciting life experiences of which to speak, she is an unapologetic Republican. As angry as liberal students were about Condi being the keynote speaker, I would have been equally (if not more) angry if Hillary Clinton spoke at my college graduation.

I find it even more nauseating that politicians would speak at high school graduations. At least once young people have graduated from college, they have had the opportunity to solidify their political beliefs; in high school, however, most students barely know right from left and will be easily swayed by whatever suave politician shows them some attention.

I, of course, would just walk out. I am holding out hope that there will be a few brave students who will just get up and walk out on their own graduation when Ford comes up to speak. Or who will at least give that liberal city boy some hardy “boos” and “hisses.”

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