Aug 7, 2013 - By Steven R. PeckTwo cabinet officers are coming to town, so let's show some class
If two members of a president's cabinet have ever visited Fremont County on the same day, then we have never heard of it. If all goes as scheduled this week, that is exactly what will happen.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell plan to attend an education conference that will focus on Wind River Indian Reservation schools but will be of wider use to everyone.
The two bigwigs will be in town Thursday.
Jewell is the newest member of President Barack Obama's cabinet, having held the post for just a couple of months. Duncan has been there from the beginning of his administration. Obama does not enjoy wide political popularity in Wyoming, but his cabinet officers deserve to be welcomed and treated respectfully while they are here.
We recall an episode from the Clinton administration when then-Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt came to Fremont County for a quick examination of something or other. He was greeted at Riverton Regional Airport by a demonstration of sign-waving protesters shouting for him to go home.
Ours is the great nation of free speech and peaceable assembly -- both guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States -- but this crowd of demonstrators also included a local elected official or two. Waving signs and chanting at a cabinet secretary falls well below the dignity of local elected office. Babbitt's arrival would have been the time for our local leaders to meet and greet, not rant and chant.
The tension that day was broken when the late State Sen. Bob Peck (The Ranger's longtime publisher) gave the sign-wavers a lesson in civility and decorum by stepping forward, extending his hand to Babbitt, and saying "Mr. Secretary, shake hands with a Republican -- and welcome to Riverton."
Political differences -- debated publicly and administered through an open legislative process, fair elections and orderly transfer of power -- form a great strength of our system of government. Without it we are no better than the nations abroad that fill up the news pages and the airwaves with endless stories of strife and violence over civil matters that this country figured out how to handle a long, long time ago.
No one is asking the Fremont County Republican Central Committee to host a potluck dinner for Duncan on Thursday. He and Jewell can read an election map. They know what percentage of the vote Obama got from Wyoming last year.
But that does not make them enemies of Wyoming. Their mission in their visit is an important one, their time in Fremont County short. Let's welcome them to our community, wish them well in their quick assessment and advisement on educational programs in Fremont County -- and show some class in the process.
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