U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill will make a speech to the graduating class at Delta High School, her first visit to Southeast Missouri since taking office.
McCaskill, a Democrat, won a narrow victory over Republican Jim Talent in November. Friend and supporter Ernie Brown of Delta requested that she give the commencement address to the 19 graduating seniors on Saturday.
"I would like to see Claire get more exposure down in the rural areas," Brown said. "I thought it would be a good idea."
McCaskill's speech at Delta is the only high school commencement address on her spring schedule, spokeswoman Adrianne Marsh said. She is also scheduled to be the graduation speaker at University of Missouri-Kansas City, Marsh said.
McCaskill was scheduled to be the speaker at her daughter's graduation from a St. Louis Catholic high school, but the education office at the Archdiocese of St. Louis pushed the school to drop McCaskill because of her stands in favor of abortion rights and stem-cell research.
Delta Public Schools superintendent Nathan Crowden said politics won't be welcome at the commencement but that members of the public will. Having a U.S. senator speak at commencement will be a big deal at a school that in some years doesn't have a graduation speaker from outside the school community, he said.
"We're not bringing in anyone to announce their political views," Crowden said. "We are simply speaking to graduating seniors on a job well done."
McCaskill lost the Senate race to Talent in Cape Girardeau County by a 64 percent to 33 percent margin. The precinct that includes Delta High School, however, gave McCaskill her best showing in the county outside Cape Girardeau, providing 45 percent of its votes for the Democrat.
Delta's entire high school enrollment is 116 students in grades 9 through 12, principal James Gloth said. Most people who attend the graduation are there by invitation of the students, but he anticipates that there will be room for the general public after those with invitations are seated.
Brown said another reason he issued the invitation to McCaskill is to bring attention to the school. A lifelong resident of Delta, Brown has a grandchild in the eighth grade in the district.
"A small school doesn't get much notoriety," Brown said. "I don't care about the politics of it."
McCaskill's willingness to visit such a small school is evidence that she wants to be visible throughout the state, he said. "It says something about her as a person that she would come to a small school, that she is willing to travel all the way to a little Cape County school for graduation."
Brown said he is also a supporter of U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson and that he thinks Emerson would be a welcome speaker at the school at a future graduation. "I may ask her next year," Brown said.
McCaskill will likely talk about her own past growing up in rural Missouri to provide the students with an example of what they can accomplish, Marsh said, but added that the graduation remarks have not yet been prepared.
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