Angus King accepts invitation to speak at Oxford Hills graduation

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PARIS — The Class of 2010 at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School sent former Gov. Angus King an invitation he couldn’t refuse.

They asked him to be the graduation speaker at the June 12 commencement exercises, a thing the former governor has not done in several years. And they sent him a picture of himself posing with some of them when he was governor.

“The simple reason I said yes to this graduation was because of the initiative of the students sending me the picture,” King said. “How could you say no to that?”

The photo was taken when Harrison Elementary School fourth-graders took a field trip to Augusta eight years ago. The students, now seniors, are posed on the steps of the Blaine House with the 72nd governor of Maine, said senior class adviser Tina Fox, who participated on the trip.

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“It’s a thrill,” said senior class president Justin St. John, one of the 21 former Harrison Elementary School students who met King on the field trip. St. John was one of the graduating seniors who asked the governor to be their graduation speaker.

King said he used to speak at a number of graduations — as many as five or six a year — but he stopped doing them three or four years ago because they conflicted with his own children’s athletic and end-of-year events.

But the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School students persuaded the independent governor, who is widely remembered for launching the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. It provided laptop computers to every public middle school student in the state during his two terms, from 1995 to 2003.

St. John recalled the field trip, remembering being impressed that the governor took the time to meet with his class and to give them a tour of his office. St. John said King is now making the time to speak on their behalf as they prepare for the next stage of their lives.

Fox said the senior class formed a committee of class officers and student body officers from the 261 graduating seniors to select the speaker. With a list that included Patrick Dempsey, Susan Collins and some “far-reaching” names, the students settled on the former governor as their top choice.

“We didn’t have to go very far because (King) was one of our top candidates,” Fox said. “We were very lucky and fortunate. It’s a great privilege.”

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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