Update: Sarah Palin responds!
A very persistent Republic High School senior with an odd fascination for Sarah Palin managed to convince the sassy caribou-skinning gal from Wasilla to bring her show – or what little is left of it – to the tiny Eastern Washington town of Republic.
If you haven’t heard, Palin, whose boundless anti-intellectualism can still leave one breathless, will deliver the commencement address to the school’s graduating class of 26 on Saturday afternoon. Each graduate has been given 20 tickets to distribute, which should guarantee that the 700-person capacity gym will be pleasantly stuffed.
Still, to a large extent, Palin’s visit has drawn a rather ho-hum reaction from the 1,073 folks who populate this old gold mining town in Ferry County.
“I haven’t heard much about it all, or anyone really talking about it” says Alice Barnes, bartender at Madonna’s, a bar and grill on Main Street.
“I don’t think there’s that much going on, other than her going to talk at the school. We’ve been left completely out of the loop of this,” sniffs Jim Milner, director of the town’s chamber of commerce. “We’ve been working on our annual Prospector Days celebration next weekend. That will be a lot bigger deal than this.”
Palin’s star-power is barely a glimmer these days. “We’ve had no requests from anyone in the national media,” notes Republic High principal Shawn Anderson, who’s coordinating the event. Indeed, it’s been a long, strange journey for the one-time governor Alaska who John McCain recklessly plucked out of obscurity to jump-start his moribund campaign in 2008.
Since losing the election, Palin has frittered about: Up and quitting her post as governor, buying a lavish $1.7 million home in Scottsdale, writing a memoir Going Rogue: An American Life, working three years as a paid contributor to FOX, forming her own SarahPAC, and endorsing such mustard gas oozing conservatives as Christine (“I am not a witch” ) O’Donnell.
Occasionally, she’ll speak – for a handsome fee, of course – at various right-wing shindigs where nary a prying reporter is allowed to ask those darn “Gotcha” questions such as “What newspapers do you read?” At a recent meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee, Palin demonstrated that cheery vulgarity we’ve grown to love her for, “Todd’s got the rifle, I’ve got the rack.”
And now, Palin, the poor darling with presumably with nothing much better to do, other than taking in a some playoff basketball -- she sat courtside at Sunday’s Heat-Pacer’s game – is on to Republic, eager to capture the hearts and minds of 26 graduates.
How did this all come to be?
Seems this 17-year-old kid named Tyler Weyer, the class president, has long held this fixation about Palin. So when the school year began, and fellow seniors began to ponder potential commencement speakers, Weyer, recalls principal Anderson, said, “Hey, what about Sarah Palin?’ And everyone liked the idea.”
Weyer, who plans to attend Wenatchee Community College next fall and transfer to WSU to study political science, typed up an invitation, had it put on school letterhead, and sent it to Palin’s parents.
“He’s a real politician at heart,” says Anderson, “and he’s a conservative. Palin is kind of his idol.”
In early April, when nothing had come of the letter to Palin’s parents, Weyer organized a class picture, with everyone wearing their class sweatshirts and posed behind a banner that read: “We Want You! Governor Palin!” They posted the photo on Facebook.
As the Spokesman Review reports, “As word of the Class of ’13’s efforts spread, people began lobbying Palin directly, via Facebook and other ways. Weyer said that Palin has some relatives living in the Republic area, which might have helped bring their efforts some attention, and Palin herself was born not far away in Sandpoint, where her parents have a long history.
“Whatever it was, something finally broke through. As Weyer put it, ‘the right word got to the right people’...
“On April 18, Weyer and school officials had the phone call with Palin’s representative and learned that Palin would be coming to graduation.”
“It was worth a million dollars to see the look on (Weyer’s) face," Anderson said.
Anderson tells Seattle Weekly that Palin’s schedulers have been keeping her travel plans “fairly confidential.”
“She’ll probably fly into Spokane and then driver here (a two-and-a-half hour drive). I know she’s not going to stay overnight. I am hoping, though, that she’ll have a little time to address all the (113 Republic High School) students before the speech, but I don’t know.”
Asked if this was the biggest thing he’s ever seen during his ten years in Republic, Anderson replies, “No, probably the biggest thing was when the Tigers won the state championship in 2003-2004. We were state champs in the 2B Division.”
Later, Anderson adds wistfully, “Do you remember who spoke at your high school graduation? No, I don’t remember either. I just hope this is something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
Certainly, it will be forever cemented in the memory bank of Tyler Weyer, a life-long resident of this wooded hamlet. As for Sarah Palin, surely there will be the realization that it has come to this -- and wasn’t it a long way down.