- Associated Press - Monday, April 7, 2014

Kearney Hub. April 5, 2014.

Gender flap, acceptance make news this week

Don’t tell the Nebraska School Activities Association or its executive director that lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Fresh off the controversy over a policy for sports participation by transgender athletes, the NSAA this week was again wrestling with the issue of gender identity.

This time, the controversy involved a poem, “Swingset,” about children who question whether their teacher is a boy or girl. The message - that children are more accepting of gender differences than adults - fit the theme of a group of poems performed at last week’s state speech championships by Gordon-Rushville competitor Michael Barth.

He had performed the poetry throughout the speech season without backlash from judges. As the state’s Class C1 poetry champion, Barth was invited to perform for the Nebraska Educational Television network’s annual program highlighting the state’s best competitive speakers.

But wait, not so fast. The NSAA told Barth he wouldn’t be allowed to perform “Swingset” on NET. The decision set off a storm. Speech competitors and coaches protested, and so did Barth. NET said it would broadcast whatever poems Barth chose to perform.

A few hours after the controversy began, NSAA Executive Director Rhonda Blanford-Green told Barth he could include “Swingset” in his NET performance.

Barth is to be commended for his courage in standing by his material. The reaction of fellow competitors and coaches also is to be commended, but it’s not surprising. In their world, probing the human condition and exploring controversial ideas is all in a day’s work. It’s common for competitors to speak out on issues involving those who are voiceless and misunderstood.

What distinguished Barth’s poetry and his message from other similarly themed state performances was his gold medal and the invitation to perform for a statewide audience. NSAA initially lacked the confidence to stand behind one of its state champions and weather the criticism his TV performance might attract. However, we support the NSAA’s ultimate decision allowing Barth to recite “Swingset” on NET.

We encourage Nebraskans who view the NET special to reflect on the variety of messages they’ll hear. Each championship performance required hours of research, writing and rewriting, rehearsals and - in at least one case - the courage to face up to criticism.


McCook Daily Gazette. April 4, 2014.

It will be good to see Capitol completed

Ninety two years after it was begun, Nebraska’s Capitol is poised to be completed.

That’s despite the best efforts of Gov. Dave Heineman, who saw his veto of $2.5 million for four bronze fountains, one for each of four open-air courtyards, that were part of the original design, overturned

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