Senator Wants to Ba-rock the State with Portrait


ANNAPOLIS (March 12, 2009)—The cardboard version of the leader of the free world made people happy everywhere he went, said Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore, who carried a life-size "Pop-up Barack" to the grocery store, the police station, "everywhere."

Now that the people have spoken, Gladden wants a portrait of President Obama to go everywhere in the state of Maryland.

She sponsored a bill that would mandate all Maryland public school buildings, state buildings and specified higher education administration buildings have an official portrait of the president in a place of prominence.

"I think it's a cool idea," she told the Senate Committee for Education, Health and the Environment Wednesday, as she stood next to a 26-by-34-inch portrait of the president. She prefaced her remarks by saying the portrait she would ask others to hang would "not be this big."

Not surprisingly, not everyone thought it was a cool idea.

"It's excessive partisanship. It's kind of like, 'We're rubbing your face in it,'" said Justin Ready, executive director of the Republican Party of Maryland. He doesn't know why schools have to hang the picture.

"Don't kids know who the president is?" he said. "Our position is this is basically pointless partisanship."

Gladden said it's not about partisanship and said whoever the next president is will get their portrait hung up, too.

"Why not Bush? People ask me that all the time," said Gladden. "Somebody who was a supporter of that candidate should've introduced the bill ... (Bush) didn't inspire me."

Gladden said Obama inspired her because he made smart cool again and overcame obstacles of the everyman.

"There's an implied criticism that this is about race. It's not. It's just about 'this is a really cool president,'" said Gladden, who is black.

Clay Whitlow, the executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges, did not comment on the president's cool factor, but disagreed with the proposal on principle.

"I don't think it's appropriate for our institutions to display the portrait, since we are not administered by the federal government," he said.

To Ba-rock the state comes with a price. It could increase state expenditures by $20,000 and local school systems' by $43,000 in 2010, according to a fiscal note, which Gladden challenged.

"Keep in mind this photograph came off of the Internet and if you have a color printer, which most folks do, I don't see why you can't download the picture and print it," she said."I just think it's been a great race and we ought to inspire our kids every day."

Offices just have to make room for that inspiration. Gladden is still looking for a place to hang hers.

For now, there's a crevice on the floor between a sofa and an end table in her office.

"He fits back there," she said.

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

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