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Prospect of Presidential Visit Delights Tiny Delaware Town

June 5, 1991

SEAFORD, Del. (AP) _ William T. Gibbs never dreamed President Bush would deliver the commencement address for his high school graduation next Tuesday. But it makes the 48-year-old’s decision to return to school all the sweeter.

″It’s going to be something to walk across that stage,″ said Gibbs, who quit school in 1960 while in the 10th grade.

Gibbs is among 81 graduates of Sussex County’s James H. Groves Adult High School. Sixteen graduating students are inmates at the Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown and are not allowed to attend the ceremony because they’re incarcerated.

Gibbs, who earned a high school equivalency diploma, only needed a year of school to graduate. He was recognized in March as the school’s outstanding student for exemplifying what adult education is all about.

″Maybe I can encourage somebody to go back (to school). The way society is today, you’ve got to have some education to get any kind of job,″ said Gibbs, who works at the local Du Pont Co. nylon plant.

The president’s visit is big news to this city, nicknamed the ″Nylon Capital of the World,″ because of its 52-year-old Du Pont factory.

The working-class community of about 6,000 residents, 70 miles southeast of Baltimore, was in the national spotlight two years ago, for its drug market where crack cocaine was the top seller.

Martin Willey of nearby Bridgeville said he was surprised to learn of the president’s visit.

″I’ve never seen a president come down here to southern Delaware, Delaware being such a small state. So I didn’t think he cared. The only time you see him is election time and then he’s just in Wilmington,″ Willey said.

Bush, who bills himself the Education President, recently addressed graduates at West Point and Yale.

In Seaford, he will speak to a relatively small audience. Only about 50 graduates planned to attend, said A. Wayne Meluney, the school’s adult education director.

Now that Bush is coming, ″we might pick up about five more,″ Meluney said.

Each graduate can invite only 10 guests to what Meluney said will be a simple ceremony.

Jane Locke, the pianist, said she planned to play the traditional ″Pomp and Circumstance″ processional. The recessional will be Verdi’s ″March On″ from Aida.

City officials learned only Monday of the president’s visit and were still wondering a day later if they would be invited.

″I’m assuming we’re going to be invited. I might have to stand in line for a ticket myself,″ Mayor Guy Longo said Tuesday.

Some people, however, were resigned to not seeing Bush.

A sales clerk at a women’s clothing store, who did not want to be identified, said she’ll have to work.

″Tell him to come to the biggest shopping center in Seaford. He can ride by or fly by,″ she said.

-DS-06-05-91 1211EDT

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