Paul Greenberg

Sure enough, Mr. President Cockrel is bald, just like the green ogre of movie fame known as Shrek. That did it. "Shrek?" he asked. "I will call this to adjourn!" End of the matter.

At least until Mrs. Conyers agreed to appear on a panel at Keiara Bell's school, a panel that would be duly taped and widely circulated. Explaining her behavior at the hearing, President Conyers explained that she'd found Mr. Cockrel's attitude lacking in respect.

"But you didn't have to call him a name," Miss Bell pointed out.

"But now you're telling me what I should have and should not have done," Mrs. Conyer replied.

"You're an adult," said Miss Keiara. "You have that choice."

"I'm what?" asked Mrs. Conyers, as if the term adult were new to her.

"You're an adult," repeated the eighth grader. "You had that choice. Sometimes people need to think before they act."

Out of the mouths of babes.

By now people far and wide have heard that educational exchange - and cheered Miss Bell's little lesson in manners, judgment and self-respect. Civility in politics, it turns out, actually turns people on. Maybe it's the rarity of it.

And what does Keiara's mom think of her child's star turn? A mother of four who sells candy from the trunk of an old gray Cadillac in different Detroit neighborhoods, she says: "That's my baby."

Keiara Bell says "an experience like this can turn a girl into a lady." I'm not so sure. What I suspect is that a 13-year-old with Keiara Bell's poise and gumption, not to mention good sense, was already a lady.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.