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Students at Bloomington's Oakland Elementary School have convinced us of two things: Adlai Stevenson II deserves special recognition in Illinois - and innovative teachers can make a difference in the lives of their students and their communities.

Every student in Illinois learns about state government - it's required. They may have mock elections or even help select a state symbol, such as choosing the white-tailed deer as the "state mammal."

But we suspect the lessons being learned by students at Oakland will stick with them a long time.

For the past four years, third-, fourth- and fifth-graders have been lobbying for "Adlai Day" - first at the city level, now at the state level.

The students did their homework - literally and figuratively - providing background material and even a DVD on why this former Illinois governor, U.N. ambassador and two-time Democratic primary candidate for president should be honored.

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Along the way, the students not only learned a lot about a noteworthy leader who grew up in their community, they learned about doing research, making presentations and being persuasive. They also learned that the political process can take a long time.

But the work is paying off. The first Adlai Stevenson Day was commemorated in Bloomington in 2005. This year, Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared Adlai Stevenson Day on Feb. 5 - Stevenson's birthday. Now the Illinois House has passed House Bill 4127 to make Feb. 5 an annual commemoration of Adlai Stevenson Day "to remember and honor" Stevenson's "legacy of public service."

We commend Oakland teachers Janenne Scott, Shari Cooper and Leslie Frizzell, who have been involved in this project from the beginning, and state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, who has encouraged the students and sponsored their bill.

But most of all we commend the students for efforts and hope this project and their learning about Adlai Stevenson inspires them to continue civic involvement into adulthood.

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