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Hey, Benedict, visit the Midwest

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By Vince Luecke

I wish the pope had made his way farther west during last week's visit to the United States. Washington, D.C. and New York are both fine cities with lots to see and do and the pope was certainly given the royal treatment while here. Who else could get the presidential family to meet them at the foot of his plane or gather thousands of people on the White House lawn just to hear a few words?

But Pope Benedict XVI could have learned a lot more about America with a stop or two in the Midwest, which not only has closer ties to the pope's native land of Bavaria, but has people who might actually listen to what he has to say.

Benedict has lived in big cities so long, he may have felt right at home with all the hustle and bustle. Watching him on TV, he seems to savor the attention. I guess I would, too, even if cooped up in a bubble-topped Mercedes pope-mobile.

But he's missing out by not seeing the nation's heartland. Benedict will almost surely never set foot in Perry County, but he'd feel at home amid the rolling landscape and deep woods that look a lot like the places where he was born and worked as an adult.

Regensburg, where the pope spent many years as a professor of theology, is more inviting and even for a fairly large German city, feels more like Louisville, Ky., or St. Louis than the Big Apple.

I ate lunch at a corner eatery in Regensburg that was supposedly one of the then Joseph Ratzinger's favorite lunch hangouts. A framed photo overlooked the dining room and I ate knockwurst staring back at a grinning Benedict with his shock of white hair and outstretched arms.

The pope looks happy and spry, a marvel considering not only his age - he turned 81 last week - but the pressures he faces. I'm not sure how he gets everything done, though I suspect the pope has lots of helpers who write most of his speeches and warning letters to anyone who ventures too far across the theological line. I wonder how people react when a letter from the pope or his lieutenants appears in the mailbox.

Personally, I like leaders - pope, president or county commissioner - who don't mince words, even when it makes some people mad. We need more leaders willing to speak bluntly.

That's another reason the pope should plan a visit to the American Midwest, whose residents value plain talk.

Special Olympics May 3

If you're free Saturday, May 3, plan to attend the annual Special Olympics at Legion Field. The event begins at 9 a.m. More than 200 athletes are expected to compete in several walking, jumping and throwing events.

Dispatchers

April 13-19 was Telecommunication Operator's Week across Indiana and local dispatchers deserve credit for everything they do to keep us safe.

From summoning paramedics and firefighters to offering medical instructions and fielding dozens of calls about Friday morning's earthquake, someone is on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Thanks for jobs well done.