Grayson a civil voice in bipartisan dialogue

The day before she was gunned down in Tuscon, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords e-mailed Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson to congratulate him on his new Harvard job, which she called a "perfect fit."

We agree. Grayson, 38, whose last day in Frankfort was Friday, always seemed just a little too decent and intellectual for the ego-driven, rough-and-tumble world of Kentucky electoral politics.

Of course, you could make a strong case that what our politics most desperately needs is more decency and intelligence. Grayson will be in a position to influence things in that direction as director of the Institute of Politics, a part of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Grayson, a former Governor's Scholar and the nation's youngest secretary of state when he took office in 2004, said that the institute he's heading played a key role in sparking his interest in public service when he was an undergraduate at Harvard. Now he can help provide the same kinds of opportunities for other bright young Americans.

His duties also include organizing educational seminars for elected officials and conferences that bring together academic, political and governmental leaders.

Caroline Kennedy, who chaired the search committee that recommended Grayson, praised his commitment to "civil debate."

(Also on the committee was Elaine Chao, a former cabinet member and spouse of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who publicly supported Grayson last year in his unsuccessful campaign against Rand Paul for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. )

In her congratulatory note, Giffords, who met Grayson when they participated in an Aspen Institute program aimed at promoting bipartisan dialogue among promising young leaders, said she looked forward to talking with him about how to tone down "our rhetoric and partisanship."

Given the current political climate, exploring ways to restore civility to public discourse has to be on Grayson's to-do list.

We should all remember, though, that civility is not an end in itself. Civility must be a means to develop ideas and solutions for our nation's very real problems.

Congratulations to Grayson for trying to be part of the solution.