Michelle Obama won’t be speaking at the Topeka, Kans., high school graduation on May 17 in a compromise that has been worked out.
Ordinarily, the five Topeka high schools conduct separate ceremonies on graduation day. Under the original plan for this year only, all seniors would have received their diplomas in a mass commencement at the 8,000-seat capacity Kansas Expocentre so that they could hear the First Lady’s speech in person. The centralized ceremony would have, however, limited the a number of tickets each family would receive, prompting protests from parents and students, including an online Change.org petition. Many parents apparently also felt that the hoopla surrounding the First Lady’s appearance would also have inappropriately detracted from the focus on the graduating seniors.
Michelle Obama will instead speak on the day before to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. “Under a new plan worked out by the district, the first lady will speak on May 16 at a ‘senior recognition day’ ceremony at the same 8,000-seat arena where the combined ceremony was to be held. The combined ceremony is being scrapped, and the five schools will hold separate graduation exercises instead.”
According to a Michelle Obama representative, “Once we learned about the concerns of some students, we were eager to find a solution that enabled all of the students and their families to celebrate the special day.”
Separately, in a speech last week as part of her effort to help returning soldiers find civilian jobs, Michelle Obama noted that she met a lot of military families on the campaign trail and drew a parallel between a fast-moving political campaign and being in the military. “Dealing with everything that I was dealing with — a spouse traveling, a job, kids — we didn’t deal with multiple moves, but I learned about the challenges that happen when you move from base to base to base; the way your kids have to adjust on a dime. And doing it knowing that the person you love is in harm’s way. And those stories moved me in a way that I didn’t expect.”