This is very interesting. About a week ago the Daily Mail had this story:
A furor over what the Topeka school district considers an honor has erupted after plans were announced for Obama to address a combined graduation ceremony for five area high schools next month an 8,000-seat arena. For some, it was the prospect of a tight limit on the number of seats allotted to each graduate.
For others, it was the notion that Obama’s speech, tied to the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools, would overshadow the student’s big day.
[Ron Harbaugh, spokesman for the Topeka school district,] said officials asked the president or first lady to speak at graduation as a tie-in with the anniversary of the Brown decision, which outlawed school segregation. The district plans to place a priority on seating students and their families, and could broadcast the event to an overflow room at a hotel adjacent to the graduation arena for those unable to find a seat inside.
That’s not good enough for Taylor Gifford, 18, who started an online petition on Thursday evening to urge the district to reconsider its plans. She and the more than 1,200 people who had signed it expressed concern that Obama’s visit would limit the seating options for family and friends.
First, I find it completely typical that the Obama administration would attempt to subvert a joyous occasion celebrating individual achievement for hundreds of families into a political grandstanding, racial axe-grinding photo op. I’m very impressed that so many students stood up to what I’m sure was some significant pressure, though it sounds like the discontent was pretty widespread:
Abbey Rubottom, 18, a Topeka High senior, described herself as a ‘die-hard Democrat’ but doesn’t like the idea of Obama sharing the stage with graduates.
‘No disrespect for the first lady, and it’s amazing that she wants to come speak, I just think it doesn’t belong at graduation,’ Rubottom said.
That’s a very good point. Graduation is about students completing their high school education, and taking the next step into a bigger and broader world, not racial segregation. These high school kids have a better perspective on what’s important than the White House. Kind of says something, doesn’t it?
Well, as a follow up, we got this news today:
First lady Michelle Obama is scrapping her plans to deliver a graduation speech for high school seniors in Topeka, Kan., after hundreds signed a petition in protest.
Instead of delivering a graduation speech, Obama will speak before the school district the day before graduation, and will deliver remarks at a “Senior Recognition Day.”
More than 1,750 people had signed a petition protesting the first lady’s appearance at the graduation ceremony, angered that security concerns would limit the number of friends and family who could attend.
I have to admit I’m surprised at this outcome, but this is one of those times when I’m glad to be wrong. This is what needed to happen.
I also wonder what ramifications will come Kansas’ way for putting a political black eye on the White House like this. Of course, it’s Kansas…it’s not like the current administration has a lot of love for the state, anyway.
There’s my two cents.