Topeka Families Would Rather the First Lady Not Speak at Their Graduation

Topeka Families Would Rather the First Lady Not Speak at Their Graduation

Topeka Families Would Rather the First Lady Not Speak at Their Graduation

Topeka families say Michelle Obama's presence means loved ones must stay at home.

Published April 22, 2014

Most parents and students are thrilled when First Lady Michelle Obama visits their school. Not so in Topeka, Kansas, where she's scheduled to deliver a commencement address on May 17 at a joint graduation ceremony for all of the city's high schools.

The combined ceremony is part of the city's commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which led to the end of legal segregation in public schools.

But it also means that each student can invite fewer guests to help celebrate his or her big day. And oh, what a day it will be, lasting nearly six hours instead of about two. The increased security could stretch it into an eight-hour day.

So far, 2,000 parents and students have signed an online petition calling on the district to allow the schools to have individual ceremonies as originally planned.

Its not personal or even political, the petitioners say.

"We are honored to have the First Lady speak at commencement and the student body was literally crying and jumping for joy when the news was announced and we are in no way shape or form ungrateful for what the Board has done for us," the document states.

But the invitations already sent to guests are not only now incorrect, some may have to be rescinded because of the numbers limit now being imposed.

Not being able to share their big day with close relatives is the reasoning behind most of the complaints made at a school board meeting held late last week, the Kansas City Star reports. But there were some people who said that graduation should "not become a political event."

“People think it’s a great opportunity, but it’s the graduates’ time. They are getting that diploma that they worked so hard for,” Taylor Gifford, 18, who started the online petition, told the Associated Press. “Families are feeling that they are being cheated out of the loved ones' special day.”

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(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Written by Joyce Jones


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