Students React To First Lady Changing Graduation Speech Plans

By  | 

The White House says Michelle Obama is rearranging her plans to address high school students in Topeka, Kan., to address concerns by some students and parents.

She had planned to speak May 17 at a combined graduation ceremony for five high schools. That had raised complaints there wouldn't be room for all the guests.

"I'm frankly disappointed that it's not on our actual graduation. It is a compromise between those who wanted to upkeep the traditions of our school, but it is a great opportunity that was tossed aside," Jamal Samo said. "A vocal minority decided this for us."

Under the new plan, the first lady ill be speak to the 800 graduates on May 16 during a ``senior recognition day,'' leaving the following day to the students and their families.

With the combined ceremony scrapped, the five schools will each hold its own graduation exercises.

Mariah Rodriguez said she's glad she gets to have more people at her graduation, but still wished the First Lady could have spoken that day.

"The students that I've been talking to, they were happy she was coming but they weren't happy that we had a limited amount of tickets. It's more like my family is mad they can't come, but now that she's coming on Friday they can go to that and they can come see me."

Abbey Rubottom says the changes were welcomed and would keep the focus of graduation on the students and not deny families a place in the 8,000-seat arena.

One mother, Tina Hernandez, says she's excited about the new schedule and that Obama will be able to speak to the students without disrupting the traditional practice of separate graduation ceremonies.

Hernandez says the change shows Obama is a mom, too, and understands.

"It's pretty disappointing that I won't be able to say that Michelle Obama was at my graduation anymore and it's pretty embarrassing that people caused such an uproar about it," said Connor Brennan.

"I think the fact that we would have had such an inspirational speaker far outweighs that you can't have 40 people at your graduation," he added.

Read the press release from 501

"April 24, 2014

Updated Plans for First Lady’s Visit to Topeka

Topeka Public Schools is proud to welcome Michelle Obama to our city as part of the graduation celebration for nearly 800 graduates of Topeka Public Schools. This will be a once in a lifetime experience for the graduates and their families as seniors from all five high schools come together in a show of unity that reflects the 60th anniversary of the Brown v Board of Education court case.

The First Lady will now address students, their families and the community on Friday, May 16, 2014, at the Kansas Expocentre. Students will have the choice to attend. Tickets for the First Lady’s remarks will remain the same as announced earlier. Each graduate will receive a ticket and their family may get up to 6 tickets and we will work to accommodate additional ticket requests.

“We are thrilled to have Mrs. Obama visit Topeka next month and we appreciate the support throughout the community to make this an outstanding weekend for our students and their families,” said a White House spokesperson. “Once we learned about the ticketing concerns from some of the students and families, we were eager to find a solution that enabled all of the students to celebrate their special day.”

The five high schools in Topeka Public Schools will be unified for this event.

Doors to the Kansas Expocentre will open at 3:00 p.m. with the graduate procession beginning at approximately 5:00 p.m. The First Lady’s address is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Additional details are still forthcoming.

Each high school will have their individual graduation ceremonies on Saturday, May 17 at the Kansas Expocentre with the Topeka West ceremony at 10:30 a.m., Highland Park at 1:30 p.m. and Topeka High at 4:30 p.m. No tickets will be needed for the Saturday event and there will be no restrictions on the number of people who want to attend Saturday’s ceremonies."

Posted by Greg Palmer / Sarah Plake