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Student Gets Petition To Stop Michelle Obama From Speaking At Her Commencement

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CtK0m.SlMa.91A petition from the Topeka Kansas high school students has been issued to Michelle Obama. The petition demands that she does not appear to make a speech for their upcoming graduation. There has been a large outcry from students and parents saying that the First Lady’s presence would “overshadow” the student’s big day.  Topeka school districts looked at Michelle Obama speaking at the ceremony as a great accomplishment, however the news created “a furor.” Associated Press reports that the furor “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.”

Topeka Kansas, specifically its key role on education reform, is considered by many to be a historical site. It was in the small town where the infamous piece of legislation, Brown vs. Board of Education, was passed in 1954. After years of segregation and discrimination, the legislation ruled that separate was in fact unequal. This shift in law and practice was an attempt in a long struggle to give, particularly African Americans, a chance at attaining educational equity.

Responses have been given from students making their arguments as to why Obama’s speech can wait. A student firmly states, “’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,” This student calls herself a “die hard Democrat.” However, she states that the graduation is not the time or place to commemorate the anniversary of Brown vs. Board. Taylor Gifford, soon to be graduate and student responsible for starting the online petition expressed “concern that Obama’s visit would limit the seating options for family and friends.”  Gifford says that she was first “excited” to have the First Lady speak at her graduation. However, all the excitement began to “limit ticket sales.” Gifford goes on to say, “’People think it’s a great opportunity, but it’s the graduates’ time. They are getting that diploma that they worked so hard for…’Families are feeling that they are being cheated out of the loved ones special day.”

Gifford is hoping for a “peaceful solution.” Students are suggesting two different ceremonies, one for the Brown vs. Board commemoration where the First Lady speaks, and the graduation. Amidst the frenzy, there has been no official comment from the White House. The petition has over 1,000 signatures.

Itoro Udofia is a first generation Nigerian writer, educator and singer/songwriter. You can find her work and follow her at