Unsurprisingly, First Lady Michelle Obama's latest endeavor is being slammed by parents and high school students in Topeka, Kanasas. Surprisingly, the backlash has less to do with what side of the aisle they identify with and more to do with interest in keeping a high school graduation as boring and commonplace as ever.
A fight has erupted in the state capital's school district after it was announced that Michelle will address a combined graduation ceremony for five area high schools next month in an 8,000-seat arena. Her appearance is to be tied to the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools. And while the school district is over the moon about the prospect of hosting the FLOTUS, parents and students have several gripes with the plan ...
They're upset that this will put a tight limit on the number of seats allotted to each graduate, and furthermore, they're annoyed that, somehow, Michelle's appearance will "overshadow" the students' big day. They've protested at a school board meeting late last week and urged school officials to rethink their invite to Mrs. Obama.
While I can understand how terribly annoying it would be for all involved to have to combine their school's graduation ceremony with four others, it's a sacrifice that everyone would be making for the greater good.
No matter how hard a student has worked, no matter how big a deal it is for them to walk across that stage and take their diploma, and throw their tassel to the other side of their cap, high school graduations are generally total snoozefests. They're generally cookie-cutter, run-of-the-mill conventions filled with the same old cliches year after year. It's pretty much up to the student and his or her families to make the experience special, memorable, and unique.
That said, any parent should be so lucky to have their kids get to be a part of something extraordinary on their graduation day. Or to be given a dose of history that really adds even more weight and significance to the day.
These Topeka families have the chance to mark a landmark decision in our nation's history and say that the First Lady spoke at their high school graduation. (Because sure, the likes of Steve Jobs and Stephen Colbert and Hillary Clinton have always given commencement addresses to college students, but how often are high school kids treated to a respected public figure's wisdom?)
Michelle Obama's involvement could only serve to augment -- not detract from -- what these parents and students remember about the big day 5 or 20 years down the road. Her appearance isn't going to prevent these kids and families from doing what they would've done anyway -- snap photos, hang with friends, get feted with bouquets, go out for a festive meal afterward. The district even said they will 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. Sounds like they're bending over backwards to make this graduation not only what graduates were expecting, but something much more exciting, memorable, and historic. In retrospect, wouldn't these families be foolish to pass up that opportunity?
Do you think the FLOTUS should be allowed to speak?
Image via usdagov/Flickr