COMMENTARY: Really?! Kansas High School Protests Michelle Obama Speech

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  • You would think most Americans would be eager to attend a speech when the keynote speaker is Michelle Obama, one of the most popular First Ladies in U.S. history. But not in Topeka, Kansas some parents and students would prefer if Mrs. Obama stayed home instead of speaking at a local high school graduation ceremony.

    Days after the First Lady was ridiculously criticized by The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for using real eggs in this year’s White House Egg Roll, the good folks in Topeka are angry because Obama’s address to a combined graduation ceremony for five area high schools means fewer seats for family and friends in the 8,000-seat arena.

    In fact, some parents are actually asking school officials to disinvite Obama from the ceremony in May. Who disinvites the First Lady of the United States from a high school graduation when her insights could potentially inspire graduating high school students? This is the height of disrespect. I wonder if these parents would have the same reaction if the First Lady was Hillary Clinton or Laura Bush.

    “I’m a single mother who has raised [my son] for 18 years by myself,” Tina Hernandez, the parent of a Topeka High School senior, told the Associated Press.

    “I’ve told him education is the only way out. This is one of the biggest days of their lives. They’ve taken the glory and shine from the children and put it on Mrs. Obama. She doesn’t know our kids.”

    According to the Associated Press, Hernandez was among the parents and students who spoke last week at a school board meeting and urged district officials to reconsider their decision to invite the First Lady because there won’t be enough seats for family and friends. And there’s more: The First Lady’s speech coincides with the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools.

    Some parents in Topeka are up in arms, claiming Obama’s message is too high-profile and will eclipse the graduation ceremony. Really? What a shallow, unsophisticated reaction to what will be a rare opportunity for Topeka high school students to hear directly from the First Lady, a lawyer, about a landmark legal case on race and education that originated in Topeka.

    The Brown v. Board of Education of 1954 which unanimously held that the racial segregation of children in public schools violated the 14th Amendment and helped to propel the Civil Rights Movement, was one of the greatest Supreme Court decisions of the 20th century, I would think parents and students would be excited to hear the First Lady’s thoughtful perspective on a case that altered the course of our nation. They should be rallying around the First Lady’s appearance, not trying to shut her down.

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