TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Michelle Obama is rearranging plans for a speech before graduating high school seniors in Kansas in the face of protests that her appearance at a combined graduation ceremony for five schools would limit seating for families and friends.
She had accepted the Topeka public school district’s invitation to speak May 17 at the combined ceremony to mark that day’s 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, outlawing school segregation. The case originated in Topeka.
But a furor over what the district considered an honor erupted after plans for Mrs. Obama’s address were announced.
Under a new plan worked out by the district, the first lady will speak on May 16 at a “senior recognition day” ceremony at the same 8,000-seat arena where the combined ceremony was to be held. The combined ceremony is being scrapped, and the five schools will hold separate graduation exercises instead.
The compromise, announced while President Barack Obama was traveling in Asia, pleased Topeka students and parents who were concerned about being limited to six tickets for family members and the first lady’s remarks taking away from the occasion.
“That’s awesome. I’m ecstatic,” said Tina Hernandez, mother of Topeka High senior Dauby Knight. “It works out for everybody. That makes me more excited for her to come.”
The school district said each student will get one ticket and up to six for family members for the first lady’s speech, the same allotment originally planned for the combined graduation ceremony. And now that Mrs. Obama will no longer speak at a graduation, seating won’t need to be limited due to concerns over her security during graduation events.
School board president Janel Johnson said the district was pleased with the community support and hopes Mrs. Obama’s visit makes for a memorable weekend. The first lady’s communications director, Maria Cristina Gonzalez Noguera, added that Mrs. Obama wants everyone to have the opportunity to attend a graduation ceremony.
“Once we learned about the concerns of some students, we were eager to find a solution that enabled all of the students and their families to celebrate the special day,” the spokeswoman said Thursday.
Eighteen-year-old Taylor Gifford had launched an online petition urging the school district to reconsider its plans. Gifford and the more than 1,200 people who had signed it expressed concern that Mrs. Obama’s visit would limit guest seating.
Abbey Rubottom, 18, said the change of plans would work best for graduates and their families, as well as other community members who are interested in what Mrs. Obama would have the say about the anniversary of the Brown decision.
“We are affected, but to close it off from people who deserve to go there doesn’t make sense,” Rubottom said. “The fact that she would do that is so amazing.”
Hernandez said she was glad the first lady realized the stir her planned visit was causing for the graduates and their families, and that she was willing to modify her plans.
“She’s a mom. She understands,” Hernandez said.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
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5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
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6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
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7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
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8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
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9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
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10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
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11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
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12. Late nights mornings
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13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
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14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
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15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
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16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
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17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
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18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
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19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
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20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
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21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
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22. Claudia Jordan: ....
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23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
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24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
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