Saturday, April 19, 2014

Graduation Speakers

I get tired of stories of graduation speakers who get "disinvited" because some group of whiners decides that person isn't "worthy" enough to speak to them.  In other words, they disagree with something that person did or said, they pitch a fit, and then they get the (usually a) university to disinvite that person and choose someone else.

On my CNN phone app this morning I saw an article about Michelle Obama's planning to address high school graduates on the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling.  Oddly enough I can't find that article after the briefest of searches on CNN's web site, but I found it on FoxNews.  It's from the AP, though, so it should satisfy lefties:
If expanding the guest list to include Michelle Obama at graduation for high school students in the Kansas capital city means fewer seats for friends and family, some students and their parents would prefer the first lady not attend.

A furor over what the Topeka school district considers an honor has 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. For others, it was the notion that Obama's speech, tied to the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools, would overshadow the student's big day.

"I'm a single mother who has raised him for 18 years by myself," said Tina Hernandez, parent of Topeka High School senior Dauby Knight. "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 on Mrs. Obama. She doesn't know our kids."
I view this as a legitimate concern of parents.  Graduation is about parents and their kids and their families; if having a certain speaker detracts too much from that, then that speaker should be cut.

In addition to the reduction in seats, can you imagine the other issues involved?  For example, having to arrive hours early just to get through labyrinthine security?  Parking and traffic?  What about anti-Obama protesters outside your kid's graduation?

No, this isn't the place for Michelle Obama.  It's reasonable that she should make a speech honoring the anniversary of Brown, but this is not the best venue in which to give that speech.  And before some whiny leftie throws out that I'm just anti-Obama and that's why I'm against her speech, let me share a little bit of my own history.

During my three underclass years at West Point, President Reagan never addressed a graduation.  I think we had Vice President Bush twice, but not President Reagan.  We thought for sure it was our turn.  The date and time of our graduation had been planned for years, and with that all the flight, train, and hotel reservations and days off work for the families and friends of over 1000 graduates.  President Reagan couldn't make our scheduled graduation date, though, but could if we rescheduled graduation for a few days later.  It was put up to us to decide, and we voted overwhelmingly to keep graduation when it was.  We got the retiring Army Chief of Staff as a speaker instead.

Our families came first.  That's what graduation is for.

Update, 4/20/14:  I take back the line above about "anti-Obama protestors".  We can't let protestors have a heckler's veto over graduation speakers--that's what I usually deplore, and should not have included it here.  In fact, protestors should be kept far enough away so that they do not disrupt the event.  They can have their free speech but they cannot prevent the free speech of others.

Update #2, 4/24/14This is the right decision:
First lady Michelle Obama is scrapping her plans to deliver a graduation speech for high school seniors in Topeka, Kan., after hundreds signed a petition in protest.

Instead of delivering a graduation speech, Obama will speak before the school district the day before graduation, and will deliver remarks at a "Senior Recognition Day."

More than 1,750 people had signed a petition protesting the first lady's appearance at the graduation ceremony, angered that security concerns would limit the number of friends and family who could attend...

The first lady's address is meant to commemorate the anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education desegregation ruling.


scott mccall said...

I have to agree. Although I think it would be awesome as a high school student to be able to say "Mrs. Obama spoke at our graduation", I think it would have way too many drawbacks.

maxutils said...

Agreed. Graduation spots are already hard enough to get, at a lot of schools. Doing that many at once ... crazy. And who wants to hear that list of names?

Jerry Doctor said...

I agree about keeping the graduates and their families the center of attraction. Still, it would be nice if in the future these kids could brag about how the first lady was part of their high school graduation. So, why not do both?

Each of the high schools could have their own separate graduation ceremony spread out over a few days. Either prior to or after those there could be a combined ceremony WHERE STUDENTS THAT WANTED TO could go to hear M.O. give her speech. I suppose it would be too much to hope for but this combined ceremony might even be a baccalaureate service!

maxutils said...

Another consideration...what's she going to say? Eat less fatty food and my husband is a really bad president?