More than 1,700 people as of Saturday night have signed an online petition that asks a Kansas school district to reconsider its plans to have Michelle Obama speak at a high school commencement next month.
But it’s not because of political differences. It’s because many believe the first lady’s appearance could drastically limit seating for a ceremony that’s already looking like standing-room only.
The Topeka school district is holding one mass graduation ceremony for five area high schools in an 7,450-capacity arena. Obama’s address at the May 17 commencement is closely tied to the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools.
Graduating seniors from Topeka Unified School District 501 will be allotted up to six tickets apiece for friends and relatives, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
District spokesman Ron Harbaugh on Saturday told the Capital-Journal that If the Secret Service gives the OK, additional seats could open up beyond the 6,486 available in the regular stands. There are also more seats behind the stage.
The senior who started the petition, Taylor Gifford, 18, said her initial reaction to the Michelle Obama news was excitement, even noting she was “freaking out” about it, the Associated Press reported.
But when rumors of limited tickets surfaced, Gifford said the focus seemed to shift from the students to Obama.
“People think it’s a great opportunity, but it’s the graduates’ time. They are getting that diploma that they worked so hard for,” Gifford told the AP. “Families are feeling that they are being cheated out of the loved ones special day.”
Abbey Rubottom, 18, a Topeka High senior, described herself to the AP as a “die-hard Democrat” but doesn’t like the idea of Obama sharing the stage with graduates.
“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,” Rubottom told the AP.
One parent couldn’t agree more.
“This is one of the biggest days of their lives,” said Tina Hernandez, a single mother of Topeka High School senior Dauby Knight, told the AP. “They’ve taken the glory and shine from the children and put on Mrs. Obama. She doesn’t know our kids.”
There has been discussion about an overflow room at a hotel adjacent to the graduation arena for those unable to find a seat inside. Rubottom suggested separate ceremonies with Obama speaking at one and the address being replayed at the other, the AP noted.
Messages seeking comment from the first lady’s office in Washington were not immediately returned Friday.
(H/T: Drudge Report)