The First Lady at Spelman College, Atlanta, May 15, 2011
H/T to Jack and Jill Politics.
It’s that’s time of year again. (UW, by the way, graduated this weekend, bringing scores of families and friends to Madison.) Look for both the First Lady and the President, along with other members of the political, economic, religious and intelligentsia classes, to pop up at college and university commencement ceremonies around the country. The President, by the way, will be speaking at a high school commencement at Booker T. Washington High in Memphis, Tennessee today.
Later Monday, Obama will address the graduates of Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, which was selected as the winner of a contest that the White House has put on the last two years in which schools compete to get president to speak at their commencement.
Based on a video submitted by its students and improvement in the school’s tests scores, the White House tapped Booker T. Washington as the only high school where Obama will give a graduation speech this year.
For those of you who are just now aware of Spelman College, where Michelle Obama spoke, it is one of the historically black college and universities (HBCUs) in the country, and could be termed the equivalent of Vassar or Barnard for African American women. It is 130 years old this year, and came into being in 1881, just after the end of Reconstruction. According to Wikipedia, “[t]he daughters of Bill Cosby, Henry Louis Gates, Gerald Levert, Martin Luther King, and Sidney Poitier attended Spelman. Spelman is also the alma mater of several notable Americans including the Executive Vice President of Walmart, Rosalind Brewer; Pulitzer Prize Winner, Alice Walker; Dean of Harvard College, Evelynn M. Hammonds, and actress Keshia Knight Pulliam.”
The graduates welled with pride upon her arrival, even as she clapped enthusiastically for their achievements. In Obama, the young women see the essence of the successful, black career women many of them hope to become. But her message to the Class of 2011 of service to others and helping the underserved also reflected her roles as first lady and a major campaigner for her husband.
Obama delivered four commencement addresses this season, and her choices were politically strategic as the president gears up for the 2012 campaign for a second term. She was in Iowa last week and in coming weeks will speak to graduating seniors at Quantico Middle High School in Virginia, to graduates whose parents serve at the Quantico Marine Base.
“Find those folks who have so much potential but so little opportunity and do for them what Spelman has done for you,” Obama said. “No matter where you go in the world, you will find folks who have been discounted or dismissed, but who have every bit as much promise as you have. They just haven’t had the chance to fulfill it. It is your obligation to bring Spelman to those folks. Be as ambitious for them as Spelman has been for you.
Spelman also competed with institutions across the country for the First Lady to appear as its commencement speaker. They too–parents, students, faculty as well as friends– along with Booker T. Washington High, campaigned for her presence not only with cards and letters but presented a You Tube video to the First Lady.
At the same ceremony, Spelman also conferred an honorary doctorate of laws degree on Obama, who earned her juris doctor from Harvard Law School in 1988.