What’s the Matter with Kansas

integrationmob
I’m sure space is the only consideration:

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — 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 wonder how many grandparents of current Topeka grads are pictured above, and how many of that group have changed their mind.

Thanks to reader J for sending this in.






93 replies
  1. 1
    Mike in NC says:

    So is that photo from 2010 or 2012?

  2. 2
    Walker says:

    I was at a college graduation were Bill Clinton spoke, while he was still president. Even as a supporter, I found it really annoying. The extra security limits the number of family members that can attend, and overshadows the entire ceremony. The best part of graduation is when you get on stage and your supporters cheer you on; that is lost in these cases.

  3. 3
    Cassidy says:

    Wow. A post with links and sources. Maybe Mix is learning!

  4. 4
    Baud says:

    @Walker:

    It’s always annoying, but the question is whether this type of opposition is common whenever a White House person speaks at a graduation. If so, then there is no story here.

  5. 5
    Jude says:

    Ten thousand quatloos to anyone who can photoshop this picture into the above segregationists.

  6. 6
    The Dangerman says:

    I’m with Walker; both an honor and a pain.

    I’m wondering why Kansas for a 60th Anniversary of BvBOE…

  7. 7
    Baud says:

    @The Dangerman:

    As opposed to where?

  8. 8
    Jude says:

    @The Dangerman: Uh, dude, you realize that was Brown vs. the TOPEKA, KANSAS, Board of Education, right?

  9. 9
    Literalreddy says:

    @The Dangerman:

    Uh. You do know that in the Brown v Board of Education case, the Board of Education was the Topeka, KS board of eduction, right?

  10. 10
    The Dangerman says:

    @Baud:

    As opposed to where?

    Just waking up but can one find a less diverse city than Topeka? OK, Salt Lake City, maybe.

  11. 11
    Baud says:

    @The Dangerman:

    Others have noted the significance of Topeka.

  12. 12
    The Dangerman says:

    @Jude:

    …you realize that was Brown vs. the TOPEKA, KANSAS, Board of Education, right?

    No, I didn’t; demerits and/or decaf for me this morning.

  13. 13
    RSA says:

    I’m ambivalent about Obama speaking at the graduation, but the reactions on the linked page give good insight into why some people might be upset. One of the first few comments begins,

    While I realize that the 60th anniversary of Brown v Board of education is a special day for the black community…

    Desegregation has no (positive) meaning for some white people, I guess.

    EDIT: Also in the comments, complaints about this being divisive. Ironic.

  14. 14
    amk says:

    murkans will win the worldwide WATB contest, hands down.

  15. 15
    hildebrand says:

    If folks want their high school graduation to memorable, what would you rather remember: 1. that things were a bit tight but you had Michelle Obama speak at your freaking high school graduation, or 2. that you pitched a fit because your great uncle you haven’t seen in your entire life (and whom your hoping will write a nice check as a present) might not be able to attend thus you chased off Michelle Obama from speaking at your high school graduation.

    Of course, I am absolutely certain that whomever is second choice for commencement speaker is just as good. /snark

  16. 16
    Lolis says:

    @Walker:

    I had the kind of graduation you wanted. It was boring and I barely remember. I would have taken Bill Clinton any day. My high school graduation was even less eventful.

  17. 17
    J says:

    @Lolis: I’m with Lolis, even though in my day it would have been Jimmy Carter (a worthy president, I agree, but I suspect, a less than electrifying speaker).

  18. 18

    More good publicity for Topeka. At least the Westboro atavists won’t have far to drive.

  19. 19
    dr. bloor says:

    I think I’m with Walker on this. It’s not just FLOTUS; it’s FLOTUS and a plane load of staff, secret service and media.

    No need to speculate on stuff like this when Kansas hands us unambiguous examples of 19th century thought and ethics on a pretty much daily basis.

  20. 20
    J says:

    The comments in the linked piece are very numerous and very disturbing–if you ever had any doubts, racism is alive and well in this country. Also worth noting are the numerous ‘likes’ awarded to some of the nastier ones.

  21. 21
    Joel says:

    @dr. bloor: … celebrating the anniversary of Brown versus the Board of Education. I think that’s a critical distinction.

    If people were genuinely concerned about inconvenience, they could have always discussed it with school administrators and dealt with the issue quietly.

  22. 22
    MattF says:

    I suppose it can be attributed to “just some God-fearing folks who hate Obama.” But… for me, that raises a few additional ‘awkward’ questions.

  23. 23
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    I think that having the First Lady speak at the graduation ceremony is a bad idea. There’s the fact that a few thousand attendees will have to go through far more rigorous security than they otherwise might have. Will any of the relatives and guests attempt to turn this into an attention-getting anti-Obama protest? My other objection is that having the First Lady speak on Brown v Board of Education seems a bit like sticking a thumb in the eye of Topeka schools by reminding them that they were, and maybe still are, racist. The graduation isn’t the venue. Michelle could give a speech nearby and not cause as a much disruption as she would by giving it before a captive audience. If Kansas is still a bastion of racism then a graduation speech by the First Lady will do little to change that.

  24. 24
    GregB says:

    Kwit yer race-baitin’ grievance mongerin’. Racism is dead!

    Link.

  25. 25
    Peter says:

    What an astonishing photo. Even if you erased the content of their signs and ignored all possible context, they would still look like a bunch of mouth breathing morons.

  26. 26

    Yes, Toto, we’re still in Kansas.

  27. 27
    gbear says:

    @Cassidy: I notice you forgot to post a link to your own blog…

  28. 28
    aimai says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate: I agree with Higgs Boson’s Mate. Not to excuse the obvious racist and anti-democrat text to most of the Kansas complaints but its just a bad idea for FLOTUS to be turned into a lightning rod for the ongoing racism and anti-federalism of Kansas’s red population.

    At this point in time the red states are becoming even more agressively anti-federal government, anti-president and first lady, anti-progressivism and liberalism and anti-desegregation. This can’t be cured by sticking a finger in their eye and letting them then, to mix my metaphors, shit all over the First Lady. Why offer them the chance to do it? She could commemorate Brown vs. Board of Education at a place that successfully integrated and where integration is now the norm rather than in a place where racism is still rampant.
    **ETA to add, though in the wrong place, that if you are old enough you remember that Jesse Helms told Bill Clinton he’d be shot by the troops if he came down to speak at a US military base in Jesse’s state. The level of sheer vitriol and hatred directed at Democratic Presidents and their wives when they are just doing their jobs and celebrating the Union itself simply can’t be underestimated.

    I’m sorry for the undoubted hundreds of non racist white and AA students who will be denied the chance to see the FLOTUS and hear her speak but it seems like its just giving the haters a chance to act
    out their hatred at top volume without any real successful rebuttal.

  29. 29
    gian says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    yeah, it’s best if the first lady and all other black people stay away from Topeka to avoid hurting racist fee fees, no point in spiking the football. that’s just so so, what’s the word?

    sorry. if the sins of the grandfathers result in getting Michelle to speak at the grandkids graduation, that’s a reward. my main concern is for safety.

    swear to god, the feelings of bigots need to be hurt.

  30. 30
    geg6 says:

    Having had several graduation ceremonies of my own and attending dozens in my professional life, I can say that, for myself, it’s better to have a memorable speaker than worrying about how many relatives, most of whom I couldn’t care less about, can attend. Far better. I don’t remember a single speaker at any of my own graduation ceremonies or anything they had to say. I do, however, remember a graduation at work for which Edward Albee spoke. It was awesome.

  31. 31
    Citizen_X says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    having the First Lady speak on Brown v Board of Education seems a bit like sticking a thumb in the eye of Topeka schools by reminding them that they were, and maybe still are, racist.

    Good. It’s the First fucking Lady, and they’re complaining? Fuck ’em.

  32. 32
    dr. bloor says:

    @Joel: I don’t really disagree that there’s likely an element of racism involved. I just think there are better examples to take into battle. Why would you give the Oblivious Centrists something they can equivocate on?

  33. 33
    coin operated says:

    Count me in the ‘bad idea’ camp, for all the good reasons articulated by Higgs & aimai above

  34. 34
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @aimai: Fuck this shit. Time to unleash the Ghost of Sherman on these assholes, and this time he takes the fucking gloves off.

  35. 35
    Joel says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    sticking a thumb in the eye of Topeka schools by reminding them that they were, and maybe still are, racist.

    That’s ridiculous. Obama’s speech — even now — would consist of “look how far we’ve come” platitudes with little, if any, critical subtext. Not a single soul would leave that auditorium/stadium butthurt based on the content of said speech.

  36. 36
    dmsilev says:

    I had Al Gore as my college graduation speaker (mid-90s), and there wasn’t much in the way of (visible) security. We were issued half a dozen or so tickets per graduate, but I think that was more or less standard and was based on how much space was available in the courtyard used for the ceremony.

    The speech was most memorable for this:

    One documented example occurred when Al Gore, then the Vice President of the United States, known for his liberal use of buzzwords hyping technology, spoke at MIT’s 1996 graduation. Hackers had distributed bingo cards containing buzzwords to the graduating class

    though it should be noted that someone tipped off Gore ahead of time (he referred to the bingo cards during his speech) and as far as I know nobody made bingo. I have this image of some poor staffer frantically crossing out words from the speech a few minutes prior…

  37. 37
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Joel:

    Obama’s speech — even now — would consist of “look how far we’ve come” platitudes with little, if any, critical subtext. Not a single soul would leave that auditorium/stadium butthurt based on the content of said speech.

    This. The only way Mrs. Obama’s speech could be seen as “spiking the football” is if the person watching it is still butthurt that there’s a black family in the White House. Really, we have to not rub conservatives’ noses in the fact that they fucking lost the argument? Since when?

  38. 38
    Schlemizel says:

    @geg6:
    Walter Mondale spoke at my HS graduation. It was an incredibly hot & sticky night in a very packed auditorium. I remember his talk very clearly. He said “I remember my graduation speaker, I don’t remember what he said but I do remember it took him 45 minutes to say it. You will be please to hear my speech is only 5 minutes.” He got a standing O and still finished under 5!

    I have no way of reading the minds of the people of KS. I am sure there are people who are concerned about the limits placed on attendance just as I am sure there are those exploiting that to let their racism run free. I do know I have grown to hate Presidential visits. The disruption and delays they cause well outweigh any desire I have to see any member of the administration or the alleged value of their presence.

  39. 39
    RepubAnon says:

    So, denying stridently anti-Muslim critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary degree (but allowing her to speak) is intolerance, while inviting the First Lady speaking at a high school graduation ceremony is insensitive. Because of freedom, no doubt. One would think that a teleconference site with viewing in a nice, air-conditioned (or via cable TV from home) could be arranged – or possibly a nearby sports arena with adequate seating could be obtained.

    Note, too, the use of the emotional ties to relatives appeal that also comes up in arguments about firearm transactions. “Suppose Grandfather wants to give his treasured shotgun to his granddaughter – but he’d have to have a background check first” has become: “What if Grandfather wanted to watch his granddaughter receive her diploma…” (Funny how nobody gets offended that Granddaughter would need to get a drivers license before using the treasured family car, and that transferring ownership of the treasured family home would need to be documented at the County Recorder’s office…)

    We’ll have to re-name BizarroWorld. Rather than Htrae (Earth spelled backwards), it can be “RepublicanWorld.”

  40. 40
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @RepubAnon: Frankly, I’m surprised that the more militant Muslim students at Brandeis are not calling for her death, which is of course what is supposed to happen to apostates.

  41. 41

    I have you all beat. My HS graduation speaker was a politician who later became a convicted criminal.

  42. 42
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Phil Perspective: Well, couldn’t be Richard Nixon, because Ford prevented the convicted part. George Ryan? Rod Blagojevich?

  43. 43
    satby says:

    I never went to a graduation that didn’t set limits on tickets with no one special speaking, big schools with a ton of kids around Chicago. And people complained about the limits and whatever else, because a certain percentage of people will always complain.

    At the same time, FLOTUS had to have been invited by someone, right? The White House didn’t summarily order the 5 high schools to combine their graduations I assume. She was invited to speak and accepted, a perfectly normal occurrence and an honor to the school(s) that she did accept. So that should all be sidelined by racists and complainers? I think not.

  44. 44
    hildebrand says:

    @aimai: Right – good people should always remain silent in the face of evil. Best not to antagonize them. Yes, I am being hyperbolic, but this is precisely the kind of defensive crouch attitude that is unbelievably counterproductive. Michelle Obama would approach this in the most productive way possible – have you ever seen her not? She is brilliant in these types of moments, and speaking directly to high school students with this kind of backdrop would be worth all of the potential difficulties. Denying this opportunity just because the bigots might do something awful? Aimai, I love your writing and, 99% of the time, your ideas, but you are acting as if you are writing for The New Republic with this one.

  45. 45
    WereBear says:

    As I recall, I have yet to attend a graduation where there wasn’t whining about the number of seats assigned. It is a trope of the Usual Suspects; if they didn’t get a ticket limit it’s not that they would invite more people.

    It’s that they have limits put on them. They just hate that. Like a two year old.

  46. 46
    martianchronic says:

    Hillary Clinton spoke at one of my university graduations. Not an electrifying speaker, but earnest and seemed like a lovely person. I don’t recall any extra security, but even with all the wild Clinton hating, there seems an extra edge of venomous crazy to the Obama hating that probably justifies more security measures. And I disagree that Topeka students should miss out in an historic privilege because of a minority of loudly complaining, begrudging assholes.
    The most unforgettable speaker ever at on of my graduations though, was not really a public figure. The composer of the Sesame Street theme song received an honorary degree and said a few words and, as soon as the crowd realized who he was, the entire auditorium of thousands of people broke out singing “Suuunny days, sweeping up cloooouds

  47. 47
    Cassidy says:

    @gbear: You are very observant. Are you a mystic?

  48. 48
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @WereBear:

    Like a two year old.

    Please. Compared to these people, two year olds are reasonable.

  49. 49
    Cassidy says:

    Fuck these bigoted piles of shit. Spit in their face, rub it in, spike the football on their minuscule little balls, whatever it takes to emasculate and humiliate them. They still deserve worse.

  50. 50
    Ruckus says:

    I get Higgs and aimai’s points. But for all the assholes in Kansas and other places there are lots of people who would be thrilled to hear the first lady speak. My graduation would have been memorable if someone, anyone important had spoken. And yes I’ve been affected by the presence of a president, I know it’s a pain in the ass. The bigots lost, twice. Yes a lot of white men didn’t vote for President Obama, so what? A lot still did, right along with all the rest of the people who elected him. It is time, way past time, to stand up, not to bow our heads that a percentage of people are racist assholes. More of us are not than are.

  51. 51
    Chris says:

    @aimai:

    There are no places anywhere in America where this kind of controversy won’t happen. No matter how cosmopolitan and not-racist the place is, the bigots will find a way to make it all about them.

    Take the Park51 community center in New York: it had been planned and announced for ages, it was in a much more cosmopolitan place than Kansas, and the polling showed that people in Lower Manhattan (e.g. the place where it was actually being built and which was actually attacked on 9/11) had no particular problem with it. You would think that would’ve been all there was to say about it: but no, Fox News and the rest of the Klavern decided it offended their precious fee-fees, a chorus of assholes most of whom had never been to Lower Manhattan backed them up, and it’s practically all we heard about for an entire summer.

    You cannot avoid clashes with bigots just by staying out of their way. It’s not just that it’s giving them too much importance. It’s not just that it’s a matter of principle. It’s not just that it would be disrespectful to everyone who isn’t a bigot and maybe wanted them to be the speakers. Much more simply than all that, it’s that accomodating them on this won’t solve the problem – no matter where they go, the bigots will follow and find a way to make controversy.

  52. 52
    J says:

    @aimai: The idea that having Michelle Obama, the first lady, speak at graduation could be viewed ‘as sticking a finger in their eye’ comes as a shock to me (not that I’m crediting you with sharing the view). I’m reluctant to endorse the ‘bad idea’ view, though I see and feel the force of the reasons. Perhaps naively, I dislike the idea of just accepting it as a given, inalterable fact of nature that we’re just stuck racist yahoos and must tip toe around them at all times. It seems to me monstrous that the many non-racist white and African American students whom you mentioned (and who would love to hear MO) should be deprived of the opportunity in order to accommodate the haters. I question whether framing the issue in terms of ‘not rubbing it in’ or ‘avoiding offending their sensitivities’ doesn’t already concede too much. (I’d guess that the theme of MO’s remarks would have been how much progress WE (meaning all Americans) have made.) One of the right wingers biggest lies is that ‘they just want to be left alone’. Their resentments and grievances are cultivated and carefully tended, and they’re constantly on the lookout for opportunities to take offense. Quite apart from all the other reasons why we shouldn’t accommodate them, the project is hopeless.

    More of this spirit, I say:

    http://0.tqn.com/d/arthistory/.....h-1964.jpg

  53. 53
    J says:

    @Chris: Looks as if we’re on the same page, Chris.

  54. 54
    martianchronic says:

    @martianchronic: Ah, damn. I fatfingered “publish” on my phone and can’t edit. Anyway, thousands and thousands of people spontaneously singing the Sesame Street song to the composer was the only transcendent moment I’ve ever experienced at a graduation – seriously, chills. I think moments like that must be pretty rare. I wonder if Michelle Obama speaking on desegregation in Topeka might deliver a moment like that. Nothing against her if she doesn’t – commencement speeches are mostly carefully arranged, laboured cliches. But there is the potential for something astonishing. What a shame it would be for the kids graduating to be robbed of that potential.

  55. 55
    ruemara says:

    I’m sorry, to those of you who think she should not speak, but you’re wrong. Flat out wrong. She was invited as a guest of several school districts. It is an honour and a privilege to have her accept. By acting this way, these residents of Kansas are essentially saying that there is no honour in having this particular FLOTUS speak to them and visit their part of America. They do a disservice that even at the height of the George W. Bush presidency, no community ever did. The BvsTBoE decision is supposed to be non-controversial, established law at this point. The fact you have a large section of the community embarrassing themselves to rescind the invite, as if there was some shame to have the First Lady of their country graciously thank them, inspire their children and pose for a few commemorative photos, should disgust you, rather than make you think that the minor inconveniences and limitations on invites is a burden. Really, rethink your stance.

  56. 56
    Julia says:

    I grew up in Topeka. I graduated from Topeka High School, which had a very diverse student body (as well as some of the most beautiful architecture that you will ever see). I learned the best lessons of my life attending that school. The reaction of the parents should be pride and pleasure that FLOTUS will be the commencement speaker; what a great honor! It will never be forgotten by those kids.

  57. 57
    dmsilev says:

    @martianchronic:

    The composer of the Sesame Street theme song received an honorary degree and said a few words and, as soon as the crowd realized who he was, the entire auditorium of thousands of people broke out singing “Suuunny days, sweeping up cloooouds

    The modern-day equivalent of Brahms receiving an honorary degree from the University of Breslau. Awesome.

  58. 58
    evolved beyond the fist mistermix says:

    @aimai: I think you have to pick your fights and this is one that was more-or-less smartly picked. Sixty years post Brown is a big deal. A high school graduation is the right place to commemorate it. Michelle Obama is a great choice of someone to commemorate it. And she was invited by the schools, she didn’t invite herself.

    As for the event, a lot of graduations have limited access, graduates are asked to show up incredibly early because the shuffling and arranging takes time, which often means families are sitting around waiting, too, and they are tedious events at best. Adding Michelle Obama to the mix adds a bit of celebrity appeal to what’s going to be a dull few hours no matter who speaks.

    And, according to this there’s bigger indoor venue (10,000 capacity), just move the damn event:

    http://stadiums.findthebest.co.....ndon-Arena

  59. 59
    recurvata says:

    Would these folks have protested if Reagan had been the speaker? I think not. ‘Nuff said.

  60. 60
    recurvata says:

    Would these folks have protested if Reagan had been the speaker? I think not. ‘Nuff said.

  61. 61
    Keith G says:

    During the 25 years I spent as a teacher at public schools, one of my most unpleasant jobs was that of a senior class advisor. Our graduating classes generally ran about 1000 students and the logistics made me respect the Dwight Eisenhower’s D-Day planning with a whole new sense of awe.

    When I graduated high school in the 1970s, I didn’t even want to attend the ceremony and my mom and dad showed up against my wishes. I was off to college in a few months and couldn’t get away from that small town and that school fast enough. I think it was the nature of the 1970s that most of my classmates felt the same way.

    During my stint as a class advisor, I was amazed at how many students had entire extended families attending graduation ceremonies. The necessity of putting limits on the number of guests each student could bring and how those limits were achieved and carried out was a headache beyond all headaches and yes there was at times a lot of shouting.

  62. 62
    evolved beyond the fist mistermix says:

    @Keith G: The organizers of these events deserve some kind of secular sainthood.

    My family has a tradition of attending high school graduations as sort of a family reunion/celebration. The places where our kids go to school have large venues so there’s no issue with the number of folks attending. But when my niece came down with stomach flu before her graduation a couple of years ago, what a relief it was that I could sit around and drink with family rather than enduring a couple of hot, stuffy, dull hours at a sports arena.

  63. 63
    Ruckus says:

    @evolved beyond the fist mistermix:
    The only memorable part of my HS graduation was when we had to turn in the fake diploma that we had been handed on stage along with our cap/gown to get our actual diploma. Girl(honor student!) a couple of students ahead of me turning her cap and fake diploma, was handed her real diploma, took off her gown and handed that in. Turned out she was several months pregnant, for which she would have been thrown out of school and she for sure would not have been given her diploma. I don’t think anyone knew, if they did, no one was talking. Best bit of civil disobedience I’ve ever witnessed.

  64. 64
    martianchronic says:

    @dmsilev: It was joyous. An utterly unexpected moment of cultural unity and the atmosphere in the auditorium, a basketball arena actually, seemed electric with happiness. I’ve often thought about what it must have been like for the composer to experience that. To see how amazingly meaningful the little sing he wrote for a children’s show of public television turned out to be. It’s a pretty great commencement that can give you so much to think about life, work, community and the meaning thereof.

  65. 65
    martianchronic says:

    @martianchronic: Excuse my many typos, please. I should probably never comment when I can’t edit.

  66. 66
    Mnemosyne says:

    @martianchronic:

    I heard a story about why Steve Jobs got involved with Pixar and animation. Paraphrasing a bit (because I can’t find the quote), he told John Lasseter that Apple made cool stuff that would be obsolete after three years, but Pixar made stories that could still be watched and enjoyed by millions for years to come — stories that would (potentially) live forever. And, to Jobs, that was much cooler than coming up with the latest-and-greatest gadget.

  67. 67
    JustRuss says:

    @Chris:

    There are no places anywhere in America where this kind of controversy won’t happen.

    Bullshit. Michelle Obama spoke at Oregon State University’s commencement a couple years ago, and if anybody got worked up about it they were roundly ignored. I lived in the midwest in the 80s and found it far more racist than the West coast. I haven’t seen any indication that’s changed. We’re far from perfect when it comes to race, but there are parts of the country that are far worse, including Kansas, or at least Topeka.

  68. 68
    martianchronic says:

    @Mnemosyne: It is a kind of personal immortality, isn’t it? That even if no one remembers your name, this thing you had a part in creating goes on touching people’s lives, hopefully for the good. That the very culture has your mark on it.
    I had never experienced joy as an embodied thing outside of myself before that day. Palpable like a presence in the room connecting everyone. As an artist, I still think about that a lot, the reality of that kind of connection for good and bad, what it means to create something that has a life outside of you and is bigger than your own bounds. I wonder if or how much public figures like Michelle and Barack Obama have a sense of that? My husband was at the anti-war demo where then State Senator Barack Obama gave his “Not This War” speech, and he came home raving about it. Apparently, that was one of those moments and I wonder, do you know when you’ve done it, really reached beyond yourself? Can you see the moment coming? Jobs was famous for his vision, so I guess he could. I wonder what thoughts Michelle has about the this commencement people are fighting to deny her, about the shape her words might take, the space they will fill.

  69. 69
    cmorenc says:

    True, there is a scattering of comments to the linked article which are motivated by covert racism or political animus toward the Obamas.

    HOWEVER, the majority of comments are directed toward the fact that having a single combined graduation ceremony for five large Topeka high schools is of itself a bad plan that will inherently produce a tiresomely lengthy program, even without a keynote speaker such as Michelle Obama (five sets of valadictorian/salutatorian speeches, time required for graduates of five high schools to walk across the stage and receive diplomas). The objection by the majority of commenters is that adding Michelle Obama to the program is an unnecessary complication to an already cumbersome situation.

    THAT SAID, the second-most frequent objection was that Michelle Obama represented a distraction from what the proper focus of high school graduations should be – the students. I DO suspect that a high proportion of those voicing objections along this line are actually motivated by covert racism or political animus. QUERY: how many previous Topeka h.s. graduation ceremonies in recent years had keynote speakers (especially ones in “combined” ceremonies for several high schools), and if so, who were these speakers and how many of these commneters objected back then on similar grounds?

  70. 70
    dww44 says:

    @amk: We already did that. But, if it remotely involves race and the current First Lady, it gets magnified 10 fold. Why can’t we sometimes be more gracious, open-minded, and accepting? This is an honor for those graduates and their families. Too bad they can’t see it that way.

  71. 71
    dww44 says:

    @gian: This.

  72. 72
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @JustRuss: Yeah, well Michelle’s brother has a gig at OSU, so there’s that.

  73. 73
    skerry says:

    @dmsilev: His name was Joe Raposo.

  74. 74
    hildebrand says:

    Well, now I know that she needs to speak at the event, my right-wing sisters have been posting articles throughout the day on Facebook celebrating that the freedumb loving students and parents of Topeka are raising a stink about her speaking. If FLOTUS doesn’t speak, the wingnuts declare victory. I, for one, would rather them froth with impotent rage as she delivers a great speech marking important moments (the student’s graduation and the anniversary – which is like gift-wrapping a speech opportunity for a speech-writer).

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    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @recurvata: Would they have objected to Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, or Laura Bush? Or for that matter, Pat Nixon? Probably wouldn’t have objected to Lady Bird Johnson or Rosalynn Carter, although I’m sure they’d have objected to known lesbian lover of Vince Foster Hillary Clinton.

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    Ben Cisco says:

    @ruemara: Damned right. “Let’s not rile the bigots” would be positively Brooksian except he’d never acknowledge the bigotry in the first place. Aren’t thise who are left of center supposed to be better than this? Quit rolling over for these assholes, people!

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    Mnemosyne says:

    @ruemara:

    Not to mention the president’s personal family connection to Kansas.

    Really, telling the First Lady she should stay home gets stupider and stupider the more I think about this.

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    hildebrand says:

    @Mnemosyne: Yep. We always say that we want the Obamas to fight back, but when the time comes for them to fight back against the unrelenting tide of bigoted stupid, our very concerned people start clutching their pearls about how the mean and nasty bigots might react.

    Badly. They will react badly. They will always react badly. We know this. The First Lady could cure cancer and they would react badly.

    Thus, if she has a chance to speak an important word at an important moment, she needs to do so. Why would we want to abet the bigotry of the haters?

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    billcoop4 says:

    Indoor graduation ceremonies ALL have limited seating–in my experience in several high schools and in conversation with other teachers–most students receive 5 or so tickets for indoor ceremonies (in the gym)–when they are outdoors (on the football field), there’s no limit.

    So no one should be surprised by limited seats. If Topeka’s graduating 5,000 students, there’s a problem. If Topeka’s graduating 2000, that’s about 4 per student.

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    AxelFoley says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    @aimai: Fuck this shit. Time to unleash the Ghost of Sherman on these assholes, and this time he takes the fucking gloves off.

    Co-signeth.

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    AxelFoley says:

    @Ruckus:

    I get Higgs and aimai’s points. But for all the assholes in Kansas and other places there are lots of people who would be thrilled to hear the first lady speak. My graduation would have been memorable if someone, anyone important had spoken. And yes I’ve been affected by the presence of a president, I know it’s a pain in the ass. The bigots lost, twice. Yes a lot of white men didn’t vote for President Obama, so what? A lot still did, right along with all the rest of the people who elected him. It is time, way past time, to stand up, not to bow our heads that a percentage of people are racist assholes. More of us are not than are.

    Well said.

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    Ruckus says:

    @AxelFoley:
    They came for….
    And I said nothing.
    They came for….

    It’s way past time to stand up.
    We want this country to be better?
    Then we have to make it better.

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    J R in WV says:

    I just grateful for how open and honest the bigots appear to be!

    Obviously no other reason to complain than the obvious fact that Michelle is black. Otherwise the woman is beautiful, brilliant, educated and accomplished. Even if she weren’t the First Lady of the country, she would be over qualified to speak at Topeka’s H S graduation ceremony!

    I hope she tears the place down with a barn-burner of a speech that lights a fire under all these kids who have succeeded in making it through the educational system!

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    Bill in Section 147 says:

    I have had lots of family members graduate at limited seating/access venues. Yes I was unhappy that not anyone and everyone could attend. None of them had a single news story about the complaining parents.

    None of them had any person of consequence speaking. If I had a relation at this thing I would be just as unhappy that I did not get in but I would be so jealous of that kid. To be in a graduating class that has such an important speaker on the 50th Anniversary of such an event is awesome.

    It is sad that some Parents cannot see past their own ideology.

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    JustRuss says:

    There’s been a couple graduations where limited seating meant I had to skip the couple hours of speechifying and parade of black gowns and settle for attending the graduation party. I’m trying to figure out why anybody thinks that’s a bad thing.

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    DK says:

    This article is shamefully under reporting the situation and race-baiting, and I say this as a virulent defender of Obama, from left and right.

    This time though, I’m not convinced. The petiontioner is a fan of FLOTUS and describes how kids erupted in joy and tears when the first lady’s appearance was initially announced. The problems (and petition) only arose once the Board let on that her appearance would require a 8,000 person combined graduation ceremony and limited seating to make room for officials, dignitaries and whatnot. Additionally, extra security measures would complicate and prolong the day, and overshadow the graduation where the focus should be on the kids.

    THAT is the thing to which the kids are objecting and I sympathize. Of course racist Teathuglican adult are going to latch on, like always. But that shouldn’t generate crass accusations of racism from a group of Obama supporting teens, once of whom opposes the visit but described herself to reporters as a die-hard Obamacrat.

    The kids are right. The Board screwed up. They and the City of Topeka should have organize some other official event on another day dedicated to the Brown v. Board anniversary. Instead they have created an unnecessary furor with divisive racial overtones by trying to do it on the cheap, force families to sit through a crazily long 8,000 person (!) graduation with security complications, and turn a high school graduation into a political flashpoint. It’s the City and the Board who are disrespecting Mrs. Obama by not rolling out the red carpet, not the petitioning teens — this seems like a lazy decision by resentful officials who really don’t want anything to do with the anniversary and don’t want to plan.

    I’m sorry bigots have latched on, but I’m with the kids on this one. Even here in liberal L.A. people are upset at the Obama fundraiser traffic nightmares. They respect him, yes, but they have lives to lead. And nobody is going to accuse Los Angeles of Obama-hate.

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    DK says:

    This article shamefully under reports the motives and thus ends up race-baiting inappropriately, and I say this as an unapologetic Truman Democrat who thinks the Republican Party is a neo-Confederate alliance of greedy corporatists, selfish libertarian objectivists, and homophobic/xenophobic rubes who cannot ever again be trusted to take the reigns of this nation. I know the Internet does not lend itself to nuance, but some controversies are more complicated than “They’re racist!”

    The petitioner is a fan of FLOTUS and describes how her peers erupted in joy and tears when the appearance was initially announced. The objections only arose once the Board let on that accommodating Mrs. Obama would require an 8,000 person combined graduation (can you imagine) and limited seating to make room for officials, dignitaries and whatnot. Additionally, extra security measures would complicate and prolong the day, and overshadow the graduation where the focus should be on the kids.

    THAT is the thing to which the kids are objecting and I sympathize. Of course racist Teathuglicans are going to latch on. But that shouldn’t generate crass accusations of racism about a group of liberal teens, one of whom opposes the visit but described herself to reporters as a die-hard Obamacrat.

    The kids are right. The Board screwed up. They and the City of Topeka should have organized some other official event on another day dedicated to the Brown v. Board anniversary. Instead they have created an unnecessary furor with divisive racial overtones by trying to do it on the cheap, force families to sit through a crazily long 8,000 person (!) graduation with security complications, and turn the kids’ big day into a political flashpoint about something other than their commencement. It’s the City and the Board who are disrespecting FLOTUS, not the petitioning teens — this seems like a lazy decision by resentful officials who really don’t want anything to do with the anniversary and don’t want to plan and roll out the red carpet.

    I’m sorry bigots have latched on, but I’m with the kids on this one. Even here in liberal L.A. people abhor the twice-yearly Obama fundraiser traffic nightmares. They respect him, yes, but they have daily activities to accomplish.

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    Keith G says:

    @DK:

    I know the Internet does not lend itself to nuance, but some controversies are more complicated than “They’re racist!”

    A view shared by fewer and fewer. It’s as if extreme emotional volatility on one side is nurturing the same on the other.

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    Patricia Kayden says:

    @DK: The graduation sounds like it is going to be a nightmare but I’m sure everyone will survive. Looking forward to FLOTUS’ speech.

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