Paging former president Barack Obama: You are cordially invited to the class of 2020 commencement. Thousands of students throughout the country took to Twitter to express their desire to have Obama deliver a nationwide commencement speech after one high school senior from Los Angeles posted a tweet asking the former president to speak. Within five hours, the tweet was retweeted over 40,000 times with almost 200,000 likes, and even celebrities reposted it, Business Insider reported.
Not only did one Obama accept the invitation—Michelle Obama responded Tuesday too, confirming that the couple will join the class of 2020 in multiple events as part of a #GraduateTogether2020 special. The first event, “Show Me Your Walk HBCU Edition,” will honor students at historically Black colleges and universities. A virtual commencement for the high school class of 2020 will take place the same day, May 16, and an address to the class of 2020 will take place on June 6.
“I’ve always loved joining commencements—the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice. Even if we can’t get together in person this year, Michelle and I are excited to celebrate the nationwide Class of 2020 and recognize this milestone with you and your loved ones,” Obama said on Twitter. The “Dear Class of 2020” speeches being delivered through YouTube will feature a variety of “global leaders, celebrities, creators and other voices,” in addition to the former president and former first lady’s address, a statement said according to PEOPLE. A spokesperson told the magazine the couple plans to share advice and inspiration across multiple platforms.
As the novel coronavirus continues to disrupt lives across the country, many students have taken to social media to express their grief over canceled graduation ceremonies and other commemorable events. Lincoln Debenham, a senior at Eagle Rock High School, sent out his request tagging Obama on April 14. A viral hashtag–#ObamaCommencement2020–quickly made its way around Twitter, with thousands pleading for Obama to spread hope in this difficult time. Debenham shared that Obama is an “icon” for his generation who not only speaks to them but spreads hope.
“[The Class of 2020] got to vote for Barack Obama in mock elections when they were little kids, and they got to watch Barack Obama become the first black president and get sworn in while they were in school,” Debenham told CNN. “I remember watching that in the classroom and feeling kind of amazed at such a young age and feel like I was a part of history.”
When someone on Twitter replied to Debenham’s request that “[Donald] Trump would hate it!” Debenham said: “Whether he does or not, it isn’t about that. It’s about someone who speaks for my generation. […] That’s what this is about. Hearing that voice of hope again.” Since the announcement on Twitter Tuesday morning, thousands have replied expressing their excitement in addition to thanking the former president and former first lady for their gift of hope. Debenham succeeded in bringing some joy to students nationwide who are affected by this virus.