In addition to putting millions of people out of work, the global COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancellation of social, sports, and educational events nationwide. As a result, graduating students will not have the opportunity to experience milestones like their senior trip, prom, or a traditional commencement ceremony. However, to help soften the blow, one high school senior has called on former President Barack Obama to step up to the virtual podium and deliver a national commencement speech.
On Tuesday, Lincoln Debenham, a senior at Eagle Rock High School in Los Angeles, posted a tweet pleading with Obama to deliver a digital address to the graduating class of 2020. The teen asked Obama to use his assuring voice to comfort the many students who feel disheartened by the current circumstances. His tweet quickly went viral as thousands of others shared their support for the idea using the hashtag #ObamaCommencement2020.
Hi @BarackObama! Like most high school/college seniors, I’m saddened by the loss of milestone events, prom & graduation. In an unprecedented time, it would give us great comfort to hear your voice. We ask you to consider giving a national commencement speech to the class of 2020.
— Lincoln (@lincolnjackd) April 15, 2020
The 17-year-old student said that he and his older brother wrote the tweet after Obama endorsed his former vice president, Joe Biden, on Tuesday for the Democratic presidential nomination.
When one user suggested it could potentially upset President Donald Trump, Debenham said that wasn’t the intent behind the request. Rather, he reasoned that he and his peers want to hear from Obama because he’s a voice for his generation.
“It isn’t about that. It’s about someone who speaks for my generation. Like Barack Obama was the first President I can remember. The classroom mock elections, watching his inauguration in school. That’s what this is about. Hearing that voice of hope again,” he tweeted.
The high school senior went on to describe the impact Obama has had on his life.
“They 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.”
A spokeswoman for Obama told CNN that they were aware of the tweets and “very flattered” but declined to comment further.
Obama gave several commencement addresses while he was president, including Howard University, the University of Michigan, Rutgers University, and Arizona State University. The 44th president, however, has not delivered a commencement keynote since he left office.