The First Lady Visits Topeka for Senior Appreciation Day

On Friday, the First Lady traveled to Topeka, Kansas to celebrate the high school class of 2014 and mark the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Families, friends, teachers, counselors, and elected officials all gathered and packed the 10,000-seat Expocentre to cheer on the students in their caps and gowns and welcome Mrs. Obama to Topeka. The First Lady's words celebrated the students of Topeka, while framing their graduation in the larger context of spreading their experience of diversity and tolerance across the country and across generations.

Her message was clear: "When you grow up in a place like Topeka, where diversity is all you've ever known, the old prejudices just don't make any sense." The experience and exposure of the Topeka class of 2014 has made them all the richer. Going to school with students of different races, creeds, cultures, and religions has made them understand and appreciate diversity as second nature. Something almost unimaginable in 1954.

But we also know that too many students and schools across the country do not look enough like Topeka. There are school districts across the country as segregated as they were when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. passed away. And the opportunity gap for too many of our students of color means that they are more likely to be in schools with less experienced teachers, fewer resources, and fewer opportunities, like fewer advanced placement course offerings.

That is why it is incumbent on all of us to keep fighting for better schools, equity of opportunity, and a more tolerant society. As the First Lady said, although 60 years have passed, "Brown is still being decided every single day -- not just in our courts and schools, but in how we live our lives." And that means young people continuing to speak out against intolerance; fighting for diversity and equity; and helping others understand, speak about, and break through our complicated history with race and class. When we do those things -- when we make opportunity and education possible for everyone -- we are living the true legacy of Brown v. Board.

Watch First Lady Michelle Obama's remarks celebrating the high school seniors of the Topeka Public Schools:

Related Topics: Education, Kansas
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