Surprise! Obama Greets High School Students Moments Before Graduation

May 16, 2011 1:41pm

ABC’s Sunlen Miller reports: Amid tears and shrieks President Obama today surprised a roomful of high school graduates in Memphis, Tennessee this afternoon.

The president was to speak later at the Booker T. Washington High School Commencement
ceremony but the unknowing high school seniors, moments before attending their graduation ceremony, were surprised to have some extra face time with the President.  

“I just want to say how inspired we were,” Obama said to the surprised students waiting to go into their graduation ceremony, “We were inspired by the video you sent, inspired by the stories you told. We were inspired by how you turned this school around. Obviously a lot of that has to do with your outstanding principal”

The school had won the second annual “Commencement Challenge”  this year issued by the White House, awarding the school with a winning entry video  demonstrating their commitment to preparing students for college and a career.

The high school is in an impoverished area close to the site of Martin Luther King’s assassination and where Benjamin Hooks, the late head of the NAACP, attended high school. Memphis has been hit hard by recent flooding as well.

“This is mainly your day and your success,” Obama said, “Because a lot of you had to struggle to get here. Most of you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth. But what you’ve shown is determination, what you’ve shown is character, what you’ve shown is a willingness to work hard, and the ability to steer clear from folks who were trying to send you down the wrong path.”

Many among the 155 graduates, dressed in green and yellow caps and gowns, were crying, and President Obama at one point consoled a girl in the front row with her head down sobbing.

“This is just the beginning, this is not the end,” Obama said noting that he has “big expectation” for them.

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