An Obama source tells PEOPLE they are flattered by the request

By Sean Neumann
April 15, 2020 06:43 PM
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Facing no graduation ceremonies because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, high school and college seniors — as well as celebrities and many others online — are rallying behind a request for former President Barack Obama to deliver a “national commence speech” for the class of 2020.

“Hi @BarackObama! Like most high school/college seniors, I’m saddened by the loss of milestone events, prom & graduation,” reads the initial tweet from Tuesday, from a student identified online as Lincoln. “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.”

The social distancing required to slow the coronavirus has also meant the cancellation of numerous public events, including proms and graduations.

Lincoln’s idea quickly gained steam, with thousands of retweets and tens of thousands of likes as of Wednesday afternoon.

The hashtag #ObamaCommencement2020 began trending shortly after the original tweet on Tuesday night.

Rosie O’Donnell retweeted the request and called it a “great idea.”

“That might help my high school senior smile about missing out on her prom, graduation and other senior activities,” another user wrote. “I hope he does do it! Mr. @BarackObama, it’s a great idea!”

An Obama source tells PEOPLE they are flattered but don’t yet have any response.

Some users also called for former First Lady Michelle Obama — who spent much of last year on a sold-out book tour with her memoir, Becoming — to join in and collaborate with her husband for the commencement speech.

“I want to see Michelle Obama too,” one user requested.

Former President Barack Obama delivers the commencement speech at Howard University in 2016.
| Credit: Alex Wong/Getty

President Obama, 58, became famous in part for his striking public speaking style, famously championing the “Yes We Can” message during his 2008 presidential campaign. He has delivered a number of commencement speeches as well.

The former first lady has also given commencement speeches and has had a specific focus on students as of late.

Mrs. Obama traveled to Vietnam last December alongside Julia Roberts and Today co-host Jenna Bush Hager for an “emotional” trip in which she visited local schools to promote young women’s education.

In March, Mrs. Obama also launched a new IGTV series on Instagram — A Year of Firsts — documenting the life of a group of first-year college students in order to help spread awareness about the journey teenagers embark on when adjusting to life as a college student.

President Barack Obama delivering the commencement speech at Barnard College in 2012.
| Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty

“As a first-generation college student myself, I know how intimidating it can be to take that leap and pursue your educational dreams,” Mrs. Obama, 56, said in the premiere episode.

“By sharing their stories, they’re helping others see that the ups and downs of the first year of college are something everyone goes through—and they’re creating a supportive community for others facing similar challenges,” she added.

Now, students are asking the Obamas to deliver an inspirational message in the most uncertain time they’ve faced.

“Wether he does or not, it isn’t about that,” Lincoln, the student who initially tweeted the request, said in a follow-up tweet. “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.”

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