STORY VIA MLIVE.COM
President Obama wows Kalamazoo crowd with advice, humor and local shoutouts
KALAMAZOO — Best. Commencement. Ever.
A packed arena, gussied up in high style. International media coverage, including an appearance by NBC “Today” host Matt Lauer. A pre-graduation pep talk to students by the U.S. Secretary of Education. And a graduation address by none other than the president of the United States.
Two months ago, Kalamazoo Central High School’s graduation was marked on the calendars of family and friends. By Monday, it was the hottest ticket in town — thanks to President Barack Obama’s selection of Kalamazoo as winner of his first annual Race To The Top High School Commencement Challenge, which earned K-Central a presidential visit.
An “extraordinary place,” Obama called Kalamazoo in his address Monday at University Arena on Western Michigan University’s campus.
“I’m here tonight because I think that America has a lot to learn from Kalamazoo Central about what makes for a successful school in this new century,” Obama said in his 24-minute address.
“You’ve got educators raising standards and then inspiring their students to meet them. You’ve got community members who are stepping up as tutors and mentors and coaches. You got parents who are taking an active interest in their child’s education — attending those teacher conferences, yes, turning off the TV once in a while, making sure homework gets done.”
Besides lavish praise for Kalamazoo — which included shoutouts to the Kalamazoo Gazette, the class valedictorian and salutatorian, the boys’ basketball team, Central alum Derek Jeter and the anonymous donors behind The Kalamazoo Promise — Obama’s address included both humor and advice.
At one point, Obama referenced the mistakes of his youth. “Sometimes I partied a little too much,” he said — a comment that drew applause from some.
“This is a cautionary tale,” Obama responded in mock dismay. “Don’t be cheering when I say that.”