First lady to tout diversity in Kansas

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First lady Michelle Obama will speak to high school seniors in Topeka, Kansas, on Friday evening about the importance of diversity, just a day before the 60th anniversary of a landmark Supreme Court case outlawing school segregation.

A senior administration official said the address, which comes a day before graduation for the students, will focus on the need for diversity and how the core principles of Brown v. Board of Education, which originated in Topeka, are still “very much alive today.”

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The address comes on the heels of a dustup that had the first lady scrap plans to deliver a graduation address, after more than 1,000 people signed a petition in protest. The petition began after students were told they would be limited to six tickets a piece for the graduation due to security concerns around the first lady’s appearance. 

As a result, the White House decided Obama would instead deliver the remarks a day earlier at “Senior Recognition Day,” which will honor the high school seniors from schools in the Topeka public school district.

The senior official said the first lady’s speech would be focused on celebrating the graduating students’ achievements while marking the anniversary of the historic case.

Obama is not expected to reference the controversy around the graduation speech.

While the first lady will pay tribute to the Supreme Court decision, it is unclear whether President Obama would also address the anniversary.

Addressing reporters on Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney simply called the landmark decision one that “went at one of the core issues around civil rights and access to education for African-Americans.

“It’s one of the most important decisions that the Supreme Court ever issued,” Carney said. “So it’s obviously an important anniversary.” 

While in Kansas on Friday, the first lady, who has ramped up her work on education issues in recent months, is also expected to meet with a group of high school students participating in a program set up by the Department of Education, which helps low-income students attend college.