#ObamaCommencement2020: The Westport Connection

It’s pretty clear that most American high school seniors will not have traditional graduations this year.

Caps and gowns, speeches, photos, the parties afterward — all will fall victim to COVID-19.

Searching for something to salvage, a senior named Lincoln thought: Why not ask Barack Obama to deliver a “national commencement address”?

On Tuesday he tweeted the former president. He added the hashtag #ObamaCommencement2020.

Then he watched his idea take off. As of last night, over 207,000 people had liked Lincoln’s tweet. It was retweeted over 41,000 times.

What makes this “06880”-worthy is that the student — Lincoln Debenham — is a former Westporter.

He lives now in Los Angeles, where he will graduate — with or without Obama — from Eagle Rock High School. But he’s got deep roots here.

He grew up here. He started at Staples High, before moving. Like his older brother Eli, he follows politics avidly.

(“06880” profiled Eli in 2016, when he helped run the phone banks for the Westport Democratic Town Committee. The next year, the entire Debenham family was featured, hosting their traditional Thanksgiving dinner for dozens of random people.)

Clockwise from top left: Eli, Lincoln and Matt Debenham, Caissie St. Onge.

But now Lincoln has snagged the national spotlight alone.

His message to Obama said: “Like most high school/college seniors, I’m saddened by the loss of milestone events, proms & graduation. 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 former president has not yet responded, though he was reported to be aware of the request. And flattered.

Meanwhile, national media picked up the story.

Lincoln told CNN that Obama is “someone who speaks for my generation. that’s what this is about. Hearing that voice of hope again.”

Like Lincoln Debenham, we’ve got our fingers crossed.

8 responses to “#ObamaCommencement2020: The Westport Connection

  1. As one whose work in the creative communications field has spanned five decades, having Barack Obama deliver a national commencement address to the class of 2020 is perhaps one of the most meaningful and inspired ideas I’ve ever heard. He is their John Kennedy. Bravo young man!

  2. Karl S. Taylor

    Great idea. I believe Mr. Obama would deliver the message that will help our country get its feet back on the ground again.

  3. I love this story. I am sure he will do it. When I worked at CBS News every year I did an end piece on The Evening News with a montage of commencement soundbites and it was always one of my favorites. These high school seniors deserve something special this year.


  4. Janette Kinnally

    These kids deserve to have someone special share a message of hope and inspiration. It would be great if he did something with Joe Biden since he is running for President and Barack Obama just endorsed him. It would be great to see them together again. Very inspiring.
    I hope it happens for all the kids graduating and moving up.
    And also if you are 18 and over, please register and vote this November!!!! 🙏❤️

  5. Marvelous and positive idea. I hope it happens for all the young people who need something positive at this time in America,.

  6. Denise Honeycutt

    Hats off to Lincoln and to the Debenham’s for raising such amazing boys!!!!

  7. Sal Liccione

    I use to work with Eli and Lincoln they come from a great family I do hope he comes back to WESTPORT and president does what he ask also Lincoln reach out to gov Lamont or Chris Murphy ok I am very proud of you and Eli if you get a chance Reach out to me call or Email me you how to find me ok