From Lincoln To Obama: 2020 Grad Speech Has Westport Roots

More than 3 million high school students will not have a traditional graduation this spring.

But the COVID-stricken Class of 2020 will have something no other group could dream of: a televised national commencement address from Barack Obama.

And those millions of students have one person to thank: fellow senior Lincoln Debenham.

He’ll be graduating with them from Los Angeles’ Eagle Rock High School. But he grew up in Westport and spent 2 years at Staples High School, before moving with his parents to California.

Lincoln Debenham …

In mid-April Lincoln tweeted an invitation to the former president, to deliver a commencement address. It quickly earned hundreds of thousands of likes, and retweets.

This afternoon, Obama said “sure!”

In fact, he’ll do more than one.

“Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020” is an hour-long, multi-platform event. It airs at 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 16 on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and other broadcast and digital streaming partners.

Special guests include LeBron James, Malala Yousafzai, the Jonas Brothers, Yara Shahidi, Bad Bunny, Lena Waithe, Pharrell Williams, Megan Rapinoe, H.E.R. and Ben Platt.

On Saturday, June 6 (3 p.m.), Obama and his wife Michelle will take part in YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020.” The couple will deliver separate commencement addresses.

They’ll be joined an array of leaders from many fields, including Malala Yousafzai, Sundar Pichai, former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys and Kerry Washington.

… and Barack Obama.

Obama will also participate in “Show Me Your Walk, HBCU Edition,” a 2-hour event May 16 for students at historically black colleges and universities.

Lincoln heard the news from his mother — not the Obamas. Still, he’s stoked.

“This means a whole lot to me,” he told ABC News.

“The class of 2020 as well as anybody who wants to tune in are going to hear inspiration and uplifting words from these two amazing people who my generation grew up following. It’s what need right now and I’m glad Mr. and Mrs. Obama were so kind to agree to do it.”

As for Lincoln: He’s headed to California State University in Los Angeles.

And perhaps, a great career as a media influencer.

7 responses to “From Lincoln To Obama: 2020 Grad Speech Has Westport Roots

  1. Mary Cookman Schmerker

    As the grandmother of two high school seniors this brings tears of joy. How wonderful and gracious of all the participants but especially President Obama.

  2. Ngassam Ngnoumen

    Great insight here! Leadership has never really been about titles but about those who care enough to act and in doing so influence others for a better outcome. It is heartwarming to hear that the spark that helped ignite the initiative to help uplift all these gradating seniors during this difficult time, can be traced back to a Staples High School alumnus! Wishing him all the best.

  3. Mary Schmerker

    P.s. I hit enter too soon. I meant to add Thank you Lincoln for your thoughtfulness, ingenuity and determination. You have a future ahead of you that many will benefit from.

  4. Nancy McKeever

    Wow! Here’s to young people, creativity, reaching out, and asking and here’s to responsiveness, caring and leadership on the part of the Obamas!! This sounds great!

  5. Rebecca Ellsley

    This is fantastic great job Lincoln for asking this. I am not graduating but look forward to hearing these speeches. It would also be a great time for Michelle to announce her running for president? Lincoln can you start that tweet and let’s get her to do this too please.

  6. Liz Videler

    AWESOME!!! Must watch!!

    Liz Videler The Riverside Realty Group 1254 Post Road East Westport, CT 06880 (203)858-3645

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. Rozanne Gates

    I am overwhelmed with joy by what you did, Lincoln, by President Obama and Mrs. Obama’s response. It has been a long, long time since I have felt this good about anything in this country. I hope everyone watches and I hope we see what is possible when love and sanity lead the way.