Tag Archives: Lincoln Debenham

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.

#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.

Everyone’s Welcome At This Turkey Table

Caissie St. Onge will never forget the day her younger son Lincoln was born. It was the same day the family moved to Westport. While she was in the hospital, friends hauled furniture into her recently purchased home.

Back in Brooklyn, Caissie — a TV industry veteran, who is now co-executive producer of Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live” — usually worked right up to Thanksgiving.

Because it was hard for many young co-workers to get home for the holiday, Caissie and her husband, Matt Debenham, hosted a few for the turkey meal.

Several years ago, they revived that tradition here.

“We live in one of the smallest houses in Westport,” Caissie says. “But we can fit 20 people in our living room.”

Friends loan tables and chairs. This year, for the first time, Caissie and Matt got a tent for the deck.

The living room, ready for guests.

Some guests take the train from New York. Caissie’s son Eli shuttles them back and forth from the station.

Eli is now a freshman at Southern Connecticut State University; Lincoln is sophomore at Staples High. As they grow older, they like the event more. Both are good at talking with adults — though the guests include random children too.

Each year, the number grows. Caissie does not know some of them. “They’re friends of friends of friends,” she says. “Everyone is welcome.”

One newcomer tomorrow will be a woman spending her first Thanksgiving away from her now-grown children.

Thanksgiving can be pressure-filled, Caissie notes. “It can be lonely. Even if you stay home and cook with your family, it can be stressful. So I figured, since I’m cooking, I might as well cook for everybody.”

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

Caissie’s family provides turkey and ham. Some guests bring wine or dessert. It’s all served buffet-style.

In the past, people started coming at 2 p.m. This year they’ve pushed it back to 3.

“We’ve had snafus, like blown fuses and the timing for cooking being wrong,” Caissie says cheerfully.

Many guests stay until 9 or 10.

“It goes by in a flash,” Caissie says. “I wish it could last longer. We really enjoy welcoming people into our home.”