Barack Obama's Kalamazoo Commencement Speech: Sharing A Stage With The President

Simon Boehme is the salutatorian of Kalamazoo Central High School's class of 2010, and as such, he knew he'd be giving a speech during graduation ceremonies. What he didn't know until about a week ago is that he'd be giving that speech in front of President Barack Obama.

See, Boehme — along with his fellow Central classmates — helped create the winning entry in the White House's "Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge," a video called "We Are The Giants" that trumpeted the school's achievements in education and college readiness. As a result, Boehme knew that Obama would be giving the commencement speech at Central's graduation, which meant that he'd be sharing the stage with the leader of the free world. But unlike pretty much anyone we know, Boehme didn't cower from the spotlight. Instead, he used the opportunity to address the president directly, asking him to establish a youth leadership council.

"It took me a while to write down my speech, but I always knew I wanted to ask him about it," Boehme told MTV News. "It's something I'm passionate about. I formed an organization called the Youth Leadership Network that gives the youth a voice, and no president has made an all-youth council before, so it's a challenge to him."

And while Boehme may have been prepped for his speech (Obama would later joke that he was "glad" the Constitution forbids Boehme from running until he turns 35, since he wouldn't have to face off against him), there was one thing that the Central senior wasn't aware of: Obama's surprise visit with the graduating class, which took place before the actual ceremony.

"I had no idea it would happen. It was absolutely shocking and amazing and just something special that added to the day," Boehme said. "People were crying, it was so exhilarating and thrilling."

In the fall, Boehme will attend the University of Michigan, and not surprisingly, he already has his first internship lined up after doing some grad-night hobnobbing with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

"He told me he was going to help me out," Boehme said. "I'm looking for an internship."


Don't miss Nicole Allen's and Xavier Bolden's videos about President Obama's visit to Kalamazoo!

Get Schooled is a national program aimed at increasing high school and college graduation rates and promoting the importance of education, developed by Viacom in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.