Compete to Have Obama Speak at Your High School Commencement


In July of 2009, President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Race to the Top, a program to drive reform and reward excellence in our nation's schools. Race to the Top is primarily a federal grant program that encourages states and public school districts to make positive changes in education in exchange for large education grants.

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The Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge

On Friday, the White House and the Department of Education announced that they would challenge schools once more with The Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. This contest is for public high schools around the country that want to compete to have President Obama speak at their high school commencement ceremony. The contest is meant to draw attention to the president's Race to the Top campaign and reward the schools most devoted to academic excellence and college readiness.

'Public schools that encourage systemic reform and embrace effective approaches to teaching and learning help prepare America's students to graduate ready for college and a career,' President Obama said in a video announcing The Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.

obama video

Watch or download the full video message from President Obama.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the competition 'an amazing opportunity for our nation's high schools to share their accomplishments and aspirations.'

'I look forward to hearing about the many dedicated principals, teachers and parents who work tremendously hard to ensure and promote academic excellence, and I look forward to hearing about the many students across this country who are putting their education first and taking responsibility for their future,' Duncan said on Friday.

To participate in The Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge, schools must complete and submit a Commencement Challenge Application Form by Monday, March 15th at 11:59 pm EST.

The application includes four essay questions for students to answer. The questions ask students to demonstrate and explain the ways in which their school promotes academic excellence and supports the President's goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.


Additional materials can also be supplied to supplement the essay questions in the application. Allowable materials include:

  • Data on attendance, student achievement, graduation rates and college enrollment rates.
  • A two-minute video that showcases a school's culture, character and educational success.

The White House and Department of Education will selects six schools as finalists after the application deadline has passed. Each finalist will be featured on the White House website so that the public can vote for the three schools they like best. The President himself will then decide which of the final three finalists will win the contest.

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