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Monday
May162011

Obama Surprises Tennessee High School Seniors at Graduation

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- Amid tears and shrieks, President Obama on Monday surprised a roomful of high school graduates in Memphis, Tennessee. The president was to speak later at the Booker T. Washington High School Commencement ceremony but the unknowing high school seniors, moments before attending their graduation ceremony, were surprised to have some extra face time with the president.

"I just want to say how inspired we were," Obama said to the surprised students waiting to go into their graduation ceremony. "We were inspired by the video you sent, inspired by the stories you told. We were inspired by how you turned this school around. Obviously a lot of that has to do with your outstanding principal."

The school had won the second annual "Commencement Challenge" this year issued by the White House, awarding the school with a winning entry video demonstrating the school's commitment to preparing students for college and a career.

The high school is in an impoverished area close to the site of Martin Luther King's assassination and where Benjamin Hooks, the late head of the NAACP, attended high school. Memphis has been hit hard by recent flooding as well.

Many among the 155 graduates, dressed in green and yellow caps and gowns, were crying, and President Obama at one point consoled a girl in the front row with her head down sobbing.

"This is just the beginning, this is not the end," Obama said noting that he has "big expectation" for them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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