Obama Speaks To Joplin Graduates
The President addresses students graduating from a Missouri high school struck by a deadly tornado last year
After Joplin High School was destroyed by the tornado, many students continued their studies in temporary classrooms at the town mall. (Rich Sugg / Kansas City Star / MCT / Newscom)
The tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, last year was one of the deadliest ever recorded in the U.S. Many people died, and hundreds of homes were destroyed. For many who live here, President Obama’s decision to meet and speak with the town’s graduating class provided welcome encouragement on the road to recovery.
On Monday, more than 4,500 people filled a gymnasium to hear what the President would say. Recovery has been slow since a brutal tornado ripped through the town last May. The span of the storm’s winds was about a mile wide at times. The tornado demolished more than 7,500 buildings.
The tornado’s damage greatly affected students at Joplin High. Their school was one of the buildings destroyed by the storm, which touched down moments after the 2011 graduation ceremony ended. Of the 161 lives lost, 7 were students from Joplin High.
“You are from Joplin. You are from America. And no matter how tough times get, you will be tougher,” the President told students, parents, and friends from the community. “No matter what life throws at you, you will be ready. You will not be defined by the difficulties you face, but how you respond with strength, and grace, and a commitment to others.”
ROAD TO RECOVERY
About 50,000 people live in Joplin. Although the tornado hit more than a year ago, rebuilding the small city will take years. Officials have not yet been able to rebuild the six city schools destroyed by the storm.
But to prevent students from being transferred to schools in nearby towns, the community came together to build temporary classrooms in Joplin’s shopping mall to hold this year’s classes.
“Teachers worked extra hours, and coaches improvised,” the President said in his speech. “The mall was turned into classrooms, and the food court became a cafeteria—which sounds like a bit of an improvement. Sure, the arrangements might have been a little noisy and a little improvised, but you hunkered down and you made it work. Together.”
On Tuesday, construction began on three new schools to replace those lost last year. Officials expect the new high school to open in 2014.