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Posted at 03:06 PM ET, 03/05/2012

Obama to give commencement speeches in Joplin and at sister’s alma mater

President Obama will deliver the commencement address at Joplin High School in Missouri later this month, the first graduation at a high school in the town that was decimated by a deadly tornado last year.

The White House announced the May 21 speech at the high school today on the heels of another commencement commitment the president has made: at Barnard College in New York City on May 14. Barnard is a woman’s college affiliated with Columbia University, where he attended and earned a bachelor’s degree after transferring from Occidental College. Obama’s sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, is an alumna of Barnard.

At Joplin, Obama will join the governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, the Wichita Eagle reported , in a ceremony that will be part testament to the way the storm-devastated community has tried to rebuild since the tornado killed more than 160 people right after the end of Joplin High’s 2011 graduation ceremonies.

Next month’s ceremonies at Joplin were actually delayed a day when the office of Superintendent C. J. Huff learned that the president was interested in speaking but would be at international summits on the originally scheduled day, the Associated Press reported.

“The kids were genuinely excited,” Huff said, according to the AP.

Barnard is a college for women in New York City that is affiliated with Columbia University, and Obama will deliver the speech to a class of about 600 students and receive the Barnard Medal of Distinction, the college’s highest honor.

Obama earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia in 1983.

The choice of Barnard comes during an election year in which gender has become a hot topic in politics.

Conservatives have attacked the Obama administration’s health-care program, including a requirement that insurance provided by employers offer birth control free to women.

The president annually gives a number of commencement addresses. Among the schools he spoke at last year were Miami Dade College and Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, which won the Race to the Top commencement contest that offered an Obama graduation speech as the prize a contest.

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By  |  03:06 PM ET, 03/05/2012

 
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