Former First Lady Michelle Obama posted a new video in celebration of “College Signing Day” — an invention modelled on a collegiate sports tradition. (In sports, National Signing Day has traditionally been the first day that a high school senior can legally sign a Letter of Intent to play a sport for a college or university in the NCAA.)
The “College Signing Day” Ms. Obama is promoting is not limited to sports, nor is it limited to a day — she says “welcome to College Signing Day season.” Nor is it, for that matter, limited to signing up for college. It can mean almost anything now, despite the clear intent of its name.
“Whether you’re going to community college, a university, enlisting in the military, or earning a certificate, I want you to know that I’m so proud of you,” Obama writes.
And when she speaks, Obama doesn’t just mention those various continuing education options, which was the original goal of the program. Now she also adds “or starting a career,” assuring the young people, “There are no wrong answers.”
Whether you’re going to community college, a university, enlisting in the military, or earning a certificate, I want you to know that I’m so proud of you.
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) May 1, 2023
The message clearly backtracks on the original purpose of “College Signing Day” — the name alone is evidence — but it does make the day more inclusive, which appears to have been the goal. Now “College Signing Day” belongs to anyone who is going to do something after high school, even if it’s not actually college.
(The political reality that college isn’t for everyone must have applied pressure to the original idea, as detractors have called an emphasis on college and education in general a form of “elitism.”)
So Obama and the organizations Better Make Room and Reach Higher have purposely expanded the meaning of the day so that it includes nearly anything any high school senior might choose to do next or, as she says: “Whatever you decide to do next, whenever you decide it, make sure to let us know.”
Once a springboard intended to encourage the pursuit of higher education, now “College Signing Day” has stepped back its ambition in order to honor any choice, whether it includes continuing one’s education — or not.