It was an emotional tribute to those classmates who died in the May 22nd tornado, and a message of hope and healing for the survivors who've been through so much.
One of the words the president used to describe these young adults was resilience. And it's a term heard several times over the past year to show the strength of those students and educators who overcame great odds.
Jason Weaver was settling into his new role as Joplin East Middle School's assistant principal when the tornado hit. It destroyed almost everything.
"Our former building was actually a brand new school that had just been open for two years," he says. Once Weaver was able to account for students and staff, his team had just 52 days to design and build create a new school. "We found a spec building here in an industrial park that had four walls, a roof and a gravel floor."
Megan Hickey is an eight grader at the temporary East Middle School and says this year has been unlike any other.
"In the typical middle school usually you get to school and you don't smell dog food," she says. The building is right across from a pet food plant which is not ideal for a school, but at least it's something
"Just the fact that we were able to get school started on time and have school but to have school and the quality we've had and then to have students step up and perform the ways they've performed this year has been really humbling and amazing," says Joplin Schools superintendent Dr. C.J. Huff.
Huff had a very different message when he addressed this year's senior class. Their awards ceremony was at Northpark Mall, Joplin High School's temporary home.
"You've all shown so much resilience!" said Huff.
But students admit it has been a challenge to move forward.
"Being separate from the other campus is difficult because the younger class doesn't have the upper class to look up to," says senior Danielle Walker.
The storm has been an education in life for everyone who lives in Joplin.
"We see it as a way to help others as much as we can," says Walker. Dr. Huff adds, "These students have really become in a way America's kids and they've grown to love and adore these kids just like we do and they've watched this group of students grow up this year."
Looking over the cafeteria in his temporary school building, Jason Weaver sees the common bond that came out of such a tragedy.
"The relationships that I would normally have said are important between students and teachers and between teachers and teachers just to make school happen, it's amazingly more obvious to me just how important that is."
There are 15-20 construction projects starting in the next couple months thanks to the passage of the $62 million school bond.
Dr. Huff expects a middle school and two elementary schools to be finished by December 2013. The high school and technology center should be complete in the fall of 2014.
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