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Obama to address graduates at Joplin High School

By Antoinette Campbell, CNN
March 5, 2012 -- Updated 2120 GMT (0520 HKT)
President Obama signs a youth's shirt during a May 2011 visit to tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri.
President Obama signs a youth's shirt during a May 2011 visit to tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama's May 21 speech will mark the anniversary of the Joplin tornado
  • Joplin High School was badly damaged in the May 22, 2011, disaster
  • It will be Obama's second visit to Joplin since the tornado struck

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama will deliver a high school commencement address in Joplin, Missouri, nearly a year after a killer tornado ravaged that city, the White House said Monday.

Obama will deliver remarks on May 21, just one day before the first anniversary of the tornado that devastated large sections of the city of 50,000 people, cutting a path of destruction nearly 14 miles long and up to a mile wide. The tornado was classified as an EF5, packing winds up to 200 mph.

The Joplin tornado killed 161 people, making it the deadliest single U.S. twister in more than 60 years, according to National Weather Service records.

Snow complicates tornado recovery in Kentucky, Indiana

Much of Joplin High School was destroyed. Its 2,200 high school students returned to class on August 17, with a mall substituting as classrooms for many of the upperclassmen.

School Superintendent C.J. Huff told CNN he's excited about the president's decision to showcase the students. The class of 2012 has been through a lot, he said, and has shown "tremendous resiliency and leadership" in the past year.

The visit to Joplin is Obama's second since the tornado. He attended a memorial service a week after the disaster.

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