A Kentucky high school valedictorian's graduation speech to classmates and parents was censored for its political content by school administrators. He decided to give it anyway. This valedictorian used a bullhorn to give his speech, saying everything he had hoped about his contemporaries who have taken up the battle for gun control across the nation.
Valedictorian of Holy Cross High School in Covington, Kentucky, Christian Bales, gave the speech outside of the graduation venue because the local Catholic diocese disagreed with its contents. The ceremony was at small college nearby.
Bales told NBC News that he's openly gay, and that he doesn't know if that could have played a role in their decision to censor him. He spoke about the fight for gun control in his speech, and mentioned the Parkland, Florida, students leading the debate on the national stage:
"The young people will win" is a mantra that I'm sure many of you have heard if you've been attentive to the media recently. It's a phrase adopted by the prolific Stoneman Douglas teenagers who are advocating for an agenda — our rights to feel secure as humans.
Student Council President Katherine Frantz was also barred from giving her speech and joined Bales outside to give the speeches anyway. She and Bales said that they have both been outspoken on social issues.
Tim Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for the Catholic diocese that runs the school said that the speeches missed a review deadline and conflicted with church teaching. "When the proposed speeches were received, they were found to contain elements that were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church," Fitzgerald said in a statement.
Bales' speech garnered the majority of the press attention. He said that the Parkland students "possess the same ability of us graduates." Bales continued, "As we enter into the 'real world,' we must remember that we have a voice. Through the past four years at Holy Cross, I've learned how to use my voice to advocate for my beliefs as an ethical individual."
"Rather than allowing opposition to silence us, we must utilize it as empowerment. As long as we nurture our minds as youth, we'll be able to be impactful as we encounter the world," Bales said. The main message was not divisive, and even criticized some of the current gun control rhetoric and youth empowerment rhetoric. Bales continued:
And "young people will win" is a mantra that's progressive by nature, but it suggests that there is one winner and one loser: two sides pitted against each other in a permanent battle of right and wrong. The inherent flaw in this mantra is that it erases the truth: that we are all attempting to perpetuate God's will by attempting to better life around us.
It did have a big focus on the youth. "Sometimes the wisest are the youngest in our lives, the ones who haven't been desensitized to the atrocities in our world," Bales said.
And his end was a call to action:
Class of 2018, we are dynamic. We are intelligent. We have a voice, and we’re capable of using it in all communities. We’ve learned a multitude of things at Holy Cross, and for that we extend a sincere thanks to our teachers, parents, faculty, and peers. However, it doesn’t stop here. We must take what we’ve learned in this community and apply it to the world we are about to encounter. We are the young people, and we will continue to win.
The school might not have wanted his message to get out, but ultimately much of the country is reading it.