The Gay Valedictorian’s Vetoed Speech

I...never mind. Maybe you can guess what I was going to say.

I…never mind. Maybe you can guess what I was going to say.

Contrary to the impression one would get reading Ethics Alarms, school administrators don’t always make the wrong decisions, and don’t always behave like pusillanimous, politically correct fools. In Colorado, for instance, the Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School administration made exactly the right call in this year’s inevitable valedictorian controversy. Naturally, the mainstream news media is roundly condemning it.

This is why most school administrators behave like pusillanimous, politically correct fools. It’s easier.

Evan Young, an 18-year-old graduating senior at  Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School in Longmont, Colorado was selected as his graduating class’s valedictorian. (Here all the other accounts you read will point out that he has a 4.5 GPA and a scholarship awaiting him at Rutgers University. How smart he is and deserving of the honor is 100% irrelevant to the ethics issue in the story, but that information is being included as part of the effort to make Young an attractive and sympathetic “victim.”) He  agreed to make edits to his speech required by school Principal B. J. Buchmann, but refused to eliminate the passage in which he disclosed that he was gay.  As a result, Young was not allowed to give his speech at all, and thus was not recognized as valedictorian at the May 16 graduation.

Young says that part of his speech’s design was to tell everyone his secrets. “Most of the things were stupid stuff — books I never read that I was supposed to, or homework I didn’t like. But then I gradually worked up to serious secrets. My main theme is that you’re supposed to be respectful of people, even if you don’t agree with them. I figured my gayness would be a very good way to address that.”

He figured incorrectly. It was one way to address that, but not an appropriate way considering the forum, and the school had every right to tell him to keep his sexual orientation out of the proceedings.

In a  statement released by the school’s board of directors, the school explained that Young’s attempted self-outing violated the school’s rules. It also said that “references to personal matters of  sexual nature” are “not ever appropriate” at a graduation ceremony. There may be differing opinions on that proposition, but the school’s position cannot be called unreasonable, and reasonableness is all the U.S. Supreme Court has required.

School attorney Barry Arrington added that a graduation ceremony is “a time for family and those closest to the students to celebrate success and express mutual wishes of gratitude and respect. It is not a time for a student to use his commencement speech to push his personal agenda on a captive audience, and school officials are well within their rights to prevent that from happening.”

He is right. Young, who is now making a cause celebre and gay martyr of himself—yes, he’s smart all right— to mindless cheers from the left, is also protesting that when the principle called to discuss  the speech dispute with his parents, he revealed to them that their son was gay, which they didn’t know, or so Young thinks.  Or says he thinks. “That was the first time in Evan Young’s life that his parents had been given a clue about his sexual identity” says Yahoo News.

Right.

What’s going on here? Teenage narcissism, that’s what. Young wanted to hijack a ceremony intended for all students and their families to tell his parents he was gay, which is a grandiose version of taking your girl friend to a fancy restaurant to break up with her. It’s also egregious sexual identity grandstanding. If we shouldn’t care if you’re gay, son, we don’t care if you’re gay. Who you want to have sex with and how is not a legitimate topic for a valedictorian speech, at least in the completely legitimate assessment of those who run the school you are graduating from..  You are free to disagree, and you can have a different policy when you run your own school.

I give Young credit for one thing, and it is not trivial.  A lot of students in his position would have agreed to the changes demanded by the principal, and then said what they wanted to say anyway. He handled the dispute fairly and honestly. Good for him. He was still wrong, but wrong in an ethical manner.

The spin on this I am reading in the blogs and news reports, however, is demented.  Many are highlighting the complaint of the parents.  “The kid worked hard for four years,”  Young’s father said. “Straight A’s and everything else. He wasn’t even recognized.” Yes, and that was entirely due to his own choice and actions. We are being given solemn quotes of disapproval by voices like LGBT activist group  One Colorado’s Executive Director Dave Montez, who  said, “I would say to the high school principal, outing someone to his family without giving them the opportunity to have that conversation, is dangerous and it can lead to terrible repercussions for LGBT kids.”

But outing themselves to their family before hundreds of other people in a formal ceremony is far better, healthier and safer? Baloney.

Here’s Yahoo!’s coda to its story:

“The school’s treatment of Young is not an isolated incident. Almost 75 percent of LGBT students report instances of verbal harassment and bullying at school. As many as 56 percent of LGBT students reported discriminatory practices based on their sexual orientation or identity, according to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network 2014 report.”

The school’s adhering to its reasonable policies regarding sexual content in graduation speeches does not constitute bullying, verbal harassment or a discriminatory practice—has it allowed other valedictorians to announce that they were proud and active heterosexuals?— by any standard. In this case, the student was wrong and misguided, and the school was reasonable, fair and correct. It should be a  lesson for him, but the culture appears determined to keep him deluded.

_____________________

Pointer: CNN

Sources:Yahoo! News,  Denver Post

Graphic: Denver Post

 

 

103 Comments

Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Family, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society

103 responses to “The Gay Valedictorian’s Vetoed Speech

  1. Steve-O-in-NJ

    Dan Savage to start spewing venom in 3…2…

  2. Here goes a thread.

    Anyone wanna lay bets? 100 posts? 150? 200?!

    I’ll actually bet 25.

  3. Beth

    I would need to know more about this purported school rule. To me, telling a group that you are gay is not talking about sex. Telling a group about gay conquests is talking about sex. The latter statement should be banned, not the former.

    • I don’t see how talking about sexual orientation can be called a non-sexual topic. At very least, it’s a judgment call. You certainly can’t argue that the position that it is talking about sex is per se unreasonable. Can you?

      Someone’s sex preferences, habits, urges, recreation, fantasies, aspirations, conflicts or orientation are of no interest to me, and I usually don’t need or care to be told about them. It is exactly the way I feel about religion, health history, and many other things that are none of my business.

      The key phrase is “captive audience.”

      • But I am also not arguing that your position would be unreasonable if a school adopted it.

      • Beth

        It’s a non-sexual topic as long as you are not talking about sex. If my child tells me that she has a crush on a boy, I don’t think she is talking about sex. She might be telling me that she is heterosexual, but again there is no yuck factor associated with it.

        Orientation is just that — orientation. It is no different than a child of mixed race talking about identifying as Black, White, Native American, etc. Other kids might talk about health challenges. ESL students might talk about growing up in household that didn’t speak English. I had a good friend who almost lost his life in high school due to a car crash — he ended up graduating in the Top 10. Overcoming challenges (or perceived challenges) is an appropriate topic for any graduation speech. I wouldn’t even care if a kid thanked God during his speech. It’s his speech — he earned it.

        I would have made a different call here.

        • 1.It’s his speech, but it’s not just about him.
          2. “It is no different than a child of mixed race talking about identifying as Black, White, Native American, etc.” It is different because that topic is race and ethnicity, which is NOT forbidden, and sexual orientation is about sex, which is. That’s the only place a line is enforcible. What if he talks about HOW he realized he was gay? Is that talking about sex, or sexual orientation? “I was watching Brad Pitt in “Troy” on TV, and realized that I had an erection.” Is that OK? It isn’t “about sex,’ it’s about biology—movie criticism—“orientation.” Next step, masturbatory fantasies.

          • Beth

            That stuff could be excluded from a speech because “yuck.” Telling someone that you identified as gay and felt the need to conceal it during high school is relevant and could be inspiring for his audience.

            • Rich (in CT)

              The school said he was not allowed to use this as an opportunity to announce to the world that he was gay. That is not discrimination. A student student would not be allowed to announce he was heterosexual either. If he were forbidden to thank his “boyfriend”, especially among others who encouraged and supported him, then perhaps we hit discrimination. ‘

              Being “gay” is not an accomplishment. Being “straight” is not an accomplishment. Gay rights activists are fighting for the right to be treated just like everybody else. That means they do not get to speak about their sexual and/or romantic preferences directly when it is not relevant to the context. In the context of a valedictorian speech, the context is scholastic achievement.

              Merely being gay has nothing to do with scholastic achievement, ESPECIALLY if activists are successful at eliminating discrimination.

              Providing love and support that helped someone succeed, however, is an accomplishment, and one that is worthy of emulation. Expressing gratitude for such support is perfectly appropriate for a Valedictorian address.

              To be prevented from sharing appreciation of that support, due to its context within a homosexual relationship, would be unjust.

        • Joe Fowler

          “Teenage narcissism, that’s what.”
          No way!

        • Humble Talent

          See, the two sides to this argument that make sense are: 1) Valedictorian speeches should not contain sexual references, because they are inappropriate to discussions had in a school. And 2) Graduates are about to enter the world at large, where sex exists (assuming that they haven’t already experienced it) and we should allow discussion that references it, if perhaps not explicitly.

          Denying that sexual orientation is sexual in nature is cripplingly stupid. Do better.

    • crella

      It would have been inappropriate to expound on his favorite anime, or global warming. It’s off-topic. They asked him to remove all off-topic passages, his coming out passage and others including jabs at other students he named in the speech, and asked him to adjust the tone of the speech in general, as it came across as negative towards the school.

      The valedictorian’s address is supposed to be a commemorative speech for all attendees, not a soapbox for one, or a lecture. If someone announces to an auditorium with hundreds of people that they’re gay, they’re going to react. In that moment, when everybody’s talking, the solemnity of the ceremony, the atmosphere up to that point, is blown, and the focus would be on him throughout the rest of the event. That is not what the address is for. I too, think the school’s decision was the right one.

      The headlines saying things like ” Straight-A student barred from giving speech because he’s gay” are dishonest in the extreme.

  4. Isaac

    An atheist, a vegan, and a gay valedictorian walk into a bar, and everyone knew about it because they immediately told everyone.

  5. Let him say his piece. It may be in poor taste but he was top of his class and he earned the right to say what he wants to say. Why is the school in the business of micro-managing these speeches anyway?

    • Steve-O-in-NJ

      Because the event isn’t just about any one person. The families and friends aren’t there to listen to some ideological tirade.

    • crella

      Being class valedictorian is an honor reserved for the top student in the class. He represents the class, and as their representative he’s supposed to make a commemorative speech that will address everyone.

    • Michael Ejercito

      He did not. It is ethically justified for the school to make certain subjects off-limits in a valedictorian speech, as long as all points of view regarding the topic are off-limits.

  6. Other Bill

    Would be interesting to see what would have been the reaction if the kid had wanted to come out as straight.

    And what a sweet, thoughtful way to come out as gay to your parents- in front of your high school classmates, school faculty and staff, and your classmates’ parents and family members. Very nice.

    It feels much of the time as everyone is expected to feel as if homosexual orientation is not just acceptable and normal, we’re not on the right side of history unless and until we admit homosexuality is vastly superior. I suppose at some point things will settle down.

    • Rich (in CT)

      Indeed, this was an example of poor teenage judgement. The school did its job, preventing him from creating unnecessary public drama and theatrics over an essentially private matter.

    • joed68

      I think the lefts reaction to this is indicative of that expectation and goal.

  7. dragin_dragon

    Anybody besides me notice that this is a Charter School? Private enterprise? Free market? They get to make their own rules. For myself, sexual orientation is something I really don’t want to know about (it’s none of my business) and you shouldn’t feel a need to tell me (to reiterate, IT’S NONE OF MY BUSINESS), not if you’re happy with it. And it DAMNED sure shouldn’t be regulated by the government.

  8. Neil A. Dorr

    Jack,
    Beth has a point. I don’t disagree that he chose an inappropriate forum, but if one of his confessions had been that he’d harbored a crush for years on some girl but never had the guts to ask her out, I doubt anyone would have raised an eyebrow. Yet, the same story told about a male paramour would probably have resulted in what’s already occurred. Mentioning sexual orientation IS about sex, yes, but only barely. What’s more, while the rule may be equally prohibitive on straights and gays alike (in theory), heterosexuals still have more freedom to make casually mention of their wife/husband/fiance/partner without it eliciting any attention, while a homosexual merely mentioning their partner by name serves as a means of “outing” their orientation as well.

    “My husband and I had sex last night.” – Inappropriate / “My husband and I watched a movie.” – Acceptable

    “My boyfriend and I [did anything]” – I’m publicly outing myself

    Unfortunately, for some, even admitting to homosexuality is still a “hot button” issue and the school decided to (try and) side-step it completely by censoring the speech. Were they within their right? Definitely. But that also doesn’t mean there isn’t a double-standard at play, either.

    Sincerely,
    Neil

    PS: What if he were transgender and wanted to wear a dress? No other mentions of sex or “secrets,” but it would have nonetheless had the same effect of “outing” himself, Would that have been in poor taste too?

    • I didn’t say it was in poor taste to talk about sexual orientation, though the school’s belief that it isn’t appropriate in a general, large group, shared purpose quasi public gathering is reasonable. Outing yourself to your family in a large group–ambush, captive audience—is in bad taste. Making a speech that is about the event and the graduates a tool for a personal agenda is in bad taste.

      You make a good point: would the school have objected in he alluded to his sexual orientation by saying, “I have a crush on Justin Bieber” or, “As I was saying to my boyfriend the other day…” on the way to a general point that was appropriate, would the school have objected? I’d like to see the whole speech.

      He also violated the dress code for speakers, by the way, so I assume a dress would have been out.

      • Beth

        I still say bullshit. Does this school ban dances? Has no Valedictorian never not mentioned the prom in his/her senior speech? Prom = dating = usually taking someone of the opposite sex.

        If this was a speech where he mentioned that he didn’t get the courage to ask a girl to dance until his senior year, the school and the crowd’s reaction would have been “Awww” and smiles. But substitute “boy” for “girl” in the same sentence, and the response is to ban him.

        Liking people of the same or opposite gender does not equal sex. Content of a “sexual nature” involves talking about nudity or sexual acts.

        I suspect his family and close friends already knew he was gay. And people who don’t like him wouldn’t care anyway.

        • So his indignation over the principal “outing” him is absurd? I agree. But the argument that his intention was ethical because it probably would work—his parents knew—is pure rationalization.

          You do know that you took “I am gay” and converted it to “I like guys.” Not the same thing, but an easier argument for you.

          • What what?

            A guy saying “I am gay” doesn’t = “I like guys”?

            The only other logical option is “I don’t like girls”.

            Which isn’t accurate.

            “I don’t like girls” = “I am gay” OR “I am asexual”

        • Wait, I just read this again. Why would allowing dancing be inconsistent? Presumably a danced Valedictorian speech would also be vetoed. There is a time and a place for everything. Would it be appropriate for President Obama to devote the State of the Union to his sex life? Do they dance at White House parties?

          • Beth

            My point (again) is that one can have communications and relations with the opposite gender without it being about sex. If there is a prom, most of the dates will be boy/girl — that doesn’t mean it is about sex (although it can be.) If someone is gay, they will go (or would prefer to go) with someone of the same gender. Again, that doesn’t mean it is about sexual contact.

            So, a heterosexual valedictorian who cracked a joke during a speech about finally having the courage to ask a girl to prom would be met with laughter and smiles. You know that — everyone knows that. In fact, it happens all the time and is the basis of every teenage-themed movie. Because it’s not about sex and it’s not inappropriate. If a gay male valedictorian made the same joke about finally having the courage to ask a boy to prom, it would be banned by this idiot school because “SEX!”

            • Humble Talent

              But he wasn’t talking in the abstract. He was coming out. He wasn’t talking about anecdotal instances, he was putting out his sexual preference.

              “So, a heterosexual valedictorian who cracked a joke during a speech about finally having the courage to ask a girl to prom would be met with laughter and smiles.”

              Sure, maybe. And if he were to say that about a boy, it might or might not be as well taken, but it would probably make the cut. But he sold this as “these are my secrets” going from small, insignificant secrets to larger, more important ones, which were to include his orientation. This wasn’t “I’ll always think back to fond memories of hanging out with Billy in the rec.” This was: “I’ve never told you this, but I am sexually attracted to boys!”

            • Raising the example of a heterosexual mentioning his personal relationships doesn’t necessarily raise the possibility that it’s ok for homosexuals to do the same…

              It may very well raise the possibility that it actually isn’t ok for heterosexuals to mention their personal relationships either…

            • joed68

              “one can have communications and relations with the opposite gender without it being about sex”. Yeah, but what the hell would be the point? If I wanted to hear “yip yip yip yip”, I’d buy a goddamn puppy. Actually, wouldn’t that make me gay?

        • Rich (in CT)

          While admittedly late to this dance party, I addressed the topic of indirect references above: https://ethicsalarms.com/2015/06/01/the-gay-valedictorians-vetoed-speech/comment-page-1/#comment-332721

          Discussing supportive relationships is almost certainly appropriate; gender and orientation are simply incidental. Discussing one’s orientation directly is almost certainly irrelevant.

          • Rich (in CT)

            PS: What if he were transgender and wanted to wear a dress? No other mentions of sex or “secrets,” but it would have nonetheless had the same effect of “outing” himself, Would that have been in poor taste too?

            Again, wearing the dress would be incidental, although a note of explanation might be an allowable courtesy. Under the graduation gown, such a dress would be hardly notable.

    • Humble Talent

      “Yet, the same story told about a male paramour would probably have resulted in what’s already occurred.”

      I think you missed the point. It’s not that he was talking in the abstract about someone he liked, he wanted to use the valedictorian speech to come out. If he made it through four years of high school in the closet, staying in 10 more minutes so as not to make a spectacle of himself, or coming out at any time in a way that didn’t involve a podium would have put me squarely on his side. A valedictorian’s speech is supposed to be about the class, they are supposed to represent the class, this was inappropriate because it was personal.

  9. Ethical or not. Whatever happened to taste and class. Is there any place one can go anymore where one’s sexual preference isn’t on parade? People have lost their minds over this topic. It is offensive outside of the bedroom no matter what sex you prefer or choose.

  10. First of all, being a valedictorian has absolutely nothing to do with Evan Young personally – and could have been anybody in his class – but is generally a task awarded to the graduate with the highest grade point average in the class. Nobody seems to remember the traditional reason that there is a valedictorian in the first place: “The term is an Anglicized derivation of the Latin vale dicere (“to say farewell”), historically rooted in the valedictorian’s traditional role as the final speaker at the graduation ceremony. So the valedictory address generally is considered a final farewell to classmates, before they disperse to pursue their individual paths after graduating.” Repeat: “…a final farewell to classmates.”

    As for the speech itself:
    “The valedictory address, or valediction, is the closing or farewell statement delivered at a graduation ceremony. It is an oration at commencement (in Canada, called convocation in university and graduation in high school) exercises in U.S. and some Canadian high schools, colleges, and universities delivered by one of the graduates. The mode of discourse generally is inspirational and persuasive. The various aims of this address are to inspire the graduates and to thank individuals responsible for their successes while reflecting on youthful frivolity and the accomplishments of the class. Above all, however, the primary aim of the valedictory address is to allow a representative of the graduating class to bid a final farewell to the students and to the school, as the graduates prepare to disperse and to begin the next phase of their lives.”

    So, it’s not a political forum or a lecture. It’s not about this young man, or his achievements, or his sexuality. It is about the students and the school, for which he is a representative. No more, no less.

    • What are the odds that the kid was never given a clear idea about what his job was as valedictorian?

    • Beth

      I would find it inspirational to hear about a kid who hid his gender preferences for 4 years at school, but still managed to become valedictorian.

      At most schools now, it’s not just grades. You have to have a certain level of social involvement, generally be civic minded, and be “elected” by the student body. I’m not saying that’s the right call, but usually it’s not just grades.

      • Rich (in CT)

        I would find it inspirational to hear about a kid who hid his gender preferences for 4 years at school, but still managed to become valedictorian.

        That is fine as a personal preference, but that is a preference that need not be shared by others. Even homosexual allies need not wish that every potentially inspirational event involving homosexuality be expressed, regardless of context.

      • Humble Talent

        “about a kid who hid his gender preferences for 4 years at school, but still managed to become”

        I was just re reading the comments and came across this nugget. Beth, I think you overestimate the importance of sex to the high school experience. You wrote that like he overcame something debilitating, like a broken home or a disability.

        • And also that particular “achievement,” which, I would guess, hundreds of thousands of men and women accomplished in high school as a matter of course until relatively recently, when hiding sexual orientation was less mandatory as a matter of survival, is dubious. Hell, the smartest guy in my high school class, and a good friend of mine, is almost certainly gay, thinking back on it. In those days, nobody thought about that stuff, other than the fact that you were going to be called a “homo” if you got good grades and didn’t date a cheerleader by the mouthbreathing god on the football team. In fact, are we supposed to believe that no student in that class had been openly gay? I’d say he was courageous if he had done that, but hiding his orientation and then, on the final day, shouting: HEY! I’M GAY! Bye!!! That’s leadership? That’s courageous?

      • Isaac

        Sure, it must be hard to simultaneously achieve things and also have particular sex fetishes. That’s why Abraham Lincoln’s favorite bedroom positions are so historically important. #inspiriation

  11. Michael R.

    This is not new. When I had to write a valedictory address many decades ago, it was incredibly controlled. Too many people try to use it as their personal soapbox. This is also the reason it is hard to get graduation speakers. Small-minded people can’t resist the urge to proselytize their personal agenda when they know they have a captive audience. The “hey everybody, look at me” valedictory address is completely inappropriate. Even if it hadn’t been about sex, a valedictory speech about the valedictorian is inappropriate. The, “I’m going to Rutgers because I’m better than you losers”, the “I got a perfect SAT score”, the “I am the only National Merit Scholar at this lousy school”, and the “I am a black belt AND a Mensa member” are all just as inappropriate as the “I have a thing for older, married women and that new English teacher is really cute” valedictory address.

  12. dragin_dragon

    Interestingly, AOL has just picked this up. Their Headline: Evan had a 4.5 GPA, and when students asked why he didn’t give his speech, the principal reportedly explained he had ‘bad character.’ Oddly enough, this is NOT mentioned in the body of the article. To give them their due, however, they did post the school’s statement. It is here:

  13. TomC in Chicago

    OldGrayMary made an outstanding contribution to this thread when she defined what is a valedictory address. Evan Young’s academic achievements had won Evan Young the position to address his class. This would likely be his final opportunity to present himself to many of his classmates, and it would be the nexus of his transition to adulthood. In this farewell, he inevitably is called on to make it personal, sincere and hopefully positive. Mr. Buchmann lost a tremendous teaching opportunity by choosing to deny Evan his valedictorian speech.

    Mr. Buchman would have been wise to understand that it had been so troublesome for that student, and others in his situation, to have lived the lie of being in the closet for his high school years. Knowing that, Mr. Buchmann would have been correct to acknowledge Evan’s leadership qualities, and then discuss with him the ways in which leaders connect with their audience and win them over.

    I believe that principal BJ Buchmann would have been of most value to everyone at this event – especially Evan – if he had worked closely with Evan regarding ways to express his sexual orientation in a nuanced way, addressing the themes of personal growth, honesty, integrity and courage. I believe it was not at all ethical for Mr. Buchmann to take the position he did – especially as an educator!

    To those who view the content of Mr. Young’s speech as “sexual”, that is a tragically wrong interpretation and simply an excuse for homophobia. Gender preference is not a sexual act.

    In making his valedictory address to his fellow students, I strongly believe that it is appropriate for Evan Young to include “coming out” as part of an inspirational message in his transition to adulthood.

    (Kudos to Beth, by the way, for her smart, common-sensical and wise understanding of what is really involved here.)

    • You endorsed a useful explanation about the meaning of valedictory addresses, and then argue for a complete distortion of it. Her point: this speech is about the class, not him. Your point: It should be about him. Wrong. Why is the sexuality struggle of one student relevant to the vast majority of students and family members there? Why should they care? How does that relate to them? It may be educational and interesting, but this is hardly in the top 100 important issues facing a non-gay student. Why should he be allowed to convert graduation into a gay awareness seminar?

      To 99% of the audience, “I am gay” means, literally, ” I have sex/want to have sex/ will have sex with other males.” You can parse it all you like…that’s how they hear it, which means that’s what it means. The interpretation of the principal is reasonable; as I told Beth, I could defend her version, but I think it’s a minority view.. To the vast Majority of heterosexuals, “I am gay” provokes one of the following responses:

      1. Why should I care?
      2. So what?
      3. Big deal
      4. Why are you telling me this?
      5. “Ew!”

      That means that the issue’s primary importance is personal, making it inappropriate.

      And how is he a leader? There’s no leadership content in using a public forum to make an announcement that a courageous son would make in private, person to person. Leaders don’t do crap like that.

      And leaders think about their audience, not themselves.

      • TomC in Chicago

        Wrong Jack. The valedictory speech is supposed to be a personal goodbye, and is supposed to reflect “your true self”. Here, check out this guide to writing a valedictory address: http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Valedictorian-Speech.
        Now that you have all that down, let me ask you – since you are so ready to criticize Evan Young – did you read the full text of the speech that Evan actually prepared? It’s good, and it hits on all eight cylinders of a good valedictory address pretty well. Here is that text: http://www.coloradoindependent.com/153645/ousted-gay-valedictorian-evan-youngs-graduation-speech
        The coming out part is just a little bit of his valedictory address at the very end, and I cannot for the life of me figure out why you might be so grumpy about it, Jack. Seriously. After reading that speech, can you honestly keep on bashing this kid, this spirited young man? Do you actually think this speech was “too sexual”? (if you do think that way, then there must be some very dark corners to your psyche, IMO.) Do you not see leadership qualities in someone who steps up and takes a principled position as he did? Leaders get out in front to inspire others by the principled actions they take, and by the strength of their convictions, by their confidence, and by their willingness to take the heat. I will argue that Evan Young is inspiring far more people than you could ever hope to inspire, Jack Marshall.

        • First of all, bite me, friend. “I will argue that Evan Young is inspiring far more people than you could ever hope to inspire, Jack Marshall” is an unwarranted, unfair and personal attack, and you can take a hike, you pompous ass. I was civilly discussing the issue, and pointing out where I don’t agree with you, indeed, you don’t agree with yourself. I didn’t deserve that, and moreover, you don’t know a thing about me and what I have done in my life, who I’ve inspired, or anything else, but I’ll say three things regarding that: 1) I would have never treated my mother and father as this kid proposed to treat them, hitting them with a sensitive disclosure like that with strangers and friends surrounding them; 2) Even as a high school jerk, I would never have dreamed of giving as egocentric a speech as that, or mentioning my grade point average, or announcing perfect grades as my goal, which it wasn’t and which is a pretty dumb goal at that. Mentioning one’s “perfect grades” is a self back-pat. The audience would know why he’s speaking, and 3) if he helps and inspires half the people I have, he will have done well. I hope he does. Encouraging them to go on holy wars and attacking people trying to do their jobs when a self-righteous kid insists on violating reasonable rules is NOT “inspiration.”

          I’m not “bashing the kid”—he made an issue of this, not me; he has everyone accusing the school of being homophobic, which it clearly was not. He is not above criticism. The toughest thing I said about him is that he’s a narcissist. The speech confirms that diagnosis. But I have nothing against Evan Young; I just said he is full of himself, and wanted to hijack the speech to turn it into his personal outing with his parents. That’s wrong. Per se, wrong…an ambush, a double cross, a mean, disrespectful, chicken-shit way to handle a vital family issue. He may not see it that way, and that’s why adults need to protect youths from their own inexperience and bad judgment. Even if his speech did not violate the school’s guidelines, which it did, that treatment of his family alone was due cause for the speech to be pulled. A school cannot allow a graduation ceremony to be converted into a personal agenda, nor can it be a party to something like that, a direct assault within a family.

          oldgreymary’s description of a valedictory speech, which you cited approvingly yourself, so that is the basis on which this debate will be held, concluded, “So, it’s not a political forum or a lecture. It’s not about this young man, or his achievements, or his sexuality. It is about the students and the school, for which he is a representative. No more, no less.”

          I read the speech (I didn’t read it before because it wasn’t available) It’s not terrible. Personally, I might have let it go with a little editing, but then I don’t know what edits he rejected, and what I would have done is irrelevant anyway—it’s not my job. The question, AGAIN, is whether what the school did was unreasonable, and it wasn’t.

          Still, the speech is almost entirely about Evan, however..nearly every paragraph. It’s his victory lap. The letter to his non girlfriend—what does that have to do with a valedictory? Apparently he was going to use her name, but he might as well have. It’s unethical to share a personal letter with the world. Lots of people would have known who she was. Did she consent to this? Absent proof of that, the letter would have been enough to ban the speech too, and even with consent, it doesn’t belong in a valedictory.

          There was more. much more, about his being gay than I expected. That topic covers about 200 words. That’s not incidental, in fact, its the largest segment of the speech. He doesn’t just say “I’m gay,” either. He also says, “I’ve been attracted to men for as long as I can remember, and I’ve never had a girlfriend because I prefer members of my own sex.” That absolutely is personal and of a sexual nature. No doubt at all, and any arbitrator in the universe would agree that the school did not abuse its discretion by holding so.

          He was discussing sexual identity and sexual preference, and you say, you obnoxious creep, “there must be some very dark corners to your psyche, IMO” because I find that discussing sexual identity and sexual preference is sexual. I draw your attention, Tom, to the word “sexual” in those completely accurate descriptions. I never said they were “too sexual”, as you misrepresented my words and opinion to make them easier to rebut and to gratuitously insult me. I said that they met the school’s clear prohibition of “references to personal matters of a sexual nature,” which it does beyond question.

          You can send an apology for your gratuitous insults—my calling you an ass, and a creep are not gratuitous, but are fair descriptions of anyone who starts insulting the host of a blog without any provocation because he can’t muster a persuasive argument—to jamproethics@verizon.net, and if it’s fair and sincere, I’ll consider allowing you to opine here again on a probationary basis.

          Otherwise, bye.

          • UPDATE: Well, I don’t get it, but Tom, in three very reasonable, substantive polite private e-mails, elaborated on his points and attempted to rebut mine, but he refused, however, to apologize, though he thanked me for giving him the opportunity to apologize. He also thinks the post proves I’m hard on gays. Does anyone else see that? Because it isn’t there. At all.

            Anyway, he says he wants to be banned.

            Sigh. OK, just spammed TOMC.

            “Let it be written. Let it be done.”

            • FALSTAFF
              …Do not thou, when thou art king, hang a thief.

              PRINCE HENRY
              No, thou shalt.

            • FURTHER UPDATE: I have now had a long, candid and personal e-mail exchange with Tom. He is one hell of a guy, an interesting individual, and full of insight. Believe me, this is not the norm when banned commenters contact me.

              • joed68

                That’s awesome! I’m not usually nosy, but I would have loved to have been a fly on your computer’s display. A very, very small one, though; I don’t want to get swatted.

          • joed68

            The main reason I liked Boston Legal way back when it was on, was James Spader’s closing arguments, leftward slant notwithstanding. Do you happen to have any videos of your closings? I bet they’re great!

        • crella

          Your own link says ” Its aim is to provide a persuasive, moving, and ultimately uplifting speech in which listeners are not only given a fond farewell but they’re also inspired to go forth and achieve their greatest. ”

          not ‘a personal goodbye’.

          • crella

            (My 8:01 post was regarding TomC’s link)

            Bravo, Jack. I agree on every point as to why this speech is inappropriate. I especially agree with
            “an ambush, a double cross, a mean, disrespectful, chicken-shit way to handle a vital family issue. He may not see it that way, and that’s why adults need to protect youths from their own inexperience and bad judgment. Even if his speech did not violate the school’s guidelines, which it did, that treatment of his family alone was due cause for the speech to be pulled. ”

            There’s been a lot said about the school outing this young man to his family, but if I were the recipient of this speech to check it, I would not think in a million years that the parents didn’t know. It would not occur to me that a kid would make this announcement without informing them. I found that really surprising.

            I had read only excerpts online. Now that I read the whole thing, I can’t see the sense in it, and agree even more with the school’s decision to axe it. The letter to the almost girlfriend is a bizarre unnecessary tangent. I’m not sure why he thinks everyone needs to hear all of this.

        • Humble Talent

          I hadn’t read the speech before. It was… a speech. I don’t think it was really that good. There was awkward phrasing, it was informal to a fault, it was partisan in places it probably shouldn’t have been… but who cares? The guy isn’t a professional talker. What got me was how self-centered it was.

          On that count, it was worse than I had thought. The most common word in that speech was “I” at 95 instances, followed by “the” at 93. “you” at 53, edged out “my” at 30. We can have a healthy debate as to whether the school’s policy should be changed, but that almost seems secondary to the more fundamental problem of the purpose of the speech. He earned the right to represent his class at graduation, not to have some me time in front of hundreds of people.

          • Humble Talent

            Also, as trivia, I has been used 84 times so far on this page, and the has been used 288 times. My 19 and you 47. It’s apples and oranges, but still neat.

            • Humble Talent

              *IT IS* apples and oranges. *goes coffee hunting*

              • dragin_dragon

                Had a discussion with an acquaintance about that, recently. She apparently took the Dale Carnegie course, because she kept saying ‘There is no “I” in “Team”‘. I threw her out of my house, haven’t spoken to her since.

                • The CBS show “Scorpion” had a gag about that. It’s about a team of geniuses who fix big national security crises. Or something. At one point, one of the uber-nerds said, “Remember, there is no “i” in “scorpion”!

                  • dragin_dragon

                    I watch Scorpion faithfully. It’s hilarious, because it makes the assumption that genius is necessarily accompanied by craziness. It is especially interesting that the “second-highest” I.Q. of all time is accompanied by a complete lack of emotion.

                    • And that they claim they keep useless and boring Katherine McPhee around for any reason other than for the audience (and them) to gawk at her. There may be other examples of blatant non-actors who kept getting hired just because they were lovely—Cybil Shepherd is the coin of the realm—but Scorpion is unusually shameless.

              • Fixed the first. Can’t find “Coffee hunting” or anything close.

      • joed68

        I was about to make essentially that point. My subtle variation was that our society isn’t at the point yet where a discussion about homosexuality isn’t sexually-laden. Also, that the left isn’t really in a position to get too excited about double-standards.

  14. crella

    ” This would likely be his final opportunity to present himself to many of his classmates”

    That is not the purpose of the address.

  15. NOTE: I’m provisionally banning Tom for gratuitously insulting me—twice– in his previous comment. If he apologizes for that, I’ll release the comment I just trashed.

    • dragin_dragon

      I’m just idly curious…why do newbies get the impression that they can hit this blog, and two comments later start insulting the host, personally? I admit, I don’t hit a lot of blogs, but it seems to me that, being new to a blog, guest at a party, friend of a friend or just a newly made acquaintance off the street, a certain level of good manners would be required, or at least expected. I don’t get this. In the last year or so, this has happened numerous times, and it is a total mystery to me. Is there some sort of a prize for “Most Blogs Banned From”? Or is it just a culture-wide lack of manners? Whatever, it is sad.

      • Well, to be fair, it’s partly my fault. I deliberately avoid being equivocal in posts even when it could be justified—that style drives some people crazy. Then the topic inherently irritates many…and the whole idea of “judging,” which is essential in ethics. Also, very few bloggers engage commenters to the extent I do. Commenters insult each other, or insult the absent blogger, and never face consequences. I see this on Althouse and Volokh, even though those bloggers will occasionally speak up. Also “newbies” expect to leave their brilliant opus and not have to cope with a substantial rebuttal, and they start swinging wildly when their flaws are noted.

        • joed68

          I also think that people are used to the corollary of a strong opinion of an individual social incident being the alignment of that person with its associated political camp. It seems that, rather than becoming more enlightened, more and more of us are just joining gangs.

          • joed68

            In other words, “that baldyhead hates gays and must be one of those Faux-news Rush Limberger teabaggers”.

            • dragin_dragon

              And I just gotta tell you how socially dangerous such assumptions are. I recently described myself as a conservative, and was accused of being “an evangelical, far-right Christian tea-bagger”. Since I am not even Christian, let alone evangelical, I almost fell out of my chair laughing. I would plead guilty to being a tea-bagger, maybe even being far right (but with reservations) but that is as far as it goes.

              • joed68

                One of the seemingly countless examples of liberal hypocrisy. They can say something like that, and chastise you for making sweeping generalizations about, say, muslims in the same breath. And we wonder why we can’t get traction with most of them.

  16. oldgraymary

    Since I don’t know if Wyogranny would agree with me, I’d like to set the record straight that “So, it’s not a political forum or a lecture. It’s not about this young man, or his achievements, or his sexuality. It is about the students and the school, for which he is a representative. No more, no less.” is my quote’ not hers.

    dragin_dragon: I’m old enough to remember a time when I could have a difference of opinion with someone which would leave us screaming at each other and speaking normally about something two minutes later, no hard feelings. Our culture has coarsened but our skins have thinned. We abuse our freedoms and shout louder and louder but we listen less and less – we’ve been brainwashed to think we’re each “special” and entitled to our 15 minutes and 140 characters. Sad indeed.

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