I proudly attended my youngest son's high school graduation ceremony on Saturday evening. Words cannot express just how proud I am of my son and all his achievements. Words also cannot express how grateful I am to the teachers and administration for helping make my son better than I possibly could have on my own. In concert, we turned out a pretty awesome kid.
As with every graduation I have ever attended, I arrived with the expectation of reverent and inspirational speeches, and we were granted that from the principal, the president of the student body and some of the others that spoke briefly. Then, well, then, we had the massive disappointment of sitting through the speeches of the salutatorian and the valedictorian.
You know, you had one job. Your hard work and achievements were rewarded by allowing you to take the stage, and possess the microphone along with the possibility of garnering great respect and admiration of a captive audience. Rather, you sounded like total dumbasses. Pretty stupid for some really smart young men.
Sadly, in the case of the valedictorian, I felt he dishonored his religion by needless self deprecation. I understand adding some humor and humility to the speech, but this speech was just plain awkward. With the us vs. them comments that reference others assuming they are terrorists just because they are Muslim, I am left scratching my head wondering if this is really how the val feels about non-Muslims? Does he really believe we feel that when he speaks Arabic that we think he's plotting to blow up shit? If this is the case then someone failed him big time.
Sadly, I felt the val accused the population in general of stereotypes while claiming his family has been stereotyped as Mulims. To make jokes referencing suicide bombing was unacceptable for a commencement speech. Who the hell suggested this topic as a good idea? I am fairly confident that this speech was not the one approved by the administration.
Seriously, scholarships hang in the balance and I wonder what college will reward such racist speech? Imagine out of town guests and family that filled the hall, and these speeches represented Wylie how? Are Wylieites a bunch of Islamaphobes? A bunch of ghettoites patting their chests and homeboying their pals?
I do not feel the valedictorian meant any offense. I am certain he was swept up in the moment. There were parts of his speech that were genuine and touching, but terrorist jokes totally missed the teaching moment for those not familiar with the Muslim faith, rather I felt there was a specific animosity about his family's experiences that radiated throughout the speech. From the accusatory jokes made, he did not make me want to get to know him, opposite of the intended effect I'm sure.
The salutatorian's speech had some touching moments as well, but the familiarity displayed would have been better served at a banquet rather than a graduation venue. The shout-outs and for realz did not represent him well. Clearly this speech did not reflect what he learned after the last 4 years of high school. Did it?
The fact that the sal's speech departed from what was approved, and he stated so as he turned to look at the WISD trustees while doing it anyway, I would think his scholarship could possibly be in jeopardy because of it. He did what he did with eyes wide open and knew the consequences of doing so but it did not stop him from doing it anyway, a clear sign of someone incapable of the great responsibility of giving the salutatorian speech. He may have earned the right to speak at the podium, but he did not represent it well.
So exactly where did these speeches go awry? Neither show any semblance of leadership, neither inspired any of the student body to aspire to be like them. I felt control had been lost as the two young men displayed an amount of immaturity I would not expect out of the val and sal. This is one time being politically correct is acceptable, and many people I spoke to felt the val-sal speeches made them uncomfortable and were incredibly inappropriate. One senior I spoke with even said these speeches were not the Wylie Way.
Precedence has been set, so how do you regain some sense of decorum in next year's speeches? Is this what we have to look forward to? Call outs to friends and homeboys? Religious jokes? No, for 'realz'.
The great part is that the seniors will not remember these speeches for very long. The awkwardness will be replaced with fond memories of graduation parties and the next exciting phase in life.
The val-sal punishment is that they have to live with their speeches and the failed representation. Very disappointing.