Should graduation speakers ‘go rogue?’

Well, if you look at some of the guidelines for how to write a good valedictorian speech, they make a lot of sense, especially – don’t make it about yourself, make it about your fellow students. I think MandoJo is spot on about the speaker being a class representative.

I’m assuming the OP is at least aware of the instance of a class president speech making its way through the daily news cycle. In brief, a HS senior feels that he’s being silenced by the “don’t say gay” bill because he wants to talk about his LGBTQ activism. Unfortunately, we don’t have a copy of the speech so we don’t know if this is a line or two intended to be inclusive to the LGBTQ students in the school, or if the entire speech is about his own accomplishments. If it’s the latter, that seems, at best, in poor taste for the occasion. And that of course puts the school administrators in an impossible situation.

“Out of respect for all those attending the graduation, students are reminded that a graduation should not be a platform for personal political statements” seems like, if nothing else, good advice. Maybe it’s bad policy. I dunno. But I think the answer to the OP is, “it depends.” I think including personal politics can be done tactfully, and I think it can easily go off the rails.

I wouldn’t say that I went rogue, but the speech I gave at my high school graduation didn’t exactly match the copy I turned in for review. Specifically, I thought the principal’s objection to a quote from a Richard Brautigan novel was silly, and my parents agreed with me.

I disagree, being a valedictorian is a singular accomplishment. They’re not elected, they’ve earned that position. Class president represents the student body, valedictorian earns the right to be there.

The fact that some in our society have gaslit us to the point where “LGBT people exist and deserver to be treated with respect” is a contentious political issue is complwtw bullshit. We should bring it up at every possible instance, and if bigots want to wring their hands about it, all the better. Being a bigot SHOULD be very uncomfortable. Yes, if you’re a bigot, you should be squirming in your seat unconfortably during your kid’s graduation.

It shouldn’t matter if a student’s graduation speech shakes things up a bit. As far as the rest of the student body is concerned, that makes the occasion more memorable.

Just don’t plagiarize large sections of your speech from another student’s address years before.

And obviously there’s a difference between mentioning that LGBTQ people exist at the school (inclusivity is good) and making the entire speech about your LGTBQ activism, or any other topic. If the class president were the star quarterback and made the entire speech about his experience on the football team for 4 years, that would be apolitical but also a bad speech.

I’m not saying they need to be tolerant of the intolerant or inclusive of the bigots or anything, but making an entire speech about your personal politics isn’t really the point of the occasion, regardless of what those politics are.

Obviously there’s a different between talking about gay rights and engaging in gay sex on the podium as a demonstration. Since you’ve provided as much evidence that his “entire speech” is about LGBTQ activism as you have that the student in question was planning to engage in gay sex on the podium, I think we can safely discount both assertions and discuss what actually occurred.

I’m generally in favor of graduation speakers going rogue, as long as they have a valid and important reason to do so - not for petty or immature causes. First, because the cause is important, secondly, because boilerplate “I’d like to thank so-and-so” speeches are terribly boring.

Good grief. I would consider it awesome that (a) a high-school-age kid has not only read Richard Brautigan, but (b) wants to quote him.

Sure, which is why I said it’s unfortunate we don’t have the text of the speech. Other articles describe the speech being about “his activism,” and the article I linked says his conversation with the principal “ended with him saying that I could not talk about my advocacy or involvement in the lawsuit at graduation. He said it would be polarizing and not appropriate for a group setting.” That makes it sound like a least part of the speech was about himself and not the school’s LGBTQ community as a larger group.

The principal would have done better to say, “Don’t talk about your own accomplishments in your speech” as opposed to “avoid polarizing concepts.” I don’t agree with that rationale.

"Should graduation speakers “go rogue”?
Not just for the sake of going rogue, no. That’s rebellion without a cause and is just childish.

If it’s just to shit on the school for not providing tater tots at lunches, or to call out certain jocks for being dicks, no.

But if it’s to highlight a sketchy school policy on, say, restricting haircuts which are more prevalent in a particular race or ethnicity of student; and if doing so is done in the context of something larger as in : “This is what we saw at school, and it was crystal clear prejudice and unhelpful. Be aware of the same sorts of shenanigans in the real world and consider standing against it.” Then yeah, that’d be sorta cool.

But under NO circumstances should the administration switch off the microphone.

It’s not really the audience for a downer speech. The students are starting the next chapter of their life and the audience is there to support them. If the speech is about how much life sucks, the future sucks, the person’s experience at school sucked, etc., the audience is not going to be receptive to that message and won’t be motivated to make changes. The audience will reject the message because they they are there to be happy and don’t want to be lectured to.

I might compare it to going to a comedy club and the performer gives a TED-style talk about climate change. It may be a very important topic, but the audience is not going to be receptive to the material and will be upset that their expectations of having a fun time are being ruined.

I think the administration should turn off the mic, and the student should know in advance that this would happen.

Also, if I was looking to hire an employee, and I knew the candidate was a former valedictorian who had pulled off a stunt like that, I would not hire them. I would not want to risk the same type of thing happening when they disagreed with something I or my company was doing.

You’ve got a worthy cause, get a picket sign and go out there. You’ve been entrusted with this specific space by people (or their representatives) who are not interested in your cause hijacking this particular venue. Get over yourself.

So “going rogue” is okay, but only if they say something that I, personally, apporve of?

I mean, yes?

If someone goes rogue to say “LGBTQ people deserve respect”, and someone else goes rogue to say “LGBTQ people are subhuman trash”, you think the two cases are equivalent?

I’m like 90% sure she paid someone to write that and that person plagairized. Her statement strongly implies it. Which is really more awful.

I agree with this. They’re the valedictorian, they have earned the right to some latitude. IMO this is the final useful lesson of the educational experience - what might the top student say when she finally has an unrestricted platform? What sort of mind does this institution produce? Perhaps she teaches the audience something insightful. Perhaps the audience teaches her that discretion is the better part of valor.

Whatever the case, I welcome any opportunity to make a 3-hour ceremony slightly less rote and mind-numbing.

I’ve been in charge of the Senior Speaker selection at my high school for the last 35 years. Both the speaker and the valedictorian are advised that their mic will be cut off if they stray too far afield or launch into a partisan political/religious rant. We’ve never had to do it, but the option is there.

The person most likely to “go rogue” is the faculty speaker. The times I’ve been asked to speak have always been filled with trepidation on the part of Admin.

Just an interesting news story that I read today

If you want a speech from someone committed to not using a platform they’ve been given in ways you don’t approve, pick a speaker with great respect for authority or no strong feelings about any causes.

“Should” is way too wide a concept to give a yes/no answer to.