In efforts to liven up her graduation ceremony, Springstead High School Valedictorian Jem Lugo planned on giving a speech that would poke fun at traditional graduation messages while perhaps giving her fellow students some thoughts to remember:
I’m not gonna get up here and start spouting these crazy incomprehensible seven syllable words I probably can’t even pronounce. Why would I want to do that? Last time I checked, we’re done with school. We don’t want to THINK anymore. I would never, ever put you all through that pain. Another thing, nobody in speeches ever tells you what you actually need to know in life….Sure, telling you to seize the day sounds impressive, but how are you going to know how to seize it?
She goes on to share what you might call “practical” insights about making money, staying out of jail and urges students to
take some time in your life to stand up for something. Whether it’s a stance for pro-choice, religious debate, vegetarianism, or even something as simple as cleaner bathrooms, just make sure your voice is heard. It feels good to stick it to The Man every once in awhile.
The speech is peppered with references to students and teachers and playful jokes weaved in with substantive messages:
A few other basics to remember. Always say please and thank you; it’s always appreciated. Wash your hands when you leave the bathroom; you’d be surprised how many people don’t. Listen to your gut instinct and your conscience. When there’s a choice between the little angel on one side, and the little devil on the other, please listen to the angel. Respect your elders, because one day, you’ll be old too. Plus, they might leave you something in their will. Don’t treat Spelling and Grammar check as a God. It definitely misses things.
Sounds pretty good, right? Well, not to school administrators, who ordered Lubo to rewrite her speech, or be replaced as Valedictorian. Lubo consented, and on June 4th delivered a significantly watered down speech absent of the quirks and insight highlighted above. But her revised speech was not without a sense of irony, filled as it was with cliché lines such as this gem: “As seniors, we roamed the hallways with pride, as the crowning glory of our school.” And, “You will walk out of this stadium tonight as a changed individual.” By the time Lubo took the stage, it was well known that her speech had been censored thanks to coverage in the local press, and as she told Hernando Today reporter Tony Holt, “I decided I would write out my anger in my new speech, in a sort of satirical irony …”
Hats off to Jem Lubo for finding a creative way of subverting this instance of censorship, and to reporter Tony Holt for reporting on it. But a big fat “shame on you” to the administration at Springstead High School in Hernando County Florida for censoring a smart funny and insightful young woman. Click to read the Censored Speech.