Eric Workman’s Graduation Speech

Greenwood High School is the place where students voted to have a graduation prayer, a judge said no, and then the school told speakers they would not screen their speeches beforehand.

The class president invoked the Christian god (which she had a legal right to do).

The valedictorian, Eric Workman, talked about the importance of church/state separation.

Many of you have asked for a transcript of his speech.

I spoke with Eric and got a copy of it.

Damn… This kid has body parts made of brass.

This is impressive:

Hello, everyone. Tonight is a rather auspicious occasion, marking the closing of one door and the opening of several others. The Greenwood Community High School Class of 2010 has experienced much together — our journey has encompassed seven years, four of which have established a foundation for the rest of our lives. During these four years, some of us have found our niche in English, Foreign Language, Social Studies, Business, Physical Education, The Fine Arts, Mathematics, and/or The Sciences. For me, I found my place in the latter. Science never stops asking “why” until it has uncovered “how” and never stops asking “how” until it has determined “why.” Science uses both logic and reason to assess the world around us — to explain and improve our relative universe. Science is a product manifested from secular humanism; it is devoid of delusion, ideological zealotry, and blind ignorance. Science is, in essence, the purest form of intellect. In addition to finding a passion for science, though, I also learned that taking a stand for principles far surpasses the respect, the acceptance, or the repudiation of anyone.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “In matters of principle, stand like a rock.” I have never fallen short of President Jefferson’s credo in this respect, as I am sure you are aware. You may not agree with my decision to fight for civil liberties, but I expect you to respectfully listen while I elucidate. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states, in part, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This implies that no entity, agent, or facet (however subsidiary) of the government is to ever endorse, promote, or encourage any form of religion or religious doctrine. This, as you may or may not know, includes school-sponsored prayer.

In September of last year, our remarkably doltish administration called upon us all to vote in deciding whether or not we wanted the Constitution of the United States to be flagrantly violated. Understanding the law and knowing right from wrong, I vehemently opposed such an atrocious act from ever taking place. However, my one voice and the voices of others were shouted-down by most of you. Our rights and the law were disregarded. You see, subjecting government-endorsed prayer to a majority rule is, in and of itself, unconstitutional, let alone the government approbation of said prayer. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson is quoted as having said, “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in [most] cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate [them] would be oppression.”

Individual freedoms were subjugated, the United States Constitution was omitted, and most of you were unfazed. I, however, was fazed — I, however, took action to redress this grievance. On March 11th, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit on my behalf to legally halt any and all school-sanctioned prayer at tonight’s commencement ceremony. On April 30th, Federal District Judge Sarah Evans Barker issued an injunction to do just that. In her ruling, Judge Barker stated that “the degree of school involvement ma[de] it clear that [any graduation] prayer [would] ‘bear the mark of the state,’ and accordingly [transgress] the Constitution.” I solemnly hope that you all do understand that the Greenwood Community School Corporation had its hand in this from the beginning, that the Greenwood Community School Corporation thought (and still likely thinks) it was and is above the law, and that neither the Greenwood Community School Corporation nor any other government entity is above the law. In challenging my lawsuit, the Greenwood Community School Corporation accrued a debt of legal fees and court costs to the ACLU, totaling approximately $18,000. For the School Corporation’s legal representation, you can expect the debt to be exorbitantly greater.

It is rather unfortunate that Joe Farley and his Milquetoast myrmidons chose to allocate funds to battle, in futility, a precedent that has held firmly in law since its issuance from the United States Supreme Court. These tens of thousands of dollars could have been better used to maintain the teaching positions being cut in the coming academic year due to a lack and administrative mismanagement of funds. Nonetheless, $18,000 will be spent appropriately, helping the ACLU to further its mission to protect and defend freedom.

Now, before I leave you with your thoughts, I would like to thank and acknowledge those who have, above all, influenced and inspired me for the better. Firstly and foremost, I thank my mother, Kathy, for believing in me and my abilities. Her love, care, and guidance have been immeasurable assets in my journey through life thus far. Secondly, I thank my sister, Tiffany, for being my rock in times of hardship. She will never know how grateful I am to have her in my life. Thirdly, I thank my grandparents, Richard and Betty, for providing me with the love and encouragement that enriches me, my life, and my future. Their hearts have touched mine more than they know. Fourthly, I thank Becky Kehler for shaping me into the scientist I am today — an individual who does not stop asking “why” until he has uncovered “how” and who does not stop asking “how” until he has determined “why.” It was she who gave me both the unparalleled opportunity and vast resources necessary to thrive and prosper as a research scientist in High School. Fifthly and finally, I thank Suzanne Schulz for teaching me to never compromise myself or my principles for anyone or anything. Her candor and unyielding disposition have been hallmarks in shaping me and my outlook on the world.

Thank you for permitting me the chance to speak with you tonight. It has been a pleasure for me and, hopefully, a teaching moment for you. Before we part, though, I leave you with these words:

“One ought never to turn one’s back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double your danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never!” — Sir Winston Churchill

Congratulations, Class of 2010; the best is about to begin!

You can watch video clips of the speech here — and the disrespect shown from the audience as he speaks.

You know, I gave a speech at my high school graduation.

It was nowhere as gutsy and memorable as this one.

I can’t wait to see what Eric does in his future.

  • http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com chanson

    Wow, very impressive!

  • Aegis

    We may have just witnessed the blossoming of one of the minds that’ll shut down church interference in the secular world for good. I’m well impressed.

  • turkey

    The girl who was supposed to lead the prayer says, “It was so not a religious prayer.” Then what kind of prayer was it??

  • Mango

    His speech was completely awesome and intelligent! I would love to have that type of courage, go Eric!

  • http://godlessmusings.wordpress.com/ Fiyenyaa

    That video says that Eric describes himself as a Christian: I was not expecting that at all, having read the speech.

  • Hitch

    Well said. If he is a christian good for him. Jefferson and Madison were christians but they not only got but put in place separation of church and state.

    Unfortunately the scotus has not been impeccable on the issue. I think it’s fair to say that neither Jefferson nor Madison would have approved of the concept of “ceremonial deism”. It really is a legal trojan horse. Now any case can be debated as to whether it really is “religious prayer” or “ceremonial non-religious activity”.

    And it allows to shift the discussion to the “It was so not a religious prayer.” category without that not being completely silly even though it should be.

  • jemand

    Personally, I wouldn’t have appreciated this speech… obviously the court case stirred up many strong emotions and controversy, and personally I would have preferred those to not come up in the service itself, but have that solely about the students’ accomplishment and not a rehearsal of a controversy that nearly split the school.

    Of course, I don’t think he was the only one to mention it, but others brought up the history in their speeches and then had a prayer. I would not have liked this graduation at all. The battlefield was already done, this should have been only about nice happy thoughts in my opinion.

  • Karateexplosions

    Yeah, a lot of people in the audience didn’t seem to enjoy being called out for their ignorance. But if they wanted a different valedictorian speaker, maybe their own kids should have been smarter. Unfortunately, their kids are too busy talking to imaginary people in the sky and learning about how Jesus rode dinosaurs.

  • Chal

    This speech feels very out of place to me. The ceremony is supposed to be about recognition and celebration of their achievements, but his whole speech was just about himself and this conflict. This would be like a band or DJ at a wedding stopping the music to give a lecture on why why gay marriage should be allowed. Right message in the wrong place.

  • Karateexplosions

    @Chal, I would ordinarily agree completely, but the administrators, community members, etc. at this school had already transformed this graduation from a celebration of accomplishment into a pulpit for their own personal religious beliefs, and had spent a lot of money and ink to infringe on this kid’s rights. So I don’t begrudge him for using the one opportunity when he had them all as a captive audience to make the majority, for once, listen to the minority.

  • http://shadowgm.diaryland.com Bob

    For those offering the opinion that Eric’s speech was out of place, that it should have recognized merit and offered Happy Thoughts (TM) … how is that being true to his own achievements? He is the class valedictorian, so appointed for academic merit – yet you want him to soft-pedal reason so everyone can get their warm-and-fuzzies?

    Education is the ultimate expression of the Parable of the Talents. You either invest wisely and gain return tenfold or more; or you squander it and bury it in the dirt, to say to the master upon his return, ‘here it is, as you gave me, because I was afraid that I would lose it.’

    So I think Eric gave a damned good speech, and I would have been impressed and proud. (Unless I was a brainwashed evangelical kid, then Eric is the spawn of the antichrist.)

  • Surfactant

    Kid’s definitly got brass, but calling your school’s administration “doltish,” even if they are, is deliberately rude. Commencement is not the best place for rudeness. I suppose it’s too much to ask a kid who has been tormented that he forego having the last word, which he did by rubbing the whole town’s face in a “teaching moment.” Such is the perogative of the student who earns the position of valedictorian, but I would have been even more impressed if he had been gracious in addition to being in the right.

  • Hitch

    I think Eric got this exactly right. The news clip incidentally took the most forward segment hence making him look more aggresive than the speech was. They could have taken him quoting Jefferson or Churchill quite easily which would have made the point he was making.

    If the first amendment and standing up for what is right in the face of dissent is not an uplifting commencement topic we are in deep trouble.

  • http://shadowgm.diaryland.com Bob

    @Hitch:

    If you’ll pardon the term, “Amen.”

    As Edward R. Murrow put it, “We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep into our own history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes which were for the moment unpopular.”

  • Steve

    This is what an American hero looks like. Does anyone know where he’s going to college? Tufts would be happy/lucky to have him.

  • Minneyar

    This would be like a band or DJ at a wedding stopping the music to give a lecture on why why gay marriage should be allowed. Right message in the wrong place.

    No, I think this was about as appropriate as a DJ at a wedding stopping the music to give a lecture on why gay marriage should be allowed… at a gay wedding, right after the couple involved won a legal battle that allowed them to get married.

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV

    testicular fortitude.

  • Unspeakably Violent Jane

    Eric is reacting to the situation as is the student who gave the smarmy god loaded speech.

    If this was my kid’s graduation, I would be pissed that the school officials had, through their incompetence and dishonesty, laid the groundwork for this controversy, ensuring that it would fruit at the worst possible time.

    And they did it in the most despicable and cowardly fashion by placing the kids in the point man position. Disgusting.

    How is this an accredited institution? These people are mentally ill.

  • dhoffman5

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

    Having a prayer at a graduation would not involve Congress or any law/legislation. It wouldn’t violate the Constitution at all.

  • http://shadowgm.diaryland.com Bob

    @dhoffman5:

    If I understand the situation correctly, it’s already against the law in that state/locality to permit prayers in a graduation ceremony.

    The school put it up for a vote, and the majority decided that it should be allowed.

    The law doesn’t work that way. Otherwise the moment non-theists band together and hold a vote, we get to feed y’all to the lions.

  • http://www.beginningwithi.com/comments/ Deirdré Straughan

    Interesting that the news cameras focused so much on the security guards/police. Were they expecting a terrorist act from those rowdy atheists?

  • http://shadowgm.diaryland.com Bob

    @Deirdre:

    Doubtless, they were envisioning another Columbine High School incident, whereupon Eric would whip out an AK-47 from beneath his gown, ask, “Do you believe in GOD?” and let fly.

    Clearly, since one parent (in another thread) attested that Eric was a sociopath who might very well have ‘blown up the school,’ there was some kind of fear-mongering going on.

  • dhoffman5

    Bob,

    If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be closer to constitutional violation to actually have legislation against prayer? That actually is a law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion, whereas simply having a prayer involves no law at all, one way or the other.

  • Carol B

    I also feel a little uneasy with his speech. I certainly applaud his courage for standing up to the administration and fighting his fight, but the text of his speech on graduation night, in front of a crowd who were (mostly) his opponents, seems a little bit like “rubbing it in.” He talks about how *he* recognized right from wrong, *he* filed the lawsuit, etc… which again, was courageous and laudable… but I’m not sure standing in front of those people and reminding them of his victory was the best speech to give. Maybe one a little less about him and his fight and winning against “most of you,” and more about separation of church/state in general?

    On the other hand… you can’t help but admire the guy. He did a really great thing, taking on the administration and winning an important fight.

  • http://sorryforstaring.com Randall

    Regret: Not giving a graduation speech more like this one. This kid has gual. The speech would have gone over just fine at a secular humanist conference, but remember, he was speaking to a crowd that voted against this and probably resented every word that was coming out of his mouth on principle alone.

    10 points to him!

  • JulietEcho

    The school, as a last ditch effort to allow students to lead prayers at the graduation, decided NOT to screen speeches beforehand, as is the usual procedure. If they didn’t want to be called “doltish” they could have screened the speech and told him to leave it out. But because they were STILL intent on leaving open a loophole for a semi-official prayer, they didn’t. And Eric gets to say what he likes, just like Courtenay (the student who thanked God and quoted the Bible) gets to say what she likes.

    I think it’s sad how many Christians don’t seem to understand how church/state separation works, and furthermore, how it protects their freedoms.

    dhoffman5 – there’s nothing unconstitutional about a student deciding to pray at graduation (or for the whole class deciding to pray in unison), but it IS unconstitutional for the government-funded public school administration to sponsor or endorse such a prayer as part of the ceremony. It might seem like a small difference to you, but trust me – it matters.

  • http://www.loreleiarmstrong.com Lorelei

    I predict that in 2035 that young man will have an epic reunion. It’s always nice to be the successful one with everyone else coming up to tell you you were right.

    Very impressive. I wish him all the best.

  • http://shadowgm.diaryland.com Bob

    @dhoffman5:

    “If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be closer to constitutional violation to actually have legislation against prayer? That actually is a law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion, whereas simply having a prayer involves no law at all, one way or the other.”

    Unfortunately, the 1st Amendment stipulates both the establishment of and free exercise of religion. To allow prayers from a specific denomination – even if it comprises a majority of the student body – raises the question of violating the establishment clause.

    As for the free exercise therein, nothing in the ruling said you cannot pray, as an individual, in your own home or church, as you see fit. It simply says that a public venue, shared by all, cannot become the forum for one faith and not for others.

  • Pingback: Eric Workman, my hero « My Point Exactly

  • Casimir

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

    Having a prayer at a graduation would not involve Congress or any law/legislation. It wouldn’t violate the Constitution at all.

    There is a heap of precedent in Supreme Court cases that explain why it is unconstitutional. The bottom line is that the government cannot favor certain religious beliefs over others. Even a non-sectarian prayer would favor theistic beliefs. Otherwise the government could do an end run around the prohibition on establishment of religion and favor certain religious beliefs to the extent that they are a de facto state-sponsored religion.

    To give just one example, from the majority opinion in Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962): “[W]e think that the constitutional prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion must at least mean that in this country it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government.” (Justice Hugo Black). You could also try this resource.

  • Omphaloskeptic

    Outstanding job, Eric. Thank you for making the world a better place, instead of shutting up and keeping your personal world a less troublesome place. I would feel extremely lucky to be your classmate or coworker. :)

  • SickoftheUS

    I think it was extremely appropriate for Eric to have talked about this issue in his own valedictory speech – and what a pleasant change from all the anodyne graduation speeches that kids (and adults) give, which are usually a string of Hallmark card references to “new beginnings”, opportunity, and blah blah blah.

    This class had the great fortune to collectively experience a solid, meaningful lesson in civics. I wish my high school experience had been even remotely like this.

  • Demonhype

    That was gutsy and awesome! I love that guy! Seriously, it takes some guts to do anything even close to what he did, and to do it so bluntly without trying to be “nice” about it–even though the faith-heads won’t be nice about it back. It’s an important stand to take, and if they don’t like it then maybe they shouldn’t be trying to find loopholes to smuggle their God through. These nutbags really need to understand exactly why this behavior is inappropriate, and that won’t be done through playing nice and gentle.

    Hell, the religious are the ones who have defined the playing field, and they shouldn’t dish it out if they can’t take it. Just sayin’. :)

    I wrote about the influence of atheism and love of science on my work for my Senior Show artist statement in 2008, and this was at a religiously founded university. However, it wasn’t a Bible college and I had seen articles in the school paper lauding the existence of atheists on campus as one of a number of people who add to the diversity of the student population. My draft is still floating about on the intertubez somewhere, though I kind of wish it was the final version and not the draft. I still worry that it might be a factor in my difficulty in finding employment.

    Anyway, the final version was limited to a single page, single spaced, and much less hostile than this graduation speech. But after I submitted the first draft, the teacher sends me an email to make the 60-mile round trip to school (on my day off, no less) for some reason she refused to give on the email–and after I told her that this better not be about my atheism and she insisted it wasn’t, I drove down there so she could say “oh, the tone is too apologetic, you sound like your apologizing, you should fix that”. Yeah, right, I think she wanted to ream me about my atheism and didn’t want to leave evidence of her bigotry–and then had to toss together some weak shit when it turned out that I know the score.

    Anyway, at the Senior Show there were two other students who laced their statements with a lot of shameless religious brownnosing–well within their rights, and not an uncommon occurence anyway, though at least one of these seemed a bit hastily shoehorned as if the God-refs were put in for a particular reason.

    I was lucky enough to not receive a lot of hate and heckling. In the sign-in book, there were no hateful comments directed to me, but since there were almost no comments directed to me I can only assume they were practicing “if you can’t say something nice…” The girl who went the most Christ-happy, however, had her mediocre work praised to the heavens as if she had painted the Sistine Chapel, and some of those almost read like an indirect “fuck you” to me. But it was a much more civilized “fuck you” than they are usually known for. (BTW, mediocre work is exactly that–she had these photos of flowers with the backgrounds dropped out and what looked like about a half-hour of Photoshop layered filters that she claimed were intrinsically Christian images–not too impressive in either work or concept.) The girl herself seemed like an overall nice person, however, and her pottery was lovely even if her pictures were lacking.

    I think I’m probably just lucky that I didn’t have to give it as a speech, which would have been much gutsier and also opened me up for some real and open abuse. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to get up like Workman to give an important voice to the unpopular idea that minority views exist and have equal rights. This guy is not only smart and totally right, but he is amazingly brave and we need more people like him–Christian or not–to stand up for what is right!

    Seriously, it is great to see more Christians opening their freaking mouths when the Christofascists start throwing their weight around. You can’t expect to be disassociated from the unpleasant elements of your religion when you do nothing to criticize or defy them. And, uh, Christofascists? You know how insulted you felt when he called you all those names? That’s exactly how non-Christians and atheists feel when you start invoking your Christian God in public ceremonies that are supposed to represent everyone and not just you, especially since the sometimes not-so-subtle subtext of such prayers is “all of you non-Christians are all going to burn in hell and my God is real and yours is crap” Just a little lesson in that Golden Rule you’re so proud of as if Jesus personally invented it. Might be nice if you actually applied it once in a while.

  • Pingback: Greenwood High School Valedictorian Eric Workman Stands Up For Separation Of Church And State « Camels With Hammers

  • Jeff Ciaccio

    Eric – WOW!! As a science teacher and fellow skeptic, I applaud your speech and efforts and can only hope that you will continue to stand up for what is right when many of us don’t have the guts to do so!

  • Ish

    I’m going to take the unpopular side and argue that Workman’s Valedictorian speech was in poor taste. Not in terms of content so much, as in terms of delivery.

    There are at least two ways to argue any contentious point, and Workman chose to demonstrate the superiority of his side over the inferiority of his opponents, when, I suggest, he was performing in a forum where he could have made his point by inviting his (mistaken) colleagues to share in the victory he achieved over the administration, and include them in the goals of his message, while still not bowing down to their point of view.

    I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that a valedictorian speech is not the place to bring up controversial topics, and I fully agree that since it was the graduation ceremony that was the target of the original vote and the following lawsuit, it was entirely the correct forum to discuss the consequences of what was months of debate and court time. What I will insist is that the valedictorian speech is an opportunity for the strongest student to speak with the voice of the class, to congratulate, to inspire, and to charge the graduating body with goals and challenges for their collective futures. For some of his colleagues, this is their last portion of formal education, for some it is only the beginning. It is the duty of the valedictorian to unite his or her fellow students on this final occasion. But they do not have to be united by a safe topic.

    The other point I would like to make is a general observation about the delivery of the secular viewpoint, that certainly applies in this instance. I absolutely love strong secular arguments. They allow me, as an atheist, to validate my own point of view and provide me with rational arguments to turn to if I find I need to justify my point of view to another. Strong secular arguments resonate well with people who already agree with them. Unfortunately, strong secular arguments tend to elicit resentment and resistance in people who do not already agree with them. This is my major disappointment in Richard Dawkins, for instance. His intended audience may be the faithful, but his style of delivery, which is an unapologetic demonstration of his own logical and intellectual mastery, only further closes down the already fairly closed minds of his opponents. The people who actually listen to his arguments are those who are already at least partially convinced. Workman followed this method of delivery.

    In his speech he alienated his fellow graduates first by elevating his own chosen subject matter, excluding students in not-strictly-scientific studies. Following this with petty name-calling toward the administrators seemed to set the impression of an indignant tantrum taking place rather than the intellectual discussion that he wanted to imply. Workman set an elitist tone from the beginning of his speech and as a result, he only truly spoke to a small fraction of his audience.

    Were I to make this sort of speech more accessible (and I don’t really have that right, I’m merely trying to provide some examples in case I have been confusing), I would begin with the errors of the administration to try to undermine the constitution, and then celebrate the freedoms of the country, the freedoms that allow him and others to challenge their school administration via the legal system, something that cannot be taken for granted elsewhere in the world. Workman could keep his Jefferson quote (“In matters of principle …”) and instead of claiming the notion for himself, he could have invited his classmates to always hold true to it, no matter what their own principles. He could then have his final thoughts, his personal thanks, challenge his colleagues to join him in asking ‘why’ and ‘how’ and never settling for the easy answers.

    He could have been both controversial and inclusive, but he was only one.

  • anon

    Thanks for blogging the complete speech. I think calling the administration doltish is both rude, and accurate, and so appropriate for this occasion.

    I support Eric and the first amendment.

    But I cringe whenever I read the hackneyed and trite “brass balls” nonsense, no matter how you dress it up. In the name of the internet, please bin that one.

    He’s brave, he’s got courage, he was right, and he deserves support.

    Ya know who else had brass balls? Yeah, Lieutenant Commander Philip Francis Queeg.

  • Allie

    Does anyone know where he’s going to college? My alma mater, Washington State, would be lucky to have him!

  • longstreet63

    Since I live in Indianapolis and get to hear some of the rabid baying of our local Christianists, I think Eric’s speech was, if anything, far too gentle.
    The end run produced by the school to allow prayer–that of not screening speeches–should have been met by a speech that included profanity at a minimum. It was a policy specifically designed for abuse, and they should have gotten what they asked for rather than merely the religious abuse they wanted.
    He was much nicer than I would have been. Not one word he said would make a difference in mitigating how the Christianists view him locally, but he could have gone farther in pointing out what a sham the policy was.
    I applaud his speech and regret his restraint. BUt then, I wasnt the one who’d have had to make the speech.

  • mfmiller5

    This just illustrates why schools should not be government owned and operated. In a privately owned school, freedom of religion would be permitted. Once again the government controls the people by limiting the few freedoms we have left. Thank you Eric for being an ndividual. Like most teenagers you do it by all striving to be the same. You stand up, puff up your chest and bray to the crowd about your rights. Good luck with all that, without help from those you snubbed.

  • Michael

    Such a shame. Good for him to fight for the constitution, but did he REALLY have to spend his commencement speech telling the student body and their parents that he was right and they were wrong?

    Sorry, but when I read this speech, all I saw was arrogance. Commencement speeches are supposed to inspire the students to take life to the next level in college. He wasted that opportunity, and wasted everybody’s time.

  • Rory

    This douche bag makes a lot of very good points. However, by making them at a time of communal celebration he is still a douchebag.

  • Darby

    I’m quite surprised at so many people complaining that he had the integrity to speak honestly due to the nature of the event.

    @Rory: Wow, demonstrating ethics, courage, and integrity makes one a douche in your book? I hope one day you feel the need to call me one. That would mark me as a truly wonderful and exceptional person to gain the disdain of a person such as yourself.

    @Michael: Yes, he absolutely did have to do exactly that. It’s not arrogant at all, it’s the right of all of his supporters to have the truth stated loud and clear and the obligation of the rabidly anti-American scum he defended all of us against to listen to the truth for once and deal with reality.

    These *traitors* tried to systematically, intentionally and out of pure malicious hatred undermine the fundamental basis of a free society. They pissed away money they clearly need for education in order to cram vile idiotic lies into people’s heads and spread a campaign of lies and rabid ignorant hatred against this hero.

    So, the few honest decent people in this community have a right to know the truth, and he has a right to speak the truth. You seem to forget that the rest of the people in the crowd are the ones who lied, pissed all over every ethical standard and attempted to betray every child in the community. While they failed at their specific attempt, they did succeed in betraying their children by pissing away their educational funds on pushing their rabid hatred of America and every decent principle it’s ever claimed to stand for.

    They have no right to expect to be treated as graciously as they were in light the severity of their crimes.

    Is there a fund we can contribute to to help fund a couple tons of coke and hookers for this hero..or maybe something more useful like his education?

    People of such honor and integrity are rare in our world and obviously practically non-existent in that community. No surprise given how those vile animals treat anybody with a shred of ethics or integrity.

  • Flonkbob

    Wow. I can’t believe how many people are whining about how ‘rude’ it was for this kid to bring up the fact that the school district just violated his rights.

    Oh, he was rude! Terrible. They committed a CRIME, but don’t make them feel bad. If it were me I’d have been a LOT more rude. You start a battle with someone, you may get FUCKED up. Was that rude? Hope so.

  • http://breadmilkbeercigarettes.com bittramp

    Wow, I’m am somewhere between agnostic and atheistic, but certainly do not hold subscription with any known religions. And I would bequeath anyone a prayer of their acquired faith at a graduation without trying to bust out the constitution. I think he was doing some attention whoring and wrapping himself in the constitution. There are plenty of fights out there, pick your fight. Don’t be a douche.

  • http://www.ihategoogle.org/ Daniel Kramer

    When this guy passes a second semester Constitutional Law class at an accredited law school, then I might take what he says seriously. For now, his tools for analyzing the constitutionality of religion vis a vis schools are woefully lacking.

    The simple assertion that prayer in school is unconstitutional, along with a quote from the First Amendment, does not make it so. Such an assertion on a law school exam would be rewarded with a well deserved failing grade.

    I have no problem with this graduate speaking his mind, even if his points might be offensive to some. What I do have a problem with is the taking of Thomas Jefferson’s quotes out of context and using them to support a “right” which is not textually in the Constitution. Jefferson’s quotes referred to the dangers of allowing majority rule in the Congress, not the establishment of a religion. His concerns were reflected in the Senate’s rules of filibuster and cloture.

    A textual interpretation of the First Amendment leads to the conclusion that Congress cannot establish a religion. This amendment has been “incorporated” via the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause, thereby making it applicable to the states and their subdivisions as well. However, the First Amendment’s restrictions only apply to the government. It simply does not apply to individual citizens and therefore cannot restrict their actions. The idea that the speaker’s rights could be violated by a private citizen’s prayer is ludicrous. There is no “right” to be free from exposure to a prayer offered by an non-state individual. The Constitution, and specifically the First Amendment, simply do not work that way.

  • pilgrimOmega

    hey @ kramer: lern2reed. he WON a lawsuit using that quote from the first amendment.

  • Melissa

    Since when is someone’s GRADUATION speech about his/her own beliefs? I thought it was to discus EVERYONE’S future and what EVERYONE had learned through the years. Guess he forgot the graduation was for everyone, not only himself.

  • Robert

    Let me quote this: “… That they are endowed with certain inalienable rights by their creator… that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men…” I’m certainly no bible thumping fanatic but the moment the government actively destroys the exercise of religious beliefs simply to adhere to some contrived philosophy of separation you have effectively undermined the first and greatest foundation of U.S. government – that our rights come from a higher authority. I’m appalled at the adoration directed toward this kid. His speech is nothing but a regurgitation of the secular humanist rhetoric that started with O’Hare. $13 Trillion in debt with another $125 trillion in unfunded liabilities and all you losers have to froth about is some kid caught up in leftist communitarian rhetoric. SAD!!!!

  • JCMoney

    I think if this kid really doesn’t stop asking why until he uncovers how and doesn’t stop asking how until he has determined why, then he’ll eventually have a different perspective on this issue, as he discovers society’s answers to “why” do not always match up with reality.

  • BrentBurgess

    Right on Eric! I hope my kids are as truthful and insightful.

  • Matthew

    This speech was very well done for a high school graduation – it involved a lesson that you need to stand up as an individual, and not just as a product of your environment – hopefully a few students took that lesson to heart. Most people accept the status quo and just go on with their lives, allowing themselves to be exploited and oppressed, but this guy didn’t let that happen. Good for him.

  • S.B.

    Good for him for taking a stand. Like everyone else has mentioned, he certainly has guts. Ultimately I agree though, with the people who say that it was the right speech, but in front of the wrong audience. It’s a shame he couldn’t raise himself above the “I told you so” attitude that his speech reflects in this context. It really would be a great speech if given in a more opportune time and place.

  • lamb of dog

    this kid is brave, yes, and the audience needed to hear it, yes, but they already had a chance to hear it, apparently, and chose not to listen. To disrupt everyone’s graduation ceremony with a speech that basically says “all of you are dumb and I am the smart guy to point it out to you” is no better than for the admins to lead a prayer that effectively disfranchises non-xians.

    When I went to a niece’s graduation and the principal started it with a prayer, I really wanted to stand up and yell “Separation of church and state!” But I didn’t, because around 200 kids had worked hard to be there, and it wasn’t about me.

    Of course, it was this kid’s own graduation, and he won the right to speak by earning high grades, but this speech is not what graduation ceremonies are for. I support him in his right to say what he did, but he was wrong.

  • Zietlos

    Looking at the speech, my high school valedictorian was determined by vote, not by rote, so naturally it was a football star. His speech was FAR more self “I am great” than this one, sure, he overcame a collapsed lung to get the winning touchdown, NO ONE CARES. This speech discussed quotes of really famous people, talked about the views of society and how the world really is. It isn’t a singular story of overcoming some medical predicament, or whatnot, nor is it one saying “I loved each an every one of you, and I will miss you all *burst into tears*” and you sit in the crowd wondering “who is that woman? Was she in one of my classes?”.

    This had a purpose. And frankly, I’m glad he won. And I’m jealous that his class got a REAL speech, and not just vacuous airheaded generalities. A speech isn’t science, it doesn’t need to be third person impersonal. In fact, the core of any speech is personal. Otherwise we call it a “lecture”. So yes, toot your own horn, because it is what you know. What this guy knows, though, is definitely more than any muscleheads at my school did.


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