Graduation speaker uninvited because he is gay (superintendent’s email address included).

My father sent this along to me this morning.  It seems a very successful alumni of a very small Arkansas high school was scheduled to speak at the graduation.  However, he was uninvited because he finds men more attractive than women.  He wrote a letter to one of the local news outlets that says it pretty well:

I could just sit back and let this slide, but if I did, the discrimination that has taken place here would go unnoticed like it has so many times in history.  Unless my arguments here cause them to reevaluate, nothing will change. But what must change, is the way we treat our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender  (LGBT) youth because, News Flash, the world is changing and it starts in our homes, our schools and yes, even in our places of worship. The suicide rate amongst LGBT teens is staggering. As Superintendent, I hope he is aware that LGBT youth already attend classes on his campus.  They are going from class to class with a fear of being outed or being treated horribly by their classmates–so adding educators and mentors to that mix prohibits these teens from thriving.  The Board represents them too, and by silencing me, you’re telling those students that it isn’t okay to be who they are.

Upon going to the school district’s web page, it became clear they weren’t on top of things.  It appears their website and ethics on gays are both dredged from the 1980s or before.

You know what would be awesome?  If we gave the superintendent (Mitch Walton, whose email address is the attention he so richly deserves and undoubtedly wants on this issue.  Because when you make a moral stand, why make it to just a small battery of people in a tiny town in Arkansas?  Why not make it to the world!  Let him wear this around his neck like a cross, and just as proudly.

And if that pride evaporates when more eyes get on the issue, well, the Christian should learn that you need to do what’s right even when people aren’t looking.

So let’s all send them emails like, oh, this one my mom sent:

Mr. Walton,

What a major fail. I cannot think of anyone who would have been a more qualified speaker and role model to speak at graduation than Bryant Huddleston.

I am embarrassed for you. I should think your town should be embarrassed for you. Your state should be embarrassed for you. Your country should be embarrassed for you.

Carol Eberhard
Mountain Home, AR

My mother has brevity down to a science.


About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Nate Frein

    The whole letter is…powerful. Well worth the read.

  • Michael W Busch

    JT, your parents are awesome.

  • unbound55

    I would agree about the web site design. I haven’t seen anything that awful since the days of Mosaic. People should probably include in their e-mails that their website is about 20 years out of date, and that they can probably find at least a dozen high school students that could help them update it.

    Then again, the verbiage at the bottom of the webpage does speak to the quality of the website and likely the education which really agrees with JT’s statement:

    As with any active site, this homepage is constantly under construction.
    It is also a learning tool for a class of students, so please
    demonstrate a little patience and a lot of understanding;
    and maybe one day this site will be complete and
    will reflect the quality of education
    available at Sloan-Hendrix.

  • Kengi

    As their motto says, they are trying to “preserve yesterday” in all ways possible.

  • Matthew Ostergren

    I wish it didn’t take so long for social change to come.

  • ♪ Kompani ♪

    I have sent an email from the UK.

  • Glodson

    This letter will take some work, as I think sending “You stupid fucking bigot” would be of any help, despite it being entirely relevant.

  • Umlud


    (One grammar quibble: “Alumni” is plural of “Alumnus”. Ergo, you cannot have “a very successful alumni,” just like you cannot have “a very spacious auditoria” or “a highly intelligent students”. Too – being Latin – “alumnus” and “alumni” are masculine (singular and plural); “alumna” and “alumnae” are feminine (singular and plural). Of course, quibbling over these points of grammar concerning an effectively dead language is a vanishingly minor point, especially since “alumnus,” “alumna,” and “alumnae” are all falling out of use in both British and American English.)

    • John H

      For the sake of gender-neutrality, we typically go with the clipped “alum(n)” with an Anglicized plural of “alum(n)s”.

      • Umlud

        Sure: alumn works well. However, I always find it humorous that we try to de-gender words that most people don’t recognize as having gender. If you ask most English-speaking monolingual Americans what the gender of “Alumni” is, they’d likely look at you quizzically. Just like if you ask them what the gender of “the” is. (Answer: they’re both masculine.)

        The only real difference between continuing to blindly and blithely use the masculine “the” (instead of sē, sēo, þæt, þā) and making a big deal about neutering gendered words from a dead language is that the latter is happening concurrently with the modern gender equality movement.

        However (again), I’d wager that to the vast majority of English-speaking monolingual Americans, the idea of nouns other than “[occupation]-man” and “[occupation]-ess” (e.g., “chairman” and “stewardess”) as having gender is likely completely foreign to them. That a bridge is masculine in Spanish (“el puente”) makes little sense to most English monolinguals. That the same bridge is feminine in German (die Brücke) makes even less sense. To then tell them that adjectives must be modified to be consonant with the gender of the noun they describe is just painful to construct. As is to remember that the article must also be in the same gender.

        In short, while I’m all for gender-neutrality, fighting over the inherent gender of words from a dead language that no one really recognizes as having gender is kinda silly, especially if we recognize that the most common word in the English language – “the” – is actually the masculine article (and not the feminine nor the neutral).

        Btw, I prefer “alumn,” since “alum” is the chemical compound AlK(SO4)2.12H2O.

  • Ted Thompson
  • Peter Billing

    They’ve got a whole section on Civil Rights. I wonder if they appreciate the irony that those opposed to gay rights will look exactly the same as segregationists in twenty years time.

    • Glodson

      I am sure that in 20 years, and with some judicious editing of their own history, they will have been on the right side all along.

      Only inconvenient facts and evidence will show otherwise.

  • dale otteson

    Mr. Walton,

    By all logical standards, it seems that Bryant Huddleston would be an ideal commencement speaker. He has risen above bigotry and abuse to achieve success, some measure of fame, and to become a contributor to his community and a loving father to a disadvantaged child.

    If you think that acknowledging the reality of gay people increases their number, you are ignorant. If you think being gay is unnatural or evil, you are bigoted. If you think forcing Steve Huddleston to abstain from voting so that you can force the board to accept your decision is an acceptable tactic, you are a common bully.

    In short, you represent all the obstacles that Bryant Huddleston has surmounted to achieve success. You are the very thing he might have, by example, shown as the real evil in our society.

    You, sir, are beyond disgusting and have no right to have authority over anyone, especially children.

  • Sean Sherman

    Their high school handbook might be from the 1880s. It indicates they will inflict corporal punishment on hs students. Weird!