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June 16, 2018 at 2:52 pm #21638
Editor’s note: Many might have wondered why Tomahawk High School had six valedictorians in the Class of 2018, but only five spoke at the Sunday, June 3 ceremony. One student was told her speech was not appropriate, and rather than rewrite her message, she opted not to give it.
The Tomahawk Leader did a story in our June 12, 2018 issue on Cait Christenson’s decision and printed her speech. Reference to the story has now appeared nationwide, from the Washington Post to the Seattle Times.
This morning, Tomahawk High School Principal Ryan Huseby issued an apology and said administrators missed an opportunity to break with the tradition of just having valedictorians focus on reflecting on their positive memories and offering thanks to those who supported them on their educational journeys. “The situation has taught us that we should continue to evaluate when it’s time to break from tradition and allow students to express themselves in different ways than we have come to expect in the past,” he said in a written statement.
His previous statement issued to the Leader before publication of the story was as follows: “The THS graduation ceremony is an event with a long time focus on celebrating the graduating class, gratitude and well wishes into the future. All ceremony components, such as music performances and speeches are approved through a process to ensure content remains consistent with the celebratory event. Students have choices and are provided assistance throughout the process with resources, opportunities to practice and feedback. The option to speak is a privilege and it has always been a practice to ensure the speeches address the spirit of the event.”
Our story is available on newsstands or through an Online Edition subscription at https://www.tomahawkleader.com.
A copy of Cait’s speech is printed below:
Good Afternoon. Thank you all for attending our Class of 2018’s graduation commencement,
and the continued educational support throughout the past 13 years of our lives. I think it’s
appropriate to reflect on some of things I have learned, but also, open a conversation about
issues that are bigger than ourselves as individuals.
Early in our elementary education, we began discussing the history of slavery and discrimination
in our country. As a seven year old, I was very saddened to know that kids, people like me,
were being treated so poorly. The reconstruction amendments were only the beginning of a
revolution towards equal rights. Tremendous progress was made during the civil rights
movement, yet today, prejudice and discrimination still exist against minority races in America.
Over America’s nearly 250 year existence, women’s rights have progressed from non-voting,
housewife members of society to influential voting, workplace powerhouses. That all began with
the women’s suffrage movement and 19th amendment. I am so proud to be among six female
valedictorians, the most THS has had in decades, and they’re all strong female leaders. As a
young woman, I feel extremely empowered by this progress, yet today, women can’t seem to
breakthrough the glass ceiling that promotes wage gaps and the male bureaucracy. When
women are harassed, feel violated, and aren’t encouraged to stick up for themselves- the blame
falls on them, which takes away the most basic right of having a voice, making them feel foreign
in their own bodies.
Over the past 9 months, we have seen heartbreaking stories in the news of school shootings
that have left innocent students and teachers with their life in someone else’s hands. This issue
has gained national attention over the past few months, yet today, as a nation, we are reluctant
to confront mental illness and bullying, which has resulted in more deaths than deaths in combat
zones in 2018 so far. Students are fearful for their right of an education safely; sadly denied
from the power of knowledge.
There are many problems today in society that some people are too afraid to address in fear of
sparking controversy and in fear of encouraging acceptance of other’s ideas. We all may be
individuals headed on separate paths after turning our tassels this afternoon, but together, as
the Class of 2018 nationwide, we can make up entire movements, advocating for change. The
Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter, Women’s Suffrage to #metoo, the Columbine
Effect to NeverAgain. There are hundreds of problems in the world that we can complain,
worry, and be scared over, although there are endless solutions that we, as an innovative,
driven team, can accomplish to make the world a happier place. As a divided nation, we can
put aside our differences and all come together to uplift and accept and respect each other’s
opinions. Instead of avoiding the problem; instead of remaining ignorant; instead of
encouraging negative stereotypes and passing slurs throughout our society; instead of
punishing the victims; instead of telling others how they should live and express themselves- put
yourself in their shoes before passing judgement, incriminating, and disrespecting others. It’s
the golden rule we’ve been hearing since kindergarten. We all have the power to treat everyone
with kindness and stand up for the people who need it the most. Don’t be fearful of expressing
what you believe in, and don’t be in fear of talking about social taboos we’re too afraid to admit
too. We can make changes in our nation and even around the world, just by promoting
positivity, acceptance, and equity.
Thank you.June 18, 2018 at 5:33 pm #32309
I also posted this comment on Facebook:
I think the Principal addressed this situation very well !!! Cait’s non-speech has made more of an impact now than if she had given it at the ceremony. So, in that respect, it was a win for her. The Principal and Co have also learned something.
Nothing is perfect in this world and I think the outcome is great for all concerned !!!June 20, 2018 at 8:33 pm #32310
The United States has always been a “Divided” nation.
Racism, Prejudice and Division is a part of us, and has only grown more rampant in the past two years.
Cait`s speech brought it to our attention.
And , not letting her give the speech, just validated her words.
As in the words of our own Governor…………”DIVIDE AND CONQUER”June 21, 2018 at 2:45 am #32311
I have to agree that it was a great speech, but I don’t think it was appropriate in this time and place. It reminded me more of a political speech that you would hear someone running for office giving on TV.
Apparently she doesn’t know what the word “compromise” means. I see a bit of stubbornness here where “if I can’t do it my way, I won’t do it at all”. In the future when she is working a job and the persons in charge want her to change something she is working on this could be a problem.
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