Saturday, June 18, 2011

Censored Graduation Speech

There's been a bit of controversy up in these here parts. It seems that a valedictorian wanted to speak about his faith a bit more than the school was comfortable with. The school in question, like most I assume, requires that all speeches be approved beforehand and then be printed out and neatly inserted into the one binder that sits on the podium. Everything that happens at graduation is in that binder and is saved carefully afterwards by the alumni association.

So around comes this year and the speech was "clipped".

Here's the full speech, as published by the Rutland Herald (the only article on the entire website that is freely available outside the paywall. But I digress.).

I'd love to know what you think.

Full text of Kyle Gearwar's Fair Haven Union High School graduation speech

Published: June 14, 2011
Editor's Note: On the night of the Fair Haven Union High School graduation, the Class of 2011 valedictorian, Kyle Gearwar, read a portion of the speech that he had prepared for the ceremony. Due to references to God in the speech, he was not allowed to read the speech in its entirety. The full text of the speech is reprinted here with Kyle's permission.

Good Evening parents, graduates, faculty and staff, administrators, families and students of Fair Haven Union High School. Thank you for coming tonight to witness this truly awesome event. I thought I would begin this speech with a little formality, but trust me I will not speak like this for the whole five minutes.

I would just like to take a moment to recognize this class of graduates. This is one of the most intelligent and competitive classes this school has ever witnessed graduate. We have students going into prestigious colleges and occupations, athletes that are at the top of their games and have won state recognition, all state band musicians, poetry wizards, and many others who succeed and excel in various activities. I can't even describe the potential of this group of individuals. It is impossible to imagine what each student will accomplish and we can look forward to these people leading and becoming the backbone of this country. This is one of the greatest classes that Fair Haven has produced and I am proud to be, not only their Valedictorian but also their classmate.
I would like to say my thank yous now. I would like to begin by thanking this school and the faculty, staff and administration. It has been a great four years and I thank you for preparing me for college and the life ahead of me. Each of you has left your mark on me and I will forever remember what you have taught me academically and all the life lessons. I would also like to thank Mr. Richard Luzer. I spent probably half my high school career in that library with you and it was well worth the time and discussion. You are a wise man Mr. Luzer and Fair haven is lucky to have you.

Next I want to thank my church and Youth Group, Pastor Rob and Pastor Dan, my youth leaders Mr. Lew and Mrs. Ronna, Mike Hall and all those that have mentored me for the last ten years of my life. The guidance you have given me in scripture is phenomenal and the mentoring and love you have shown me can not be reciprocated. Everything you do is for God and for others and I can not thank you enough. And to my Youth Group I want to say that you are my core. I look forward every week to seeing you all and though we go through difficult times, they will always get better eventually.

Finally I would like to thank my mom and dad and brother. I am not just saying this, I mean it with the upmost respect and love, you are the greatest parents and family I could ever ask for. I guess I can be a little forgetful but you've always been there to help me and raise me to be successful and I hope I have made you proud. Mom, thank you for all the hard work you've put into my post-secondary school education and I am truly thankful for the things you've done so I'm ready for college. Thanks for all the free animal mounts as well. I hope you let me take some to put in my dorm room. Dad, thank you for trusting me even when you have no reason too. I am so grateful that I have a father with so much intelligence and knowledge. Trav, you are an awesome brother and probably one of my best friends as well. I wish you the best of luck in the rest of your high school career and onward. I want to thank all my family members here tonight as well for everything you have done to make my life enjoyable to live.

I come before you tonight, ill prepared. I have spent the last week diligently praying and writing my speech for you tonight. I sought the message that would deliver a feeling of sorrow, but end with great victory. Sadly the latter part is not the case. My original speech has been cut, redone, and eventually trashed because of my references to the Bible, Jesus, and a better life. Today my letter to you was revised by some lawyers and attorneys who crossed out the concluding half of my speech. They said that the school can not endorse or allow me to speak about religion and how it has changed my life. I have dealt with the minor changes to my story that they have proposed, but in the end I could not throw it out. It saddens me that it had to come to this and I do not wish to read it on these circumstances because I know that Mr. Blanchard, Mr. Doucette and the school are at the mercy of the law if I follow through on this. It saddens me even more that the founding fathers created the first amendment, but today Congress has changed it to exclude those that they do not want to speak and defiled the principles on which this country was built on. I would also like to add that I am not trying to cause a problem or direct attention to myself, but I have always dreamed of speaking about God in front of my school as the Valedictorian. This was the message God gave to me and I am not allowed to share it with you even though it my testimony, the most important change my life has ever experienced, and the one thing that I stand for no matter what.

Today my valedictorian speech remains unfinished. I am submitting to those who have authority over me by not reading the half of my speech that has caused issues. I respect the administration for the decisions they have made and thank them anyways for the opportunity to speak.

Editor's Note: The section of Kyle's speech that he was prevented from reading at graduation begins below:

I thank God for everything He has done for me and the strength He has given me to resist the urge to defy the command the school has given me. Again thank you for coming tonight and Congratulations to the 2011 Fair Haven Union High School Graduates.

Now I would like to share a story, actually the testimony of my life, to show you what I have gone through and how I got here. Some of you may be offended with this story but this is what I feel God has laid on my heart and is a message this school needs to hear. I have grown up a in a Christian home all my life thanks to my amazing parents, but as many of these people can vouch for, I do not always act like I am Born Again. Thankfully, Jesus said I am not perfect and God forgives me for every sin I commit. My testimony is this. For the last few weeks I was lost in anger and depression. I kept it hidden quite well from most though. I was so burdened with grief and angst that I couldn't focus on my life or those around me. Finally it all broke loose and I couldn't contain myself any longer. I lashed out in anger at some of my best friends and cried for hours on end. I was so broken that I call a friend and mentor of mine who went through some of the same issues as I have. I begged him to get rid of this hate I had for myself and those that had done me wrong. He reminded me of the song that includes these words, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his beautiful face, and the cares of this world will grow strangely dim.” The following day I picked up a book by a pastor out of Texas. He talks about letting go of the past and looking for the future God has for those who seek him. The reason I acted the way I have for so long was because I harbored this extreme dislike for myself and held onto the things people have said and done to me. But as soon as I gave this to God and let him fight my battles my entire life has changed. I don't dwell on the past. I have peace and can finally enjoy every moment God has given me, good or bad. I wouldn't be standing before you without the blessings God has given me through my tough situations. He is the reason I am the man I am today, made new through Jesus death on the cross.

I have my own unique issues and problems, but they can include others like substance abuse, relationship problems, anger, pride, or depression. The way to escape this is through submitting to God. I can't get through all my difficulties in my own strength, but with God I can, and there are many people in this world whose lives have changed because of Him. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, they are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a hope and a future.” I needed to let go of the things that I wasn't proud of and give my life to the One who created me. God knew me before I was born and wanted a relationship with me from that very day. And trust me it was well worth the effort to submit to God and not let the world get the best of me.

Now I can live in freedom from sin.
Now I can look at each new day with a smile.
Now I can face each trouble and problem with a glad heart.
Now I can live with God and not try to barely survive without Him.

Again thank you for coming tonight and Congratulations to the 2011 Fair Haven Union High School Graduates.

Bit much, I think. How did you react?


  1. Yup. Bit much. This would have been appropriate for the end-of-year service that many churches have for the students in their congregations who are graduating. Or for a religious high school. Not at all OK for a public high school.

  2. I think it's amazing that if they want to talk about their gay lifestyle or any other thing, that would be okay, but if you speak about your faith.. that cannot be protected. Freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. Oh, and the free speech applies to all speech, not just what you want it to apply to.

  3. Except, Unknown, that at a PUBLIC school, you may talk about a whole range of subjects including some that would not feel comfortable to various audiences, but you may not proselytize for a religion. The young man's speech crossed that line, in my opinion. The young man would of course be totally free to make the same speech in a venue that was not supported by tax dollars.

  4. Obviously evangelising a captive audience. These are children, not adults. He prepared a speech better for a Church experience.

    A question though based on his bitch about being sensored, how does one become Validictorian with a remark that fials basic civic's let alone distorts history?"It saddens me even more that the founding fathers created the first amendment, but today Congress has changed it to exclude those that they do not want to speak and defiled the principles on which this country was built on."