Valedictorian's Commencement Speech Censored - What Exactly Did She Say?

Filed under: In The News, Weird But True

A high school valedictorian was told that her graduation speech was

A Harvard-bound valedictorian had her graduation speech censored by the principal. Photo courtesy of

Ah, high school. Hanging out with your friends. Going to class. Being repressed by idiotic school administrators. Good times, good times.

18-year-old Jem Lugo recently graduated from Springstead High School with a 3.98 GPA. She's smart. Smart enough to be attending Harvard in the fall. She is also the valedictorian of her class, and therefore is tasked with delivering a speech at graduation.

But Ms. Lugo did not get to deliver the speech she wanted to. When she submitted her original draft to principal Susan Duval, she was told to "start over." Lugo also says that "the senior class sponsor, who read the speech first, used the word 'appalled.'"

So what did she say?

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According to the St. Petersburg Times, not much. The paper posted the two versions of the speech on their website, and the main difference between the two is that the first one is actually readable. The second is so dull it makes the back of a cereal box look exciting by comparison.

The original speech isn't exactly "I Have A Dream." It is, however, the sort of thing that her fellow students would probably have found hilarious. A few examples:

"We survived 13 grueling years of school, all for this moment, where we get to wear gowns that kind of remind me of a silk version of a Snuggie, and these hats that make every single one of us look absolutely ridiculous. Hate to break it to you, but no one looks good in these hats. Even you, Ben Noury. "

"First off, get money. You can't do anything without money. Do something with your life where you're able to have a steady, reliable, source of income. Gamers, I'm sorry, but farming for gold in World of Warcraft is not considered a RELIABLE, or socially-acceptable source of income. "

Lugo even threw in some good old fashioned school spirit:

"But, the most important thing that I can tell you tonight is to remember where you came from. You were an eagle once. We've been through four long years here. Some of us have loved it, some of us have hated it, but we all had to endure it, and for all of us, it's finally over. What's Springstead going to be like without us?"

Yes, it's jokey. But subversive? Or to use the word the senior class sponsor resorted to, "appalling"? Really? One reason given for the ban was that the speech was "too real." This is a world where doctors get shot for doing their jobs, people go crazy over a children's book about gay penguins, all while we bathe our children in hand sanitizer to avoid getting swine flu. Stuff happens. There's no need to "protect" high school seniors from the "real" world. They are well aware that high school is nothing like "High School Musical."

I will say that Lugo, like many 18-year-olds, is being a little bit dramatic. She's kidding herself if she thinks that it's unusual for school officials to read students' speeches before they are read in public. But principal Duval -- who was herself fined for plagiarizing graduation speeches that she made -- is out to lunch. According to Ms. Lugo, Duval told her that "she understood [Lugo's] aim for originality but warned the speech might offend some." Whom would the original speech have offended? People who feel that playing World of Warcraft is a valid career choice? Lighten up.

Like the Staten Island Haircutgate, this is one of many cases where school officials show that they are out of touch. It's too bad, but unlikely to change anytime soon.

Brett Singer is the editor-in-chief of You can follow his tweets at

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.