At high school graduation, the valedictorian — the student with the highest academic achievements — typically delivers a speech to their class.
However, for Christian Bales, the valedictorian at the Catholic institution Holy Cross High School in Covington, Kentucky, it wasn’t such a simple matter.
An openly gay student, Bales had a speech ready to go. Then a Roman Catholic diocese in the state deemed the speech ‘too political’ and banned Bales from speaking.
That didn’t stop Bales from delivering his speech via megaphone outside graduation.
‘”The young people will win” is a mantra that I’m sure many of you have heard if you’ve been attentive to the media recently,’ Bales begins.
‘It’s a phrase that was adopted by the prolific Stoneman Douglas teenagers who are advocating for an agenda.’
Bales continues, insisting that young people have a voice.
‘Throughout the last four years at Holy Cross, I’ve learned to utilize my voice to advocate for my beliefs as an ethical individual. … Rather than allow opposition to silence us, we must utilize it as empowerment.’
The crowd, wearing rainbow ribbons in support, keeps encouraging him as Bale speaks on the lawn.
‘The young people will win because we’re finished being complacent.
‘There’s a misguided notion that wisdom is directly proportional to age, but we’re disproving that daily. Sometimes the wisest are the youngest in our lives, the ones who haven’t yet been desensitized to the atrocities of our world. Therefore, we young people must be the educators.
‘The young people must be willing to speak candidly about issues, and we mustn’t tremble in the face of the institutions that try to silence us.’
‘School officials and representatives of the Diocese of Covington reserve the right to review and approve all student speeches to be presented in public at high school graduations,’ Diocese spokesperson Tim Fitzgerald told River City News.
He further said the speech was not turned in on time and also had ‘elements that were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church’.
Bales, however, said students didn’t know about these deadlines.
He wondered if they banned his speech due to his sexuality or talk of the Parkland students.
‘I thought it was pretty mild. Maybe part of it was, I referenced the Stoneman Douglas teenagers. I know they have been strong advocates for gun reform, but I didn’t talk about gun reform, so I really have no idea,’ he said.
‘I expected more’
Holy Cross accepted the speech, but it was the Diocese that stepped in. Both Bales and his mother, Gillian Marksberry, thanked the school for their support.
Marksberry had less good to say about the Diocese.
‘To the Diocese, I am disappointed. I am disappointed as a parishioner. I expected more, especially when we are raising our children and supposed to, as Christians, teach tolerance and unconditional love. I’m just disappointed.’