Last week, at a Pennsylvania high school graduation ceremony, valedictorian Peter Butera went a little off book in his speech to his fellow classmates and audience, The Washington Post reports.
Rather than give the speech that had been approved by the school, Butera changed things up at the end to deliver a biting criticism of what he felt was his high school’s harsh and limiting treatment of its student body and its student government.
After delivering the initial, school-sanctioned points, things took a turn in Butera’s speech. “At our school, the title of Class President could more accurately be Class Party Planner, and Student Council’s main obligation is to paint signs,” Butera said. At this point, the school’s principal, with whom Butera had apparently had a tense relationship all throughout his time at Wyoming Area Secondary Center, can be seen making a face of disapproval.
It wasn’t until Butera outrightly criticized the school’s administration that the principal intervened and had his mic cut. “Despite some of the outstanding people in our school, the lack of a real student government, combined with the authoritative attitude that a few teachers, administrators and board members have, prevents students from truly developing as leaders,” said the valedictorian.
Butera’s next sentence was hard to hear due to the cut mic, but he continued to attempt to project the rest of his speech before agreeing to leave the podium at the insistence of the principal. Butera was met with a standing ovation from members of the audience while the principal looked annoyed.
And the story doesn’t end there, though that video does.
The one and only Jimmy Kimmel invited Butera to speak during his Wednesday night late show, where Butera gave the rest of his speech. His speech went on to implore school staff to prize the education and empowerment of its students. I could cry watching this.
So what do you think? Gutsy? An admirable stand against an oppressive educational-administrative system? Or an inappropriate time and venue?