A Black North Carolina senior says his diploma was held for days because he refused to read a speech at graduation that was written by the high school’s administration.
According to the Washington Post, Marvin Wright, president of the senior class at Southwest Edgecombe High in Pinetops, spent two weeks working on his graduation speech, staying up till 5 on the morning of the event to finish. But hours before the ceremony last Friday, he says he was handed a paper and told to recite the five sentence speech they had written instead. That speech read as the following:
“I would like to thank all of our friends and family for being here tonight. I would also like to address my fellow graduates one last time before we leave this gym. Although we may all never be in the same room at the same time again, we will always share the memories that we created within these walls. And no matter what we all do after graduation, never forget that this is one place that we all have in common, this place is home. Congratulations graduates, we did it!”
“I felt robbed of a chance to say my own words,” Marvin, 18, told the newspaper.
However, he says that his mother Jokita Wright, classmates and other teachers urged him to give his version of the speech anyway. And that is exactly what he did, pulling out his cellphone and reading his own speech during the event, which prompted the principal to give a disapproving look. Then as his fellow students lined up to receive their diplomas, Wright’s was withheld. He was told his was being denied because he didn’t give the “right speech.”
“All my friends were outside with their big yellow folders taking pictures and I was still inside, trying to get my diploma,” Wright said. “I was really hurt and embarrassed, basically humiliated.”
The school also claims that Wright didn’t turn in his speech by the given deadline, a deadline that the teenager says he knew nothing about. After his mother complained a few days later, the the principal dropped his diploma off at his home at the request of the superintendent, The Post writes.
Wright says that the principal handed him the diploma, saying, “If your mom has any questions just give me a call.”
The school district Superintendent John Farrelly called Wright on Monday to apologize.
“I have communicated with the family to apologize on behalf of the school,” Farrelly said in a statement to the Wilson Times. “The diploma never should have been taken from the student.”
Farelly however said he took issue with the teen reading the speech off his cell.
Either way Wright’s mother stresses that her son was robbed of his special day.
“He can’t get that day back,” she told The Post. “That was a special moment for me, it was a special moment for him.”
Yet there is a happy ending to this story: Wright officially committed to entering the U.S. Navy this fall to study pediatric surgery.
Congrats Marvin! They can never steal your shine!