A North Carolina teen was not given his high school diploma after he read his own speech at graduation, instead of one the school wrote for him.
As Southwest Edgecombe County High School's senior class president, Marvin Wright was supposed to write a speech and read it aloud at graduation, according to WRAL. He said he worked hard to write a speech for the graduation ceremony. Wright claimed on the day of graduation, he was told by school administrators that he could not read his speech. Instead, he was told to read a speech written for him by the school.
“I felt robbed of a chance to say my own words,” Marvin told The Washington Post.
Wright, 18, chose to read his speech. Marvin’s mom, classmates and teachers urged him to read his prepared words. His speech can be read in full here. He praised his mom, God, and his classmates as well as school faculty.
“...I would like to thank all of the parents and family members for the unconditional love you have provided my classmates and I during our unpredictable phases of life, for ultimately sticking with us through thick and thin, and giving us constant guidance. I would like to also thank the faculty and staff of Southwest for instilling knowledge and preparing us for the next chapter that we will soon embark on,” he stated in his speech.
In video of the graduation, school administrators are visibly upset about his decision. When he left the stage, his principal had taken his diploma.
"My thing to him was to follow your heart," his mother, Jokita Wright said in the WRAL report. "He put God first. He spoke about parents, his classmates and spoke about his mom."
In a statement a school spokesperson said there was nothing wrong with the content of Wright's speech.
"The expectation is that all graduation speakers read the speech that has been prepared and placed at the podium...It is very unfortunate that his diploma was pulled and it should not have happened. An apology has been issued to Marvin and his family," the statement said.
The school had prepared for Wright to read this short speech instead: “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!”
When Wright was elected senior class president, his adviser told him he would have to write a graduation speech, according to the Washington Post. He said he received tips from the previous year’s senior class president, and listened to numerous commencement speeches online for inspiration.
Wright's principal hand-delivered his diploma to Wright’s home and the superintendent apologized to him over the phone.