Earlier this month, the president of the Southwest Edgecombe High School senior class had his diploma withheld after he refused to recite a graduation speech written for him by administrators.
Marvin Wright forfeited the opportunity to read the words of his administrators to deliver a graduation speech that he spent two weeks working on. According to reports, as senior class president, Wright was tasked with addressing his classmates for the final time before they embark on their new journey. However, on the big day, the school’s principal told Wright that he would instead read a short speech that had been written by the administrators at the North Carolina school. After speaking with his mother, his fellow classmates, and teachers, Wright decided to read his speech anyway.
“I felt robbed of a chance to say my own words,” Wright told the Washington Post.
The incident was caught on tape, as well as the positive response from the crowd. But, once the ceremony was over, Wright was denied his diploma.
“All my friends were outside with their big yellow folders taking pictures, and I was still inside, trying to get my diploma,” Wright added. “I was really hurt and embarrassed, basically humiliated.”
Shortly after the incident, Wright’s mother got involved, approaching the principal with her own concerns and frustrations about the situation. In turn, the principal said Wright had missed the deadline to hand in his speech, a deadline Wright was not aware of. After two days, the superintendent of schools instructed the principal to hand deliver the diploma to the student.
“I have communicated with the family to apologize on behalf of the school,” Superintendent John Farrelly said, adding that there was no issue with Wright’s content. “The diploma never should have been taken from the student.”
“There is an expectation that is communicated to all graduation speakers that the prepared and practiced speech is the speech to be delivered during the ceremony,” Farrelly added, mentioning the only issue was with Wright using his cell phone to read his speech. “That was made extremely clear to the speakers. The student did not follow those expectations.”
However, Marvin said he wasn’t given any guidance. He tried to ask for advice and get ideas from the internet, but managed to come up with a speech of his own. He said he even left a copy of the speech on his principal’s desk the day of the ceremony but was still given an alternate speech.
Wright has since committed to enter the U.S. Navy.