NJ valedictorian’s LGBTQ speech should be framed, not cut (Opinion)
What could have been an incredible graduation day filled with hope and teaching moments turned out to be an embarrassment for the principal of Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees.
While valedictorian Bryce Dershem was making his speech, which included his coming out as gay and the mental illness he dealt with, his mic was cut off by the principal, Dr. Robert Tull, who according to what Dersham tells NBC10 Philadelphia, "Dr. Tull came up to the stage he grabbed the paper I brought and crumpled it in front of me."
"He pointed to the speech he had written for me, effectively, and told me I was to say that and nothing else."
The moment was captured on video.
When you think about all the graduation speeches you hear about beginning the journey, blah blah blah, and thanking so and so, here comes Bryce Dershem speaking from the heart with his story of all that he would overcome in high school to become the smartest kid in the class, especially during Pride Month, how could you possibly cut that off?
If I were the principal of Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees, I'd be framing Bryce Dershem's speech and hang it on a wall where all kids who are afraid in school for any reason from coming out to bullying and all in between can read as an example of what they could become if they as Bryce says "Believe"
So why was the speech cut off?
Robert Cloutier, Eastern Camden County Regional School District superintendent, wrote in an email to NBC10:
“Every year, all student speakers are assisted in shaping the speech, and all student speeches -- which are agreed upon and approved in advance -- are kept in the binder on the podium for the principal to conduct the graduation ceremony,” Cloutier wrote.
Dershem claimed in the NBC10 story that administrators made him "remove all mentions of his queerness and going to treatment and even told him that graduation was not "his therapy session," he said.
Undaunted after he got his new mic even though there didn't appear to be a technical issue, Bryce continued with his speech, not the one they worked on together but the one that came from his heart.
As if this young man hasn't gone through enough, his high school career is capped off by honestly spilling his guts in front of the student body despite having the principal try to censor him in front of everyone. It's definitely not a good look, especially during pride month.
This isn't about how you feel about Bryce's sexuality. This is about Bryce Dershem who overcame adversity in his high school life to become the valedictorian of his class and wanting to tell you the truth of what he went through, what he learned, and what it all means to him going forward.
In his words from his speech:
"If I leave you with anything today, let it be belief, whether it be in your best friend, your child, a student or simply yourself, believe."
It's a speech that every high school student should hear and possibly draw inspiration from regardless of their sexuality or situation.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise. Any opinions expressed are Steve's own. Steve Trevelise is on New Jersey 101.5 Monday-Thursday from 7pm-11pm. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.