Marisol Balderas

It happens from time to time: A high school somewhere in the United States refuses to allow a valedictorian or salutarorian give their commencement speech.

This time it’s apparently happening at Terry High School.

Salutatorian Marisol Balderas said her speech was rejected.

And Balderas said she’s none to happy about it.

She said Principal Juan Nava told her the speech was 120 seconds too long and was attempting to steal the spotlight from the valedictorian.

“The valedictorian can compete in the arena of oration and write a well-thoughtout speech of their own,” she said.

As for the length of the speech, she says: “Sadly, they cannot be bothered to listen to a speech 120 seconds of information.”

Balderas said she suspects school administrators were irritated by the contents of the speech, but didn’t want to say so.

“All I was doing was acknowledging that education goes beyond school books, and I think they took exception to that,” she said.

“As the salutatorian, I was asked to deliver a speech to my fellow graduates and impart on them some words of encouragement and perhaps even a little wisdom as they go into this uncertain world by themselves and begin the next chapter in their lives.

“Unfortunately, the powers that be took issue with my speech and prohibited me from delivering the speech.”

Balderas said she submitted a quote to the campus administration to go along with her graduation bio but it, too, was rejected.

The quote? One from Mark Twain that says “don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”

Balderas said the school used a different quote instead.

“They put words in my mouth,” she said.

Because she is not allowed to give the speech she wrote, Balderas said she chooses not to give a speech at all during Tuesday evening’s commencement.

Principal Nava did not return a phone call Friday afternoon when the Herald attempted to confirm Balderas’ comments.

Schools are closed for the summer.

Here’s what she had planned to say to classmates:

"Good evening. Teachers, parents, guests, I thank you for being in attendance today. I thank God for allowing me to be here and my parents because their efforts have brought me this far. Ms. Beers and Ms. Silva, you lavished more kindness on me than I deserved. I shall never forget either of you; to have met you has been a great blessing. Ms. Wenzel and Mr. Pepper, you were genuinely concerned with the future of the students you helped and I appreciate all the encouragement that you gave to me. I have no doubt that you'll make an excellent teacher, Mr. Pepper. Mr. Spiering, I am indebted to you for all of your assistance, especially with respect to chemistry, when you were under no obligation to help and when you were occupied with your assistant principal duties. I shall never forget that. Lastly, but certainly not least, Mr. Savage thank you for being a thorough history teacher. The work you do is very important, for a country that forgets its history is lost.

Congratulations to all of my classmates! You have succeeded in graduating and I hope that you will meet with equal success in all your future endeavors. As life goes on, and especially during the present crisis, you will often be discouraged and you will need motivation in order to persevere. One of the finest balms for the hardships you will encounter is a good education. However, as Mark Twain put it, "don't let schooling interfere with your education." Unfortunately, most educational institutions no longer provide a true education. Good education has fallen by the wayside in favor of what has been deemed more practical. Most modern schools are far too concerned with test scores and so-called preparation for the 21st century global economy to educate young minds and inculcate the intellectual and moral virtues that are necessary for leading a good life as well as for being a deep thinker. The latter can only be cultivated by a careful study of the classics, which are, in fact, the most practical of all that can be taught. By reading the philosophy found in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, the orations of Cicero the great Roman statesman, and by knowing the arguments that informed our Founders about the kind of government best suited for human nature, much of which can be found in the writings of Locke, you will gain much wisdom and a deeper understanding of that which is noble, true, and beautiful. This may all sound like lofty idealism to many of you, but I submit to you that an education that ignores the best of what has been thought and said cannot lay claim to that name for a nation's success depends not only upon the knowledge we may have but upon how it is used. To paraphrase Calvin Coolidge, a good education will not only give power but direction. Thus, it cannot come from science alone as that only provides power, not direction. The Nazis had great scientific advancement but surely no one here will claim that they used it for good. They lacked ideals. The men and women who have offered their lives to defend the United States have not done so because of their belief in mathematics or physics. No, they did it in defense of the ideals and principles of this country, which come from the classics. Ideals such as those found in the Declaration of Independence. From the ideals of our forefathers, we can find the courage and fortitude to do our duty and to face life's trials. It is from them that you can gather the determination to "force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone," in the words of the poet Rudyard Kipling. The kind of education that the classics provide will not only give you knowledge about the highest things, it will also build character if their lessons are taken to heart, thus enabling you to lead a virtuous life. Therefore, seek the knowledge found within the western canon, as that will give you both power and direction so that you will do what is right, just, and noble. The choice is yours, either resolve to live in light of the good or refuse and descend into ignorance and darkness.

All the best to each and every one of you. Thank you."


Marisol Balderas

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