Valedictorian speeches sparks controversy


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HOORAY! The 2018 SHS graduates attend their graduation ceremony. The students that auditioned and were selected to give a speech spoke throughout the ceremony. “Graduation isn’t about just one or a few seniors, it is about the whole Class of 2019!” Corattiyil said.

Over the years, the valedictorian speech has been considered an academic honor. Recently, there has been controversy about preparing and delivering the lecture. Some schools are holding auditions for this honor or getting rid of the title altogether, rather than handing the opportunity to just one student.

This tradition of a single speaker has been upheld in many generations of graduates. The title “valedictorian” has been one of success and hard work in the education world for centuries. However, some schools, like SHS, have opted to open the opportunity to speak at graduation to all seniors.  The speaker gets chosen at an audition, and this removes the title of valedictorian completely.

We [at SHS] do hold auditions for speeches at graduation, but they are not for valedictorians. They are open to any seniors to audition. We select several, based on the length of the program apart from speeches and based on their presentation and message. The selection panel is made up of a variety of individuals. We do not recognize a valedictorian at graduation,” said Ashwin Corattiyil, Dean of Students.

Many schools feel like students feel left out at their own graduation when only the valedictorian can speak, so the school boards have opened the opportunity up to all students to audition.

“My brother was valedictorian from Walnut Hills High School. His best friend was salutatorian. Both had extremely high GPA’s, but my brother took an AP course that was weighted more heavily than his friend’s world cultures class that his mother encouraged him to take because of their heritage. So my brother and his friend were both deserving of the honor, but one technicality ranked my brother higher. That is why I agree with the valedictorian speech auditions,” said Erika Victory, teacher at Reading Community Schools.

Other schools, however, still feel that the valedictorian speech should be reserved for the most successful student in a graduating class and have chosen for their school to uphold the tradition rather than change it.

While many schools still struggle with the decision, others have opposing opinions on the new policies put in place by schools everywhere. This dilemma between tradition and new ideas will continue to be a question.