Valedictorian banned by Catholic school to speak at graduation; delivers speech outside with megaphone
Christian Bales was supposed to deliver his valedictory speech during his graduation at the Holy Cross High School in Covington, Kentucky last Friday, May 25, when he was told he could no longer do so.
Bales, along with student council president Katherine Frantz, were told hours before their graduation that they would not be allowed to deliver their speeches at the ceremony, as reported by WCPO Cincinnati last May 25. This was despite Bales and Frantz’s understanding that their speeches were already approved by the school administration.
Principal Mike Holtz said that he felt the two students’ speeches weren’t appropriate for the ceremony. Bales mother, Gillian Marksberry, also shared that the principal told her the diocese found the speeches to be “aggressive, angry, confrontational” and too personal.
Bales’ speech advocated for stronger gun laws, with him praising the school-shooting survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in their campaign for gun law reformation. Bales is also openly gay and participates in youth activism — other factors that he believed had been treated with scrutiny.
On the other hand, Tim Fitzgerald, spokesman of the Diocese of Covington, spoke in defense of the school and diocese, saying they reserve the right to review and approve all student speeches to be presented in public at high school graduations.
“When the proposed speeches were received, they were found to contain elements that were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church,” Fitzgerald was quoted as saying.
In his speech, Bales said, “’The young people will win’ because we’re finished being complacent. There’s a misguided notion that wisdom is directly proportional to age, but we’re disproving that daily.”
“Sometimes the wisest are the youngest in our lives, the ones who haven’t yet been desensitized to the atrocities of our world,” Bales pointed out. “Therefore, we young people must be the educators. The young people must be willing to speak candidly about issues, and we mustn’t tremble in the face of the institutions that try to silence us.”
Bales is set to pursue Biology in the University of Louisville on a full-ride scholarship this fall. His full speech may be viewed in a Google document online. Cody Cepeda/JB