Class Prez's Diploma Withheld Over Graduation Speech

Marvin Wright read his own speech instead of one written by school
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2017 5:55 PM CDT

(Newser) – A senior class president in North Carolina was "hurt and embarrassed" when the principal withheld his diploma because he refused to read a graduation speech written by administrators, the Washington Post reports. Marvin Wright, 18, spent weeks working on his commencement address. But when the big day came, Principal Craig Harris told him he would be reading five sentences written by the school. No explanation was given. "The speech that they wrote wasn’t me at all,” Wright tells the Wilson Times. "I feel like they couldn’t describe the ways that I felt and the things that I experienced." At the last minute, Wright decided to read his speech. Video from the graduation shows Harris and other staff visibly upset during Wright's speech, WRAL reports.

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Punishment was swift. When Wright went to collect his diploma, it wasn't there. Harris says Wright missed the deadline to submit his speech to the school for approval. Wright says he didn't know about the deadline and wasn't given any guidance, though his English teacher did approve his speech. Harris, on instructions from Superintendent John Farrelly, delivered Wright's diploma Sunday—without an apology. That apology came Monday from Farrelly, who says Wright should have delivered the speech given to him but never should have had his diploma withheld. That same day, Wright took that diploma and enrolled in the Navy. Wright's mom is proud he followed his heart and read his speech but says he "can't get that day back." (Read more commencement speech stories.)

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