Christian Bales, the high school valedictorian at Holy Cross High School in Covington, Kentucky, was banned from giving his speech at the graduation ceremony.
The reason given by the school was that the speech was too political and didn't keep in line with Catholic values.
Tim Fitzgerald, spokesman for the Diocese of Covington said:
When the proposed speeches were received, they were found to contain elements that were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church.
That didn't sit well for Bales, an openly gay eighteen-year-old who will study biology next year at the University of Louisville. Bales feels the ban stemmed from the knowledge that he and Student Council President Katherine Frantz, who was also barred from giving her speech, were well-known for being outspoken on social issues.
Bales told WCPO-TV:
The [student council] president is my best friend, and we have been two huge advocates for social reform in our community, which has likely put us on the radar for the diocese.
Refusing to be silenced, Bales and Frantz picked up a bullhorn and gave their speeches outside the auditorium.
Bales's speech read in part:
The young people will win' is a mantra that I'm sure many of you have heard if you've been attentive to the media recently. It's a phrase adopted by the prolific [Marjory] Stoneman Douglas teenagers [from Parkland, Florida] who are advocating for an agenda -- our rights to feel secure as humans.
Rather than allowing opposition to silence us, we must utilize it as empowerment. As long as we nurture our minds as youth, we'll be able to be equally impactful as we encounter the world.
Bales also mentioned in his speech that he and Frantz had fought for removing a Jefferson Davis statue from the State Capitol. He also praised the students who participated in the March For Life events.
You can watch video of Bales giving his speech below:
The teenager gained tremendous support on Twitter.
I predict a bright future for Christian Bales. We need more impassioned voices in the sciences. Congrats on your full ride to @UofL.— Roxanne Prichard (@RoxannePrichard) May 27, 2018
Denied permission to speak at his own graduation, Holy Cross valedictorian delivers speech outside https://t.co/FcmsL90GEJ
In an egregious attempt to stifle young, diverse voices & opinions, the Diocese of Covington prevented my good friend Katherine Frantz, along with class valedictorian Christian Bales, from speaking at their own graduation ceremony Friday night. https://t.co/LKZzLAb4yd— Ben Conniff (@thereelbennyc) May 28, 2018
Others wondered where the conflict was.
I attended all-Catholic schools from kindergarten through college, and I see nothing in that speech that contradicts anything I was taught. If anything, I heard echoes of the kick-ass nuns who encouraged us to be our best selves and not to back down when bullied.— Mary In The East (@ChappGal) May 28, 2018
Some guessed at the real reason.
Nothing about it was against church beliefs. I’d say it’s a weak excuse to excuse the school’s bigotry since he’s openly gay.— Kal-El 👽🌈🌊 (@Kal_El_Lives) May 28, 2018
It didn't go unnoticed that now Bales has a much larger platform.
If the Diocese of Northern Kentucky and administrators of Holy Cross School in Covington KY were trying to prevent Christian Bales' message about youth activism from being shared, they failed BIGLY!— Preston MacDougall (@ChemicalEyeGuy) May 28, 2018
Who knew Kentucky Catholics consider Confederate traitor Jefferson Davis a saint? https://t.co/jU5ItRvCaj
People were concerned that equal time was not being given to Frantz, who also read her speech on the lawn.
Sarah Walsh, the reporter who wrote about event, responded to inquiries on Twitter:
I was confused in this article but figured out half way through the student council prez is Katherine Frantz. Did you interview her? Interested in her experience.— Tony Ramirez (@TonyRamirez) May 28, 2018
Hi, Tony! I reached out to Frantz and her family for this story, but they politely declined to chat with me.— Sarah Walsh (@sarahbellewalsh) May 28, 2018
Dear Sarah, thank you: Christian's brave story deserves attention, but I admit it bothered me that only the male member of two partner activists was featured and pictured.— Laura Camp (@LauraCampCA) May 28, 2018
Hi, Laura! I reached out to both Bales and Frantz, but the Frantz family politely declined my request to chat with them. Graduation is such a hectic time that the schedule (and everyone’s sanity) can’t always bear another thing.— Sarah Walsh (@sarahbellewalsh) May 28, 2018
You can read Bales's full speech below:
“The young people will win” is a mantra that I’m sure many of you have heard if you’ve been attentive to the media recently. It’s a phrase adopted by the prolific Stoneman Douglas teenagers who are advocating for an agenda - our rights to feel secure as humans. We frequently see these individuals behind a computer screen, and therefore we see them as a separate body from us. However, they possess the same capabilities as us graduates. As we enter into the real world, we must remember that we have a voice. Throughout the past four years at Holy Cross, I’ve learned how to utilize my voice to advocate for my beliefs as an ethical individual. I’ve faced opposition in a number of scenarios, but my voice continued to grow in intensity as I faced more adversity. Rather than allowing opposition to silence us, we must utilize it as empowerment. As long as we nurture our minds as youth, we’ll be able to be equally impactful as we encounter the world.
“The young people will win” is a mantra that’s progressive by nature, but it suggests there’s one winner and one loser, two sides pitted against each other in a primitive battle of right and wrong. The inherent flaw in this mantra is that it erases the truth that we’re all attempting to perpetuate God’s will by bettering the quality of life for those around us. Mr. Eifert has taught me that we’re all battling for the same ideal - the ideal of happiness. He’s a man who embodied the spirit of the Holy Cross community precisely, someone who was rooted in faith, who always aided others, and who used his booming voice for the good of all people. We must use our voices to do the same. Only then can we say we’re “winning”. Rather than gauging victory by what we accomplish on paper, we must gauge victory by the amount of hearts we can cleanse. Many of us have accomplished this at Holy Cross, but we must not lose the same drive once we graduate. We must keep faith as we continue to grow, and we must continue to “win” as we encounter more and more people.
“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. 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. We’ve already accomplished this in our own community. We’ve been living examples of this mantra whether you all realize it or not.. Just within the last year, many of us have worked tirelessly to defend our ethics. Morgan, you were the strongest voice when the Parkland tragedy happened, and you personally wrote an address to honor those lives lost. Izzy, Juliana, Katherine and I fought to defend our history and relocate the Jefferson Davis memorial in the Kentucky State Capitol building. Many of you went on the March for Life to protect the lives of the unborn, and the list goes on. The most important thing to remember is that youth is not proportional to age, nor is it physical, rather it’s a mindset that we must carry with us into the world.The only way we can stop being impactful is if we let go of our youth and stop advocating for our core values. In my experience at Holy Cross I’ve learned that the best way to attain change is to be a visible example in our world, and we must plan to continue to utilize our voices in order to better the lives of all those we encounter.
Class of 2018, we are dynamic. We are intelligent. We have a voice, and we’re capable of using it in all communities. We’ve learned a multitude of things at Holy Cross, and for that we extend a sincere thanks to our teachers, parents, faculty, and peers. However, it doesn’t stop here. We must take what we’ve learned in this community and apply it to the world we are about to encounter. We are the young people, and we will continue to win.