Graduation is a time of celebration. A time to reminisce and congratulate the graduating class on all their hard work and accomplishments. Especially in college, graduation is a big deal and a time for joy, to ignore negativity and outside world issues just for a while.
Yet, even during graduation, a time when people are embarking on their new lives, people are weaponizing that time for personal gain. It can be seen best in graduation speeches.
In May, GOP Sen. Cynthia Lummis was giving a commencement speech at the University of Wyoming’s College of Art and Sciences and College of Education ceremony when she was booed because of her transphobic contents in the speech. She was quoted as saying, “the existence of two sexes, male and female” was a “fundamental scientific truth.”
Senator Lummis issued an apology and, as her spokesperson reported, “My reference to the existence of two sexes was intended to highlight the times in which we find ourselves, times in which the metric of biological sex is under debate with potential implications for the shared Wyoming value of equality.”
Making matters worse Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, was tortured and killed for his sexual orientation in 1998. Shepard’s death became a watershed event for LGBTQ activism. At the same university, the campus had recently lost a trans student to suicide, according to a tweet by assistant professor Jenni Tabler, making the senator’s remarks more hurtful.
Why this was even a part of the speech is still unknown, but it shouldn’t have happened. Trans students shouldn’t have to withstand hateful attacks and misinformation based on “science,” especially not at graduation.
In River Valley, Ohio, alumni Jim McGuire gave a anti-LGBT speech on May 28th. McGuire, who is the owner of a manufacturing company, J.L. McGuire and Associates, encouraged the graduates of the school to pursue the "Biblical principles" of romantic relationships between a man and a woman and to learn God’s word.
Unfortunately there’s no shortage of similar experiences, like Sen. Ben Sasse in 2020 using his entire speech to be racist towards China, including being quoted as saying, “If you’re a parent, you’re a teacher; thanks a lot, China.”
Georgia principal Nancy Gordeuk blamed her racist remarks on the devil. She claimed, “the devil was in the house and came out from my mouth.” She ranted at the graduation ceremony and commented, “Look who’s leaving — all the Black people.”
Gordeuk later emailed parents to explain that she had mistakenly dismissed everyone and forgot the valedictorian speech and tried to urge people to stay.
According to several members of the audience, people were walking out because of statements the principal had already made.
All of these incidents, speeches and statements were unnecessary, unwarranted and unneeded. There should be a better screening process rather than random alum random alum coming on stage and talking about their beliefs.
Graduation ceremonies are only about the graduates. It is selfish to use the ceremony for anything else. There is no place for hate rhetoric at these events. It’s time we make it about the graduating class.