Valedictorian kicked off stage for unapproved speech got to finish it on Jimmy Kimmel – Chicago Tribune
A Pennsylvania high school principal’s decision to switch the mic off on a valedictorian’s unapproved speech has, surely, by now, earned a place in the annals of disciplinary decisions that backfired terribly.
Peter Butera’s classmates at Wyoming Area Secondary Center began cheering Friday’s graduation speech — which had condemned student government as a powerless sham and criticized unnamed administrators as authoritarian — seconds after his principal booted him off the stage midsentence.
From there, his remarks rose to the front page of Reddit and were repeated on CNN and in many newspapers, including The Washington Post on Tuesday.
And Tuesday night, less than a week after graduating, the 18-year-old was invited onto “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to finish what he started.
“Since the school wouldn’t let you finish your speech at the graduation ceremony, I thought it would be nice to let you finish on television,” Kimmel said.
So Butera did, picking up at the last sentence his principal had let him say:
“Hopefully for the sake of future students, more people of power within our school, who do not do so already, will begin to prioritize education itself as well as the empowering of students,” he said, now speaking not to about 200 classmate on a football field, but to viewers across the United States.
Butera then wished his classmates happiness and success, and thanked everyone again for “this great celebration.”
Nothing too scandalous. But as Butera had already pointed out to The Post, he had finished the most scathing parts of his speech before he was cut off.
“All you did was give the school like a two-star Yelp review,” Kimmel cracked. “You didn’t do anything that bad.”
But at another point, with no humor in his voice, the host said: “Whoever cut that mic off should not be in charge of education of any kind.”
That would be principal Jon Pollard, who still hasn’t responded to a request for comment from The Post, though he has been making the media rounds too — in a way.
In a statement a quoted by the Citizen’s Voice, Pollard confirmed Butera’s account that the student had submitted a different speech from the one he ended up reading — mostly the same, Butera said, except for his dark turn near the end.
“We reviewed it in my office the morning of graduation after the final practice,” Pollard wrote. “Protecting the students and staff are my number one concern. When he veered off of the speech he had practiced, I was obligated to act to ensure the remainder of Peter’s speech was not demeaning or derogatory to his classmates, the underclassmen, faculty, staff or administration.”
In fact, Butera’s speech as delivered had not mentioned by name any of the administrators he criticized.
The principal wrote that he’d been getting hate mail since the incident, but wouldn’t hesitate to cut a mic off again “the next time a student attempts to hijack the ceremony for their own agenda.” Asked how he was handling the fame and fallout from graduation day, Butera sounded a bit done with celebrity.