Becoming a valedictorian is no easy feat – one must work hard to earn and maintain excellent grades. Nat Werth, a high schooler at Sheboygan Lutheran High School, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin achieved this status and was supposed to deliver his speech at graduation but the school’s administration decided that he couldn’t be trusted to stay on script and said that the salutatorian will be giving the speech instead, according to WISN.
Werth said to the local news station that when he presented the draft of his speech to the administration, they had concerns about him delivering it. He said, “when the administration looked at my speech, I think they were looking for me to misstep, to say something so that I couldn’t give my speech at graduation… deep down, I knew that they didn’t trust me.” I can imagine how upsetting that must have been to hear, as he most likely put a great deal of work into the speech.
Here is the full speech:
“On my own journey to self-acceptance, I have trekked through the depths of depression, found that God’s love is endless, and embraced the fact that I’m gay. (pause) Absolutely no one should have to go through what I have gone through simply to come to the conclusion that homosexuality is not a sin. God created everyone just the way they are and never intended for the church to disenfranchise an entire group of people. The five passages of scripture that conservative denominations claim “invalidate” homosexuality are either outdated, mistranslated, or misinterpreted in their respectively biblical, cultural, and historical contexts. Meanwhile, depending on the translation, the Bible mentions “love” over 500 times. I sincerely believe that the next generation of Christians will eradicate homophobia in the church and proclaim God’s love to the LGBT community.”
Overall I think it spreads a positive message about accepting oneself regardless of what others may say and yes, while it does focus on the topic of homosexuality, the message can be applied to basically anyone who struggles with accepting who they are. The administration didn’t like this (even though they claimed that their refusal to let Werth speak wasn’t due to his sexuality) and decided that he couldn’t be trusted to deliver the speech accurately. I think that their refusal definitely does have something to do with Werth’s sexuality, as he has said that he doesn’t believe that Sheboygan Lutheran High School is safe for LGBTQ students and has had teachers say that homosexuality is an abomination. That type of language can be (and very frequently is) damaging to people who are LGBTQ or are questioning their sexuality so by calling attention to it, Werth would have told other potentially gay students that it is okay to be who they are, but unfortunately, he could not.
Werth expressed that he felt degraded and that by going public about this, he hopes that other LGBTQ people don’t have to go through what he experienced. I agree with him – they invalidated his success and hard work simply because he wanted to spread acceptance. I’m glad that he went public about this and I hope that he gets the justice he deserves, although he can’t reverse time and give the speech.