When Christian Bales's school refused to let him give a speech during graduation, the high school valedictorian took a bullhorn to the lawn outside and gave it anyway.
Bales, who is gay, said he isn’t sure whether his sexual orientation is what alarmed school officials in Covington, Ky. Holy Cross High School claims a draft of the speech included “elements that were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church.”
Bales told NBC affiliate WLWT his message of “empowerment through youth” didn’t seem political to him. The speech took inspiration from Parkland, Fla., student-activists such as Emma Gonzalez, arguing that youth can make a difference—even crediting the school for having taught him to use his voice.
“As we enter into the real world, we must remember that we have a voice,” said Bales over the megaphone immediately after the ceremony, still wearing his cap and gown, the school behind him. “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 faced opposition in a number of scenarios, but my voice has continued to grow in intensity as I face more adversity. Rather than allowing opposition to silence us, we must utilize it as empowerment.”
A large group of his fellow students gathered on the lawn to listen and cheer him on. Bales’s mother, Gillian Marksberry, wore a rainbow pin in support and told local news, “As a parent when your child feels pain you feel it as your own.”
Watch the complete speech via ABC affiliate WCPO.
Watch an interview with Bales done after the speech by WLWT.