Carl J. Petersen: A Valedictorian Speaks Truth To Power
Carl Petersen blogs from LA, where one high school speaker used his graduation speech to call out damage caused by school board members who back privatization.
Earning the highest Grade Point Average in a class of 300 students is a spectacular achievement. For his hard work, Axel Brito earned the chance to address his classmates at their graduation ceremony and rally them as they all took a step into their future. Brito chose to use his time to confront his school board member for his support of charter schools and a privatization agenda that commoditizes students.
In a district that regularly ignores the law and attempts to silence parents, it should not be a surprise that the reaction by school officials was to try to end Brito’s speech. However, with the support of the audience, Brito bravely carried on and eventually made it through his entire prepared text. His words are powerful and are printed below.
The actions of the district were no different than when Florida officials tried to censor a class president for violating DeSantis’ Don’t Say Gay law. That student also persevered, providing hope that this generation is well prepared to provide the leadership that our current crop of politicians has lacked. These students must have had great teachers.
“Achieve the honorable.” This motto has been driven through us repeatedly at every stage of our high school career, and during this time I have come to meet dedicated teachers who embody this to a tee. Teachers of this and other schools dedicate their lives laboring for us, the students, because they want and need our generation to succeed and change the future for the better.
Yet, at times the soundness of it falters. After all, does achieving the honorable mean lying about your volunteer hours and having this deed actively encouraged by the administration? Does it mean to have your grades, including my own, artificially inflated through the lowering of standards and driving our overworked teachers up a wall because of it? Does it mean to leave students unpunished for their transgressions to save face? Does it mean to lie and keep parents out of the loop during events that put us in danger, and more so to have a security system that is in no way keeping us safe? Does it mean to blame students due to the school’s own incompetence? I’d like to think not.
Despite this, I don’t blame this school for its wrongdoings, after all this is something that is learned through example.
Nick Melvoin for one abused his position and diverted district resources for his re-election campaign. A campaign which itself is funded not by us, the parents who have children in LAUSD schools, but by external multimillion and multibillion-dollar charter-based super PACs. He is not the man of the people; he is merely a puppet for those who put him into power. Look no further than in 2019 when he provided confidential information to the California Charter School Association, one of his many donors, while the district was being sued to prevent funds from being spent to make schools more accommodating for the disabled. So much for “putting kids first.”