The Illegal Grad Speech

grad hatWhat is the world so afraid of? We have sex education, gender identity, and abortion on demand, but seem paranoid to let a High School Valedictorian speak the name of Jesus.

Me thinks they protest too much.

Below is a short, stunning speech by Jennifer Swadell, Valedictorian of San Diego’s Grossmont High School in 2015 2003. School officials deemed the speech illegal. She had to write a new one without references to God or Jesus. In typical teenage righteous rebellion she concluding by saying, “Most of all, I want to thank the One who has rescued me and made the greatest impact on my life. But I am sorry to say it is illegal for me to say His name for you today.”

Love it.

 With graduation coming up, I thought you would want to read her disallowed short speech in its entirety, quoted from Christianity Today / IgniteYourFaith

 “Greetings to all students, faculty, administration, family and friends.

 I want to begin today by telling you a story about a young girl who seemed to have it all: friends and grades, confidence, religion, and love. Yet, one day this girl looked in the mirror and hated what she saw. Her forehead was too big, her teeth too crooked. She wore big ugly glasses and clothes without expensive labels.

 Others seemed to ignore her, so she began to realize she wasn’t worth their time. In fact, she wasn’t worth anything. Many people let her down and she stopped trusting anyone. She gave up and let herself live only to spite others, while trying to gain their respect through ceaseless efforts to be the best at everything.

 This girl entered high school bitter at the world and its emptiness. She criticized people she didn’t know, yet held a façade of confidence and control.

 One day this girl met some people who tried to show her otherwise, people who shared with her a love she had never felt before. She tried to push that love away, but it only loved her more. She would cry herself to sleep night after night, in hatred of the world, those around her, and, most of all, herself. Until, one day, the love finally reached her shattered heart. It was a love she had met more than 10 years previously, but that she had doubted and disregarded for so very long, that she had never taken as real in her life.

This love, that of Jesus Christ and his truly amazing forgiveness and compassion, finally became real to her. And when she made him the center of her life, it actually held meaning and purpose; it was worth something again.

 I’m sure all of you already know that I am describing myself. Those of you who know me, I am sure, know that I could not get up here and tell you anything of importance to me whatsoever, without reference to the most central part of my life, my faith in the Creator of the Universe, but more personally and important to me, the Creator of my life.

 He has taken me, a broken clay pot, and shaped me to something more like him. I am certainly not perfect, but he knows that. In fact, he has taken me into his family to be his child, knowing full well that I will continue to do exactly what I know is wrong. But the beauty of it is that he loves me still.

I recognize that many of you come from various backgrounds with different beliefs and values, and I am not up here to try to convince you that you are all wrong and must believe what I tell you. I only know what God has done for me in my life.

 I want to encourage you to take a challenge as you enter college and continue the search to find your identity—exactly who you are. I ask you to seek the truth with all your heart. Never be satisfied with unanswered questions. For so many years of my life, I doubted the truth I had and sought instead what the world had to offer. The only place I ended up was hopeless, not wanting to continue on such a meaningless journey . …

 Maybe there are some of you out there who, like I was for so long, have to search for a reason to get out of bed in the morning and face the day. To you, I wish to say, you are loved beyond belief.


4 thoughts on “The Illegal Grad Speech

  1. Eric Swadell

    Minor correction and clarification: this occurred in 2003, not 2015, and the speech you reprinted is of course the disallowed original. Regardless, I was surprised and happy to see a reference to this event again after all these years! Her older sister gave a similar speech just 2 years earlier and, as a result of several complaints, the District required all future speeches be submitted for approval before the event. Pacific Justice institute got involved, but it was too late – only one or two days before graduation. However, Radio personality Roger Hedgecock got wind of this and read both speeches on the air to perhaps tens of thousands of listeners; so many more heard the message than would have otherwise. Jenn graduated The Master’s College and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is married with 3 boys, and is still following the Lord, spreading her message of hope in a very dark corner of the world. Many thanks for recounting this!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s