Kentucky High School Valedictorian Barred from Giving Speech at Graduation

May 29, 2018

A Kentucky high school valedictorian was barred from giving his planned speech at his high school’s graduation ceremony.

18 -year-old Christian Bales and student council president Katherine Frantz were told Friday, hours before Holy Cross High School’s graduation they would not be giving their speeches.

Christian Bales is proud to be Valedictorian of Holy Cross District High School in Covington. It’s the high school he’s attended all four years.

“I’ve worked really hard the past four years. I couldn’t have done it without the support  from a lot of the faculty, a lot of my friends ,the people who I align myself with.”

Bales says he and student council president Katherine Frantz submitted their speeches early. He handed his in Tuesday before graduation and says it was approved by school faculty.

”And there was no speak of Diocesan approval. There was no talk of that even being a possibility. They ruled out both of our speeches as being too personal.  They said mine was too angry and too confrontational.”

The Cold Spring resident says his speech was inspired by words from some of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida where a gunman killed 17 people earlier this year. One phrase Bales heard and felt was a good foundation for his speech , “Young People Will Win.”

“As I wrote it I just kind of started flowing to that idea of there’s power in youth . We need to empower each other and we need to allow our voices to be heard.”

Bales also mentioned students from his school who attended a March for Life Rally.

Still the speech was not allowed. In a written statement to WEKU, Tim Fitzgerald with the Diocese of Covington said ,”When the proposed speeches were received they were found to contain elements that were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church.”

But Christian Bales is openly gay and his mom, Gillian  Marksberry,  says while the school has helped her  son build confidence and self- esteem she believes the diocese stopped the speech because Christian is gay. She says the school principal , Mike Holtz, called her prior to the graduation to ask for her help in making sure Christian would conform to the boys' dress code and not wear hair accessories which he’s been known to do.

”In part of that conversation the principal said to me that he has never had a valedictorian like Christian before. And when I asked to clarify. He said you know,different,gender,isn’t like a typical boy.”

Marksberry assured Principal Holtz Christian would respect the dress code.She says the principal told her he reached out to the Diocese and after review the speeches were not approved.

“ I think there may have been some concern or fear that he may talk about LGBTQ.”

Bales and Frantz delivered their speeches by megaphone outside Thomas Moore College after graduation.    Bales’ speech did not mention LGBTQ but he repeated the phrase “young people will win."

Bales says he has no ill will toward the school or the diocese.

“I just hope they utilize this as a learning experience.”

Christian Bales will attend the University of Louisville on a full -ride scholarship. He plans to major in biology.

Christian Bales Graduation Speech

“The young people will win” is a mantra that I’m sure many of you have heard if you’ve been attentive to the media recently. It’s a phrase adopted by the prolific Stoneman Douglas teenagers who are advocating for an agenda - our rights to feel secure as humans. We frequently see these individuals behind a computer screen, and therefore we see them as a separate body from us. However, they possess the same capabilities as us graduates. As we enter into the real world, we must remember that we have a voice. 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’ve faced opposition in a number of scenarios, but my voice continued to grow in intensity as I faced more adversity. Rather than allowing opposition to silence us, we must utilize it as empowerment. As long as we nurture our minds as youth, we’ll be able to be equally impactful as we encounter the world.

“The young people will win” is a mantra that’s progressive by nature, but it suggests there’s one winner and one loser, two sides pitted against each other in a primitive battle of right and wrong. The inherent flaw in this mantra is that it erases the truth that we’re all attempting to perpetuate God’s will by bettering the quality of life for those around us. Mr. Eifert has taught me that we’re all battling for the same ideal - the ideal of happiness. He’s a man who embodied the spirit of the Holy Cross community precisely, someone who was rooted in faith, who always aided others, and who used his booming voice for the good of all people. We must use our voices to do the same. Only then can we say we’re “winning”. Rather than gauging victory by what we accomplish on paper, we must gauge victory by the amount of hearts we can cleanse. Many of us have accomplished this at Holy Cross, but we must not lose the same drive once we graduate. We must keep faith as we continue to grow, and we must continue to “win” as we encounter more and more people.

“The young people will win” because we’re finished being complacent. There’s a misguided notion that wisdom is directly proportional to age, but we’re disproving that daily. Sometimes the wisest are the youngest in our lives, the ones who haven’t yet been desensitized to the atrocities of our world. Therefore, we young people must be the educators. The young people must be willing to speak candidly about issues, and we mustn’t tremble in the face of the institutions that try to silence us. We’ve already accomplished this in our own community. We’ve been living examples of this mantra whether you all realize it or not.. Just within the last year, many of us have worked tirelessly to defend our ethics. Morgan, you were the strongest voice when the Parkland tragedy happened, and you personally wrote an address to honor those lives lost. Izzy, Juliana, Katherine and I fought to defend our history and relocate the Jefferson Davis memorial in the Kentucky State Capitol building. Many of you went on the March for Life to protect the lives of the unborn, and the list goes on. The most important thing to remember is that youth is not proportional to age, nor is it physical, rather it’s a mindset that we must carry with us into the world.The only way we can stop being impactful is if we let go of our youth and stop advocating for our core values. In my experience at Holy Cross I’ve learned that the best way to attain change is to be a visible example in our world, and we must plan to continue to utilize our voices in order to better the lives of all those we encounter.

Class of 2018, we are dynamic. We are intelligent. We have a voice, and we’re capable of using it in all communities. We’ve learned a multitude of things at Holy Cross, and for that we extend a sincere thanks to our teachers, parents, faculty, and peers. However, it doesn’t stop here. We must take what we’ve learned in this community and apply it to the world we are about to encounter. We are the young people, and we will continue to win.

The Diocese of Covington's complete statement from Tim Fitzgerald.

School officials and representatives of the Diocese of Covington reserve the right to review and approve all student speeches to be presented in public at high school graduations. All speeches must be submitted in a timely manner.  The student speeches for the Holy Cross High School graduation were not submitted for review before the deadline.  When the proposed speeches were received, they were found to contain elements that were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church.