We Wish All Politicians Had the Courage of This High School Valedictorian

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Given the prevalence of party-over-country and otherwise ineffectual politicians, it’s heartening to see a leader actually willing to speak truth to power and, you know, lead. That’s true whether we’re speaking about an Elizabeth Warren, a Kamala Harris, or … this high school class president.

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Peter Butera served as President of Wyoming Area Secondary Center all four years of his tenure there, eventually also being chosen as valedictorian. The Washington Post reports he was to recite the school’s poem at graduation and give a speech. In that speech, he recognized the school’s teachers, and “a couple great administrators.” That, apparently, did not include the disinterested-looking man up on that stage next to Butera, Principal Jon Pollard.

Without calling Pollard out by name, Butera, who says in his speech he “pursued every leadership opportunity available,” proceeded to describe what student government is like under the principal’s eye. “At our school, the title of class president can more accurately be class party planner,” he said, “and student council’s main obligation is to paint signs every week.”

“Despite some of the outstanding people in our school, a lack of a real student government combined with the authoritative attitude that a few teachers, administrators, and board members have prevents students from truly developing as true leaders.”

By that point, Pollard had started paying attention. And look, we don’t know his side of this relationship. All we know is what Butera says. Until, that is, the principal decides to cut the mic on the school’s valedictorian and end the public criticism. To deny a student this earned platform seems right in line with the sort of stifling, unsupportive view of leadership and growth Butera’s describing.

Butera leaves the stage calmly to a standing ovation from his fellow students, but luckily, he’s posted his speech in its entirety to Twitter. Here is its conclusion:

“Hopefully in the future, this will change. Hopefully for the sake of future students, more people of power within this school, who do not do so already, will begin to prioritize education itself as well as the empowering of students. Because at the end of the day, it is not what we have done as Wyoming Area students or athletes that will define our lives, but what we will go on to do as Wyoming Area Alumni. And I hope that every one of my fellow classmates here today, as well as myself, will go on to do great things in this world, and find true happiness and success. Thank you all for coming out to this great celebration today.”

There are a lot of professional politicians who could learn from this young man.

(via Washington Post, featured image: Shutterstock)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.