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June 7th, 2013
03:56 PM ET

Valedictorian breaks rules at graduation

CNN's Brooke Baldwin talks with valedictorian Roy Costner IV about his bold decision to break the rules at graduation.

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Filed under: Brooke Baldwin
soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. doug

    Let me just be the first to say what an insensitive fool this young man is and how he has proven that being valedictorian at his school exemplifies the failure of standardized testing and the No Child Left Behind law.

    June 21, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
  2. Dr. Mike

    It is no coincidence that both freedom of speech and freedom of religion are both part of the First Amendment. Freedom of speech works both ways–for positions that we support and for speech we may find objectionable. By no means, is this young man "an insensitive fool", he seems to be a conscientious man with deep convictions and he is fully justified in his action by the Constitution. And for the record, I would feel the same if it was any other religion being sincerely expressed, I would be very uncomfortable with satanism but I would silently respect their rights.

    June 22, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  3. osedaxx

    This would have been a different story if he would have quoted the Quran. For all of you who think this was a good idea for this kid to do this, imagine how you would have felt if he started praising Mohammed. Thats how the rest of us feel when we see crap like this. Keep your beliefs of imaginary friends at home in private where they belong.

    June 23, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  4. Mike Smith

    Not a big fan of the First Amendment, I see.

    June 24, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  5. Morgan

    What an arrogant young man.

    June 25, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  6. DonRoberto

    Freedom of speech is a right under the Constitution, but like all rights, its free exercise should always be tempered with both caution and humility. This valedictorian apparently suffers from the same disorder that affects so many millions of others nowadays - the arrogant belief that there is no wisdom greater than what he himself currently possesses, and that the rightness of his beliefs is an absolute.

    June 26, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  7. deepsea35

    What an arrogant young man....not unlike John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Teddy Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Joe Namath, Oliver Hazard Perry, Robert E. Lee, George Patton, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, Ronald Reagan, Etc. Etc. Etc. Just as fallible and human......but with a spine, some charisma, a belief in something greater, and a willingness to work for it. Yes, arrogant indeed. Good thing America doesn't produce many young men like this.....

    June 27, 2013 at 6:58 am |
  8. Doug

    deepsea35: Just because the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and religion, it doesn't mean you can say anything you want at any time. He's at a public high school, and that means "no religion". Everyone else in that graduating class was guaranteed FREEDOM FROM religion.

    There is a difference between smart and arrogant. All of the people you mentioned were brilliant men, but I don't anyone would truthfully characterize any of them as arrogant.

    June 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  9. Charles

    Bravo Sir.

    Put prayer back in the schools. It worked for 200+ years....the last 20 in USA have been CRAP....

    June 27, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  10. Greg

    Excellent – another victory for freedom of speech. Normally I'm in favor of obeying the law – when the laws are just. In this case – if there is a rule that attempts to censor content of speech, then by all means, break that rule as often a possible!

    June 27, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
  11. Ralphie

    I am a Christian and I find this young man full of arrogance and sanctimony.
    What he said would be fine at a private, white, Christian school like they have in the South (yes, I am a Southerner).
    It is NOT appropriate representing the whole student body at a graduation ceremony of a public school.
    Learn some manners. Learn some empathy. Learn some humbleness.
    Or write down your beliefs on paper and pass it out in the parking lot.

    June 28, 2013 at 7:57 am |
  12. memoriesandlife

    Awesome! It is great he stood up for his beliefs. Yes, freedom of speech goes both ways. He was entitled to say the Lord's Prayer. Our daily practice in school once was to start our day with the Lord's Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance which includes "One Nation under God, Indivisible with LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL". We have taken these out of the schools...and now we are a nation more divided than ever. I am surrounded by those on the far left and the far right that spew hatred for everyone that thinks differently than they do....unbelievable. Those of us in the middle are cursed and crushed by both sides because we have beliefs and principles that they fail to understand. Thanks to this young man. I wish him well.

    June 28, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  13. caw

    A valedictorian speaks for his entire class, not just himself. What he did was inexcusable. Yes he has the LEGAL right to do it, but he didn't have the moral right.

    Guess it shows that intelligence doesn't mean wisdom.

    June 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  14. Eli

    There is a big difference between expressing personal declarations of faith and imposing them on an unsuspecting audience. This young man foolishly put a declaration of his faith ahead of his concern for others' comfort, an ironically un-Christian thing to do.

    What also leaves a bad taste in my mouth is that this young man seems to buy into the idea that as a Christian, he is oppressed. That's ridiculous. We Christians have been free to practice our faith since this country's founding, if not before. That we have become a more diverse country, w/ greater awareness and sensitivities, is not oppression to any Christian who truly respects his or her fellow human being.

    June 29, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  15. Charlie

    What surprises me the most is that it's ok to show affection in public if you are gay, it's fine to have same sex marriages
    It's considered brave a courageous to stand up for individual rights. With the exception of saying things that make the left leaning progressives uncomfortable . Let the young man believe what he wants and say what he wants. Just like every other group does! We all have to have the courage to listen to what other people believe. What some people consider insensitive others find truthful and courageous. That is what America is all about. God Bless America!

    June 29, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  16. mommi

    Freedom of speech is not all encompassing. There are limits and although I don't believe that the Lord's prayer is offensive, I think that schools do have an obligation to monitor the content of graduation speeches. Although the speakers may be the brightest of their class, they are still children in many ways and are prone to childish behavior (such as airing grievances in an inappropriate forum). They, school officials, have an obligation to everyone, to keep the ceremony an event for all of those attending, not just one child proving a point and snubbing their nose at many who helped him or her get to that point. There were many ways that he could made his point that wouldn't have been against policy, but he chose to showboat and polarize.

    June 29, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  17. Jon Rogers

    What a disgusting little twerp.

    July 1, 2013 at 12:14 am |
  18. vrim

    If prayer in schools "worked" for 200 years, slavery would have ended in the 1780's instead of the 1860's.

    July 1, 2013 at 12:31 am |
  19. Yes

    Free speech still lives where those dare.. If he would have said he was coming out of a gay closet, worshiping the phalix god that would have been ok? Things are upside down in this country!

    July 1, 2013 at 4:11 am |
  20. Jimi Hendrix

    kudos to this young man, fight the good fight

    July 1, 2013 at 6:01 am |
  21. Darrell

    Who cares? People sleep through these things anyway.

    July 1, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  22. Clllaw

    He is brave man!!! We need more of like him that will stand always for the TRUTH especially in this kind of generation that are selfish, greedy and lovers of themselves.

    July 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
  23. Brave?

    He can believe what he wants, and frankly say what he wants. BUT, if I stood up and talked about Atheism would that have been brave too? It would have been inappropriate philosophical spam just as this. And although he has the right to do this, I have the right to heckle him!

    July 2, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  24. Jared

    If i was in his graduating class, i woulda broken the rules too and walked out when i heard that prayer starting

    July 3, 2013 at 4:41 am |
  25. Barbara

    Eli – You are wrong! If you read The Bible, what he did by saying the Lord's Prayer is exactly what Christ had told us to do – to profess Him and spread the word – Christ said "Go and teach all nations....." So what the Valedictorian said was actually the Christian thing to do – not the un-Christian thing to do.

    July 3, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
  26. Patrick

    It was real Christian of him to lie and deceive the administrators by writing a speech which he never intended to recite. If he was concerned about his faith he should have said something like, "I wanted to thank God up here, but since that's against the rules, I will abstain from giving a speech, Thank you." The graduation ceremony is not his "mountain" to "go tell it on." Instead, he turned his love of God into a selfish, self-serving proclamation. I guess someone taught him that Christians don't have to play by the rules.

    July 5, 2013 at 7:00 am |
  27. fredisdead

    why vilify the young man for just saying what he feels about his faith? respect people's religion!

    July 5, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  28. mickey blakeman

    I feel that he did a brave thing, but I think that all religions should be able to speek of their faith without fear , at school , work and play, I am a christian and love God and christ with all my hart, but I have read everybook that other religions have given me and I myself think we should all be able to talk about our beliefs with people of every faith and no faith at all , it should be everyones right to talk of what they belive even if it is that there is no god of any kind, it is what our country is bilt on, I live in a country that has all religions living closely togather and we all get along at least on my island in the philippines, it is the one thing I will miss the most when we move back to the USA, PEOPLE THAT TRY TO GET ALONG AND THAT IS NOT OFFENDED IF EVERYONE DONT BELIVE JUST LIKE THEM

    July 6, 2013 at 7:28 am |
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