Senior Class President Refused To Read School-Written Speech – Then Principal Refused To Hand Over Diploma

Marvin Wright, the senior class president at Southwest Edgecombe County High School, had the honor of reading the commencement speech at his graduation ceremony.

He wrote a speech that his peers could relate to and be uplifted by.

But on the day of the ceremony, he was told by school administrators that he could not read his own speech.

At the graduation rehearsal, administrators told him he would be required to read a speech that was written for him by the school.

Senior Class President Refused To Read School-Written Speech - Then Principal Refused To Hand Over Diploma

‘I really worked hard on this speech,’ Marvin said.

‘I think my classmates would like to hear what I have to say instead of the one you wrote for me,’ he told them.

When he walked up to the podium to deliver the speech the teen had a huge dilemma on his hands.

Should he read the school sanctioned speech or his own heartfelt one?

Senior Class President Refused To Read School-Written Speech - Then Principal Refused To Hand Over Diploma

Marvin decided to read his own speech – which he had saved on his phone – and defy what he had been told to say. 

The school-sanctioned speech was a brief few sentences: 

  I would like to thank all of our friends and family for being here tonight.

 I would also like to address my fellow graduates one last time before we leave this gym.

Although we may all never be in the same room at the same time again, we will always share the memories that we created within these walls.

And no matter what we all do after graduation, never forget that this is one place that we all have in common, this place is home.

Congratulations graduates, we did it!


Wright’s speech was considerably more longer and more personal. His touching speech referenced his religious faith, his family, and his memories from his school days.

In video footage of Marvin reading the speech, the principal of the school, Craig Harris, is seen sitting behind him as he stood at the podium.

As Marvin reads his own speech the principal appears visibly upset.

Senior Class President Refused To Read School-Written Speech - Then Principal Refused To Hand Over Diploma

After Marvin finishes reading the speech, he noticed that Principal Harris took his diploma.

‘(He said) “Mom, they took my diploma, they won’t give it to me”,’ Jokita Wright, Marvin’s mother, said.

‘At that moment I was totally upset. I was upset.’

‘I only have one chance to graduate from high school and it was really an embarrassing moment,’ Marvin said.

Senior Class President Refused To Read School-Written Speech - Then Principal Refused To Hand Over Diploma

After the story went viral, school officials admitted there was nothing wrong with Marvin’s speech, except for the fact that it was too long and ‘failed to meet an approval deadline.’

The school also said that Marvin violated guidelines by reading the speech straight from his phone rather than from a piece of paper.

But Marvin insists he was never told of a deadline.

‘The expectation is that all graduation speakers read the speech that has been prepared and placed at the podium…It is very unfortunate that his diploma was pulled and it should not have happened.’

‘An apology has been issued to Marvin and his family,’ the school said in a statement.

Principal Harris also drove to Marvin’s home on Sunday and hand-delivered the diploma.

Wright also received an apology by phone from the school superintendent. This fall, Wright plans to enlist in the United States Navy. 

Marvin’s FULL Speech:

Good evening to all who are gathered on today for the commencement of Southwest High School’s 2017 graduating class. 

My name is Marvin Wright and I am delighted to be standing here as your senior class president.

First and foremost, I want to thank God for making all of this possible.

Secondly, I would like to thank all of the parents and family members for the unconditional love you have provided my classmates and I during our unpredictable phases of life, for ultimately sticking with us through thick and thin, and giving us constant guidance. 

I would like to also thank the faculty and staff of Southwest for instilling knowledge and preparing us for the next chapter that we will soon embark on. And lastly, but certainly not least, I would like to personally thank my mother, Jokita Wright, for all of the sacrifices you have made for my two siblings and I.

Selfless, strong, determined, humorous, provider, protector are only a few attributes that exhibit who you are, which motivates me day to day. 

So, Thank you Mom! For without you I would not be standing here today.

Now, class of 2017…. this it it! 

We have finally made it. There are no other people I’d rather have spent my high school years with than all of you. 

Most of the students in our graduating class have known each other since elementary school, which is an accumulation of 13 consecutive years.

When we take a walk down memory lane we can all visualize ourselves being young, naïve, tiny elementary school kids who relied on nap time throughout kindergarten, who look forward to recess every day, and counted down the days and minutes until the biggest event of elementary school…field day.

Then we moved onto middle school where things didn’t work in our favor, such as me not hitting my intended growth spurt. 

Middle school was a transition period of having your own locker, having multiple teachers, dress codes were challenged in trying to figure out how to come up with your own ‘style’ by also following the uniform guidelines, and athletics became an outlet for students who sought competition.

Finally, we made it to high school. 

There was more freedom, better lunch choices, and opportunities for us to explore, to figure out who we are.

It seems like yesterday we were timid freshmen excited to be part of the mature crowd, but unsure where we would fit in. 

For many of us, our first year in high school was a time where the temptation to look at your cell phone was unbearable and sometimes we caved in, which resulted in us getting our phones taken. 

Or how about when we attended our first Friday Night Lights football game in which we were able to stay out late and hang with our friends.

Sophomore year then quickly approached us where we knew the routine and thought we knew it all, but in reality we were still being overlooked because we were still considered under classmen.

Junior year, reality sunk in. 

We did all that we could to build up our resume by being committed to our academics, participating in varsity sports, and taking leadership positions in different clubs. 

We also took the necessary steps to prepare ourselves for the SAT and ACT, as well as faced the immense task of figuring out a timeline that will prepare us for after high school. 

I think it is safe to say that although junior year was the most stressful and challenging, it was the most rewarding.

Once the class of 2016 walked across the stage we were finally seniors! 

The year we had been dreaming of since freshmen year, was finally here.

There was so many things to look forward to: seniority, senior prom, senior picnic, receiving our caps and gowns, and the list goes on. 

As seniors everything seemed different…teachers became mentors, friends became family, and Southwest High School became home. 

Little did we know that this year would come at a blink of an eye and the past four years would boil down to this day where all the hard work, laughs, tears, and long hours will have paid off.

Even though today is an accomplishment for the entire 2017 class and all of those who have helped us on this journey, it is going to take a lot of adjusting to get use to not seeing every single one of you on a daily basis. 

Even though I can’t predict the future I know that we all have the ability to make a difference in this world. 

For you should have the mindset that not only will you graduate today, but everyday is a graduation. 

This ultimately means that graduation is a continuous process in which you should strive to true lifelong learning of continuous, self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for personal improvement.

I am no expert in this journey we call life but we all have the ability to make a difference and to be that change the world needs. 

The past 13 years have equipped us for a time as this to stand bold in who we are. 

So I say to my classmates, cherish these last few minutes we spend here and the memories we have created and get ready for the journey ahead.

Thank you guys for making my senior year better than I could ever imagine and for all the moments I will always hold dear to my heart. 

Thank you, and congratulations to the class of 2017!!! 

Written by Christine Haveford

Christine loves all things cinema, and she's been that way ever since she was a little girl. In fact, she is so passionate about cinema that she decided to pursue cinematography as a full-time career, and is now pursuing film studies at the New York Film School. Originally from Florida, she is still exploring the new city, people, places, and the culture, loves the new weather, going ice skating during winters, and spending time with her fellow classmates and friends from college.

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