News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 6, 2014

Readers’ forum: June 7, 2014


---- — Tommy John’s story hits home

When I read the article about Tommy John being passed over to deliver his valedictory address because of his speech impediment, I felt a familiar pang of discomfort in my stomach as I remembered having a similar experience. It happened to me also, but only because someone on staff at my school felt like discriminating against me.

I graduated class valedictorian of Garfield High School in 1968. I, too, was told to give the Invocation, while another student was given the honor of doing the “valedictory” address.

I had no speech impediment, was a 4.0 student who could memorize things well enough to do the lead in the senior play, and articulate enough to write for the school newspaper.

However, I was female and my parents were poor and not well-educated. Someone decided I wasn’t good enough to deliver this speech, so it was never even discussed with me.

At the time, I had no family who understood the slight or would advocate for me.

I have no desire to give any speeches now, but if I did, I would say to graduates, and really to everyone, stick up for yourself in this life and please treat other people with kindness and respect for their efforts.

Thankfully, we have come a long way in consideration for individual rights since 1968. Also, to people in power, think carefully about your actions and how you’d feel if your child was the object of a person’s  prejudice.

By the way, I worked my own way through college, made an “A” in college speech class, and graduated with honors from IUPUI. With my husband, I’ve raised two intelligent, hard-working and well-respected children, and have not done badly for myself in this life, but the sting was still there all these years later.

Congratulations to Mr. John. I know you’ll give a stellar and inspiring valedictory address, long overdue. I’m sure that your classmates would have cheered for you, if they had been given the chance, as will the new graduates who get to hear you speak of a life well-lived.

— Linda McCain Bonness

Terre Haute