Funny that high school graduates are acting more mature and with more courage than the adults we have both on Facebook and in this very newspaper. Welcome to 2018.
Let’s begin with the valedictorian address in Gonzales two weeks ago. I personally did not attend the graduation, but in talking to folks who did, Eric Pecina gave a great speech which included an impersonation of President Trump. Let me write that word one more time to make sure you read that correctly. Impersonation. Impersonation is not mocking.
When we decided to repost the picture on Facebook, the intention was to clear up any confusion with the hand gesture Pecina made. Admittedly, sometimes newsprint can blur images, so something as innocent as putting your fingers together can look like a not-so-innocent flipping of the bird.
My usual advice is to never read the comment section. This time, I’m breaking my rule. Go read the comment section to that post. Someone (who did not attend the ceremony) asked if Pecina was “mocking the president.” Another user called the graduate a “lib tard.” Someone else felt though the picture matches his speech perfectly, it was a poor choice, which I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that logic. Then others chimed in on how well Pecina did with his speech.
What impressed me the most was Pecina could have easily laughed this off, ignored it, and move on with is life as he prepares for the next stage of his life. Instead, he came into the swamp that is the Facebook comment section and spoke up.
“First off, I am not giving anyone the finger. Anyone that saw the speech and heard it knew that I was just doing an impression of Trump,” he wrote. “There was no offense intended, there was nothing mean or rude about it. I was not making fun of Trump nor was I being a ‘libtard.’ I was doing what I wanted to do for the speech, and I did something that I felt like I could do pretty well (being the impression), and I thought it was pretty funny. It was fun doing that and I enjoyed it. But do not speak ill of the Gonzales Inquirer just because they have to report something due to other people's mistake. There is no reason to talk bad about or dislike the Gonzales Inquirer for what they said. They did nothing wrong. They are simply clearing up an issue and misunderstanding that some people had about the picture.”
There is more to his post that I liked, especially when he told others to direct any “smack talk” to him personally. Though the funniest thing for me was when my friends told me “wow, he did a great job there,” I responded with a bit of sarcasm with, “I know right? It’s as if he was the top of his class or something? Oh. Wait.”
I make this mistake every so often, but a bit of advice. Don’t feed the trolls. No matter what logic you bring to the table, you won’t change anybody’s opinion. They are merely here to be heard.
Last Saturday I attended the Waelder graduation, and to the surprise of most in attendance, salutatorian Laisha Rangel went off script.
For details on why she did what she did, go back to the front page and read about it there. To summarize, she felt she was treated unjustly so she decided to voice her opinions on the grandest stage she can find at the time, graduation.
“Before I walk off this stage tonight, I want to shine some light on the stone-cold truth of what the school district of Waelder ISD is,” Rangel began. “To all present and future students of Waelder ISD, getting all A’s your entire life will not matter, staying up late at night to study will not matter, pushing yourself pass the limit in this high school will not matter… unless your parent is a part of the school board.”
I can’t speak on whether her allegations are true. But what I can appreciate is her courage. Rangel truly believed she was wronged, and even when someone in the audience yelled “Get her off the stage!” she continued to read. Even when the principal, Dr. Ron Lilie, stepped in and put his hand over the microphone, Rangel stepped to the side and continued to read.
Again, I can’t tell you if the school board or the Waelder ISD administrators are in the wrong. But what I can tell you is I am nowhere near as brave as Rangel is.
The gym couldn’t hear her entire speech, but the last paragraph is worth repeating to those who weren’t able to listen.
“However, the most important conclusion I have come to about my entire high school education is how significantly small the title of valedictorian and salutatorian really are,” Rangel said. “These titles mean nothing in the bigger picture. They do not define who I am, and they most certainly will not define who I will be.”
Your actions will ultimately define who you are as a person. And for that, I can say without hesitation that the actions of Pecina of Gonzales and Rangel of Waelder give me a bit of hope for our future. Your courage is inspiring. Continue to use your voice for what you believe is good. We adults can learn a lesson or two from these graduates.