Solution reached after frustration erupts to changes in graduation speakers


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News about graduation speeches spread like wild fire. Administration announced that they would be holding auditions for the speakers. This left many bothered that valedictorian Charlie Bao Tran, would also have to audition for the honor.

News that auditions would be held to select the student speakers for the 2022 graduation ceremony in stead of the valedictorian speech sparked frustration from members of the senior class and larger Buena community. In the end, valedictorian Charlie Bao Tran will be giving a speech after conversations between administration and a petition created by anonymous members of the senior class. 

According to Tran, his main frustration was with what he felt was a lack of communication. “[My frustration] was the fact that I was never told about whether or not the valedictorian was going to speak.” 

According to Librarian Joel Levin who was on the graduation speech committee, Tran was informed that he would have to audition for graduation speeches.

“Ideally that would have been communicated to him months in advance, and it seems like it was only a few weeks ahead of the audition,” Levin said.

Administration also felt that much of the frustration could have been avoided with increased communication.

 “I think it would have been good to send an email to all teachers, because some of the teachers assumed we were doing it the way we had done in the past several years,” Principal Audrey Asplund said. 

Every senior could audition. It was about equity and giving an opportunity to  everyone who was interested.

— Principal Audrey Asplund

Many students felt that the valedictorian speaking was a tradition and automatic privilege which resulted in an online petition advocating for Tran to give the speech. The creators of this petition, signed by several community members and students from all classes, felt Tran worked very hard and deserved to have recognition at graduation. While some may have assumed the valedictorian speech has been around for decades, it was actually started in 2014 by the previous principal, Bobbie Powers. 

Asplund explained the intention of opening up the opportunity to all students to speak at graduation was about equity and having an equal playing field. There was criteria used during the auditions to help determine who was going to speak at graduation. In addition to being a compelling speaker, students must also meet satisfactory behavior requirements including good grades, attitude, and participation in school.

“Every senior could audition. It was about equity and giving an opportunity to everyone who was interested,” Asplund said. 

 As for the future, it remains undecided who will be invited to speak at future graduations but it will be a Buena staff decision. 

“We can talk about it again next year. Do we want to go with the tradition of Valedictorian, and have that as a new Buena tradition,” Asplund said. “Or do we want to go back to the past practice, which is the valedictorian auditions, if they want [and might be chosen amongst other auditionees].”


(This article has been updated since publication. Updated on June 3. 2022)