I have a lot of respect for Roy Costner IV, the South Carolina valedictorian who recently tore up his pre-approved speech and recited the Lord’s Prayer instead. I commend him for his willingness to stand by his convictions and his ability to stand tall in the face of opposition. And while he’s been inundated with praise since his speech, he had no way of knowing how this would play out. It takes true courage to persevere when the eventual outcome is unknown.
I also have a lot of respect for all of my countless friends who have celebrated his actions in the last week or so. I think we’re all inspired by Roy’s passion, by the fresh beauty of a young man’s devotion. In many ways, I hope my son Drew follows the example of Roy’s faith. As I think about Drew, I can’t help but imagine what I would say to him 12 years from now if he were to follow not just Roy’s faith, but also his speech.
I think I would say something like this:
Drew, I am disappointed with you.
I’m disappointed that you sacrificed your integrity to make a statement. I’m disappointed that you don’t yet understand that statements, like the cheers of the crowds, come and go. But our integrity is part of who we are.
I’m disappointed that you looked your adviser in the eye, handed him a speech, said, “This is what I’m going to say,” and then said something else. I’m disappointed that you were so willing hollow out your promises. I’m disappointed that you’re not a man whose ‘yes’ is yes, and ‘no’ is no.
Drew, I’m disappointed with how much of your own hard work you’ve undone with one speech. I’m proud of all you’ve done in the last four years to show your advisor and other teachers how a Christ-follower lives. I’m proud of your example of love, integrity, respect, and obedience. And I am disappointed that after four years of faithful witness, you chose a farewell sown with defiance and rebellion. I’m disappointed that you can no longer look your advisor in the eye and say, “This is how Jesus loves you.”
I’m disappointed that you chose a cause over obedience, that you chose fame over loyalty, that you chose cheers over relationships.
Look, Drew, I understand that our faith has a long history of civil disobedience. I understand the heroes of our faith have been persecuted for centuries. I understand we raised you with stories of smuggling slaves out of the South, Jews out of Germany, and Bibles into China.
I’m disappointed that you lack the discernment to realize that this is not that.
I have a lot of respect for Roy Costner IV’s faith and devotion, and I pray that my son Drew will have a similar level of devotion.
But I pray that Drew will value his integrity as much as his passion.