A disappointing valedictory

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.

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About Tim Owens

I'm a husband, father, and Christ follower. I also live in Albany, NY, where I work as a pastor.
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5 Responses to A disappointing valedictory

  1. Clem S. says:

    What if you were to consider your son’s thoughts and actions between the handing over of the intended speech and the moment of decision to change course. What if that intended speech does not do justice to your sons heart in relation to his faith? While integrity can be regarded as the honesty and truthfulness of his actions, it is also regarded as the consistency of his values, and principles.

  2. Jane S says:

    As I said yesterday, Tim, yours is one of my favorite controversial blogs. However, I must believe that the young man from Pickens County did what was right and what he felt God wanted of him. He did an interview with the Christian Post afterward – I will attach a link below. We are permitting our freedoms to be stripped away in the name of tolerance. How long will we remain silent?

    I find myself looking at stones differently, lately… (Luke 19:40)

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/interview-valedictorian-roy-costner-iv-on-ripping-up-his-approved-speech-reciting-lords-prayer-97552/

    • Tim Owens says:

      Jane–thanks for reading. Like I said yesterday, I was working on a post on this one.

      Thanks for the link, that was one of the articles I read as I thought about Roy’s speech. I smiled as I read your comment about this being one of your favorite controversial blogs. Not sure that was ever my intent. But, I’m struck in this case that a call for our young men and women to honor their commitments can be considered controversial. The young man from Pickens County broke his commitment. We can ask the question whether this was justified (like lying about hiding Jews in WW2), but there’s no question that he broke his commitment.

      If Drew were in this position, and was concerned about our freedoms being stripped away, I would have encouraged him to have the courage and integrity to submit the speech he intended to give. It’s likely the administration would forbid the speech. If Drew wanted to make a statement and retain his integrity, I’d encourage him to forfeit his hard-earned speech. It’s unlikely that Drew would receive as much media attention, but I imagine his teachers and administration would never forget.

  3. Faith says:

    Ah Tim….I totally agree with you. Well, actually, if the young boy thought he should pray and go against the rules of his school and therefore ruin his good character (integrity) he should have read his speech and THEN said a prayer. good grief. I am so thankful…VERY Thankful that Shaker High does NOT have valedictorians (the class size is typically about 490 kids) (we honor the top 10% of the class, and yes Courtney was in that %..WHOO HOO!) and I am very thankful we do still pray (one of the community leaders or principals) at graduation. At least they did in 2011 and I’m assuming they still do. I am VERY thankful that in our diverse school district that we teachers are not allowed to lead students in prayer because I do NOT want my child sitting under the “prayer” to some “god” that a non-Christian teacher might pray to. And yes…we DO still have a moment of silence in ALL of our 8 North Colonie schools right after the pledge of allegiance where the original words are still said. And this is the liberal northeast!! LOL…..sadly, that boy did sully his character. It’s odd though isn’t it that the Bible belt south doesn’t allow a prayer???? odd.

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