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FL HS valedictorian barred from giving speech honoring her immigrant parents

People here in Central Florida lament the “brain drain” from talented students who leave the land of hospitality-based, dead-end jobs upon completion of their studies.  We are ranked one of the worst places to live for young people, so the skilled and educated tend to leave for other places where higher education is promoted and science is respected.

For some reason, places like that always seem to have a lower degree of bigotry and higher quality of life. For many areas in Central Florida, unfortunately, we have the opposite.  This is likely why Trump is kicking off his re-election bid in my backyard:


After I explain what happened to the top graduate from University High School last week, you’ll get a clearer picture of what I mean.  I think it’s safe to say that when she’s ready to start accepting job offers, she’ll cross this area off her list.

On what was supposed to be her day and a celebration of her many accomplishments, Kriya Naidu was barred from speaking—and then insulted.

She was the freaking Valedictorian.  She had a weighted 5.5 GPA.  She was supposed to give a speech, and that speech she submitted was reviewed and approved.

The speech, which I will play for you in full below, honored her parents’ experience as immigrants, and gave a quick nod to the many challenges faced by new immigrants. To be clear, there was absolutely nothing “inflammatory”: nothing about the overt hatred her parents faced, nor any reference to the current immigration tragedy with thousands of migrant children being separated from their parents or babies being put in cages. It was just a few lines of an inspirational tribute put into a 3-minute speech that quoted a line from Hamilton: “Immigrants, we get the job done”.

Can’t have that, I guess.

A few hours before she was to deliver the speech, an administrator called her mom and told her she would be barred from speaking. This was confusing, since it was approved days before. When the young girl arrived at the arena hosting the graduation, she confronted the principal and asked why she couldn’t deliver her speech. She was denied, again, and given this massive insult:


And it gets worse. 

Additionally, [Kriya] Naidu said, she was not called first to walk across the stage, as is the custom for valedictorians at the school...

On top of all of that, her name was mispronounced, in what I can’t possibly believe was unintentional. So you really DON’T know the name of the most accomplished person in your school? Even if that’s the case, then maybe think to ask how to pronounce the name of your freaking valedictorian?!  (It’s KREE-YAH NEE-AYE-DU, by the way.)

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Kriya Naidu was so upset by the multiple slights, that she left as soon as she got her diploma.

This is perhaps where the story would end, but in yet another example that gives me hope for this new generation, Kriya wasn’t done.

Kriya gave her full speech–on YouTube.  She did a quick intro that stated she wasn’t allowed to give it at graduation, so instead, here it is.  So far, it has reached thousands. Ironically, a lot more people heard it than if they just let her speak. 

And then the social media uproar happened. All of the sudden, the school board and the superintendent noticed.  The superintendent of Orange County Public Schools even called to apologize. A spokesman claimed that the incident had nothing to do with the content of her speech, you see, but because Kriya didn’t “pre-record” her speech.  Ooookay…..

After approval, the principal sent an email to Kriya’s mother that, suddenly, she had to pre-record her speech because she didn’t want Kriya to “deviate from the script”.  (I don’t get it either.) Kriya shot back that it was a last minute request and that she couldn’t do it due to her AP exams and tutoring responsibilities. She added that the assistant principal never explained to her why she had to pre-record in the first place.

Her speech on YouTube went viral, and several Democratic politicians, like Amy Mercado and Carlos Guillermo Smith, spoke out against how she was treated. Florida House Democrat Anna Eskamani  tweeted out her YouTube speech to her followers. Interestingly enough, I haven’t heard word one from any local GOP politician. No mention from any of our rightwing media sources on censorship, which has been their big topic of late. No matter.

Immigrants in this country are hungry and want to succeed. They’ve been through hell and aren’t going to let a few jealous bigots stop them. Like this young lady, many of them are going places…and getting there fast. The future belongs to people like Kriya. That’s what terrifies certain people.

It should, because when people like her get to where they are going, they won’t forget how those people treated them.

Here’s her 3 minute speech, in full:

Well played, Kriya. Well played.

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