The Lady Speaks

Valedictorian Punished for Attempting to Give Speech

Update: (4/25/06) The superintendent 'ordered' Gallatin High School principal Rufus Lassiter to award Chris Linzy his diploma, and the charges against him were dropped. Details at Tennessee Guerrilla Women

* * * * 

Being the valedictorian of your high school graduation used to mean two things: you were the smartest kid in your class, and – for one brief, shining moment – you would have the spotlight. For just a few moments, the entire graduating class would know who you were (most having read it in the program minutes earlier) as you gave the final speech of the evening.

My high school actually allows the top two GPA-earners to speak: the valedictorian and the salutatorian. (I was neither. My grades were good enough to earn me the nickname 'egghead' as well as unrelenting teasing and torment from my 'peers', but thanks to "Freshman Insanity"*, they were not quite high enough to rank in the top 5 in the Class of '86.)

Many speeches have been given by many valedictorians all over the world, but how many school districts are insane enough to 1) not allow the valedictorian to speak, and 2) file criminal charges against him for attempting to do so?

Turns out that Gallatin High School has its own tradition – the valedictorian is still the smartest kid in the class, but he or she in't allowed to give the valedictory speech.

Egalia has the story at Tennessee Guerrilla Women. (I bet you already guessed this school is in the South.)

If you've ever wondered why so many people homeschool their kids in this state, look no further than principal Rufus Lassiter at Gallatin High School in Sumner County, Tennessee.

Rufus Lassiter has filed a criminal complaint against Chris Linzy, valedictorian with a 5.35 GPA on a 4.0 scale.

The valedictorian's crime?

The kid attempted to give a geeky speech at his graduation ceremony. I kid you not! Chris Linzy managed to get out all of two sentences before the mike was turned off. Then like any good geeky kid would, he quietly went to his seat.

Sadie Baker has this in the comments at TGW: [emphasis mine]

Somebody needs to send that principal back to school because he doesn't know English.

The word "valedictorian" means the person who gives the farewell speech:

"In the United States and Canada, the title of valedictorian (an anglicized derivation from the Latin vale dicere 'to say farewell') is given to the top graduate of the graduating class (compare dux) of an educational institution. The title comes from the valedictorian's traditional role as the last speaker at the graduation ceremony."

There's more on the story from the Gallatin News Examiner.

[…] Linzy said part of his disappointment is that the achievements of ultra-smart students such as himself are minimized at the school. Since most Sumner County high schools ask the school’s top students to deliver speeches, he said Gallatin High’s tradition disturbed him.

Although he had tried to get the rule changed earlier in the school year, he said he’d given up on it until he heard Lassiter make a statement to the audience Friday night.

In the statement audience members and students were threatened with legal action if they were loud or disruptive with applause or calling out names, said Chris Linzy’s father, David Linzy. They were told they would be ushered out of the gymnasium and that a petition for disruptive behavior would be filed.


Lasssiter also expressed frustration about the attention Linzy is receiving from the media and said about 270 students who did comply with the school’s tradition “are the ones who should be rewarded.”

David Linzy said he asked Lasssiter how to make the situation right and was told that Chris would need to present a written apology.

The young man’s father said he tried to deliver the letter Monday but was turned away and asked to come back Tuesday.


David Linzy felt betrayed by Lassiter when the police came to the family home with a misdemeanor criminal citation about 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, because he had been led to believe that his son’s letter of apology was all that would be required of him to resolve the issue.

“I shook (Lassiter’s hand),” he said “ I never saw this coming. This is vindictive. There is no justification for this. This takes it to a whole new place we hoped we would never reach.”

David Linzy said things escalated even more when a teacher from the high school called to tell them the administration was in the process of confiscating all of Chris’ school papers and homework. […]


(*Freshman Insanity – a term my mother coined to explain why a more or less normal, high-achieving student suddenly became the smart-mouth of the class while simultaneously failing four subjects during the first semester. As with everything, it hits kids earlier these days, so my daughter went through "Grade 7 insanity".)


May 24, 2006 Posted by | Children, Constitution, Education, First Amendment, Protest | Leave a comment

Baghdad – too dangerous for the VOA

Well, this gives the Bush mis-administration another reason to spy on reporters. How dare they tell us the bad news! Schools are being painted, playgrounds are being built….the electricity was on for three hours one day.

If reporters like Howard Kurtz would stop harping on the bad news, they might even be able to get the electric working for three consecutive hours!

Crooks and Liars has the video of Keith Olbermann on Countdown. From the transcript at

Olbermann: Meantime, we noted here 24 hours ago that this seems to be an administration that is outwardly unsusceptible to irony or charges of hypocrisy. But even that Teflon coating is facing a heavy-duty fried-egg stain. While the Bush press office and responsive reporters and talk show hosts desperately continue to accuse the, quote, “mainstream media” of ignoring the, quote, "good news from Iraq," "The Washington Post" has revealed that for the last six months, the Voice of America, the U.S.  government-run news organization, has not had a correspondent in Baghdad because it‘s just too dangerous.


Alicia Ryu tells “The Post” she was rotated out of the assignment there in December at her own request, and that there has been no successor because, quote, “They didn‘t have any volunteers to replace me.”  Ms. Ryu said she “couldn‘t live with the idea that someone else could have died who was working with me,” this after she came under fire in an ambush and her security guard was killed there.


OLBERMANN:  So lastly, Richard, rate this as a symbol, as a microcosm of Iraq and truth verses spin there and here?

WOLFFE:  I would say that the administration, the administration spin just has never matched the situation on the ground in Iraq.  And the VOA is just another example of that.  But the biggest one is the number of people who are dying. [emphasis mine]

From Howard Kurtz' article in the Washington Post:

[…] All Western news organizations have struggled with the dangerous conditions in Iraq, which have led to such high-profile incidents as the kidnapping of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll and the wounding of ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff. But for a federally funded information service to pull out of Baghdad for such a prolonged period raises questions about the Bush administration's insistence that conditions there are gradually improving.


Reporters for several news outlets, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post, have had close calls in Iraq. A VOA staffer familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person is not an authorized representative, said the agency had a limited budget in Iraq and could not afford the extensive security employed by major news organizations.

Once again, El Chimperor….His Imperial Kingness…the President is doing a heckova job. 

May 24, 2006 Posted by | Bush, Government, Iraq, Media, War, White House | 2 Comments

Families in debt for basics

In case you're one of the few completely unaffected by stagnant wages and increased costs of living, you probably didn't know this. The rest of America, on the other hand, knows it all too well:

People aren't going into debt because of outrageous spending on expensive TVs or sports cars or second homes. Most of them are just trying to keep the homes they have.

From Kirstin Downey in the Washington Post:

Why are Americans so deeply in debt? It's not because they are using credit cards to buy plasma TVs and premium coffee drinks at Starbucks. [*cough* Rick Santorum *cough*] The real culprits, according to a new analysis, are the rising costs of housing, health care and education.The debt of the typical American family earning about $45,000 a year rose 33.1 percent from 2001 to 2004, after adjusting for inflation, according to a study based on data compiled from the Federal Reserve Board's most recent Survey of Consumer Finances. The Fed report, released in February, gave raw numbers on debt levels.


Real wages, after adjusting for inflation, have been flat since 2001, according to the study, while the cost of big-ticket items for which families pay the most rose. In the past five years, the costs of medical care, housing, food, cars and household operations rose 11.2 percent, the study said. Many families are trying to make up the difference by borrowing, according to Christian E. Weller, author of the report and a senior economist at the center.

"Very little can be explained by frivolous consumer spending," Weller said. His views were echoed in a news conference by Elizabeth Warren, a law professor at Harvard University who analyzed the sources of debt that emerge in bankruptcy filings and reviewed the results of Weller's study.

"The average American family is walking a high wire and hoping there won't be a high wind," Warren said. [emphasis mine]

Housing debt has climbed notably because home prices have risen and people have borrowed against the equity in their homes. From 1989 to 2004, for example, the median mortgage debt more than doubled, from $46,900 to $96,000.

That is all. Please feel free to return to watching American Idol and Survivor and Desperate Housewives, and ignore all signs of impending disaster.

May 24, 2006 Posted by | Congress, Economy, Family, Gas Prices, Government, Politics | 4 Comments

Pork replaces Katrina & Iraq spending

Not that I'm surprised one bit, but isn't it nice to know that our Congr– the Republican-controlled Congress cares about its people…the rich corporate ones, that is.

From Peter Whoriskey in the Washington Post:

This city's east side remains largely abandoned, a bleak panorama of empty lots and abandoned homes left behind by the tradesmen, shrimpers and casino workers who once lived here.

Hundreds had little or no insurance. For people such as 83-year-old Elzora Brown, a retired dry-cleaning presser whose little frame house was waterlogged up to the eaves, there's not enough federal disaster aid for repairs. "Whatever the Lord sees fit, that's what I'll have," she said.

Just down the coast in Pascagoula, defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. similarly didn't have enough insurance to cover hurricane losses at its shipyards. But the company isn't awaiting divine intervention.

It had an ally in the U.S. Senate and is slated to receive $140 million for rebuilding.


Critics have pointed to the bill as a monumental example of earmarking taken to extremes, with many noting that while the bill was supposed to address "emergency" spending for the war and Katrina relief, many of the outlays had little to do with an emergency, the war or the hurricane.

Usually the critics attack earmarks as wasteful, but the experience in Mississippi reveals another problem, according to some local officials here. No one doubts that the state needs recovery money. The question is whether some of the earmarks for Gulf Coast projects such as Northrop's are coming at the expense of the urgent needs reflected in the abandoned streets.


Among the projects in the Senate version of the bill are $38 million to repair historic Mississippi properties such as Jefferson Davis's home overlooking the beach in Biloxi; $176 million to build a military retirement home in Gulfport; and the biggest project, $700 million to buy an 80-mile stretch of railroad over which a new highway would be built. That project, which has become known as the "railroad to nowhere," was inserted into the bill by Lott and Mississippi's other senator, Thad Cochran (R), chairman of the Appropriations Committee. It would reroute a train line damaged by Katrina — and already rebuilt at a cost of at least $250 million. [emphasis mine]


"What they're saying to Northrop Grumman is 'Here — here's $140 million. Go get yourself back together,' " said Bill Stallworth, a Biloxi City Council member running a relief center out of a church building here. "What we're saying is 'Look, people, we need more money to get people back in their homes. We need housing. Volunteers can't do it all.' " He said that if the volunteer building crews he uses could just hire a handful of licensed plumbers and electricians, they could increase the number of homes being rebuilt in the area from 10 a month to 100. But there isn't enough money.

Welcome to BushWorld….where money goes where it's least needed. 

What none of these Congressional piggies seem to realize is that giving money to corporations and pet projects – under the guise of re-starting the economy –  in an area where people have no homes is just plain stupid. Most places would see a more effective, longer-term boost to their economies if the people are spending on home improvements and the like.

Read the full article here


May 24, 2006 Posted by | Congress, Culture of Corruption, Economy, FEMA, Government, Hurricane Katrina, Politics, Republicans, White House | 2 Comments

Somebody’s scared….

You just know that if Republicans are questioning something that happened to a Democrat, the world has either tipped over on its axis…or they're scared of it happening to them. 

From the Associated Press:

The FBI’s weekend search of the House office of a Louisiana Democrat under investigation for bribery may have overstepped constitutional boundaries, House leaders said as the congressman under investigation pledged to stay in office.

House Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio told reporters Tuesday that the Congress will somehow speak to “this issue of the Justice Department’s invasion of the legislative branch. In what form, I don’t know.”


House Speaker Dennis Hastert said the Justice Department had never before crossed a line that separates Congress from the executive branch by searching a congressional office while investigating a member of Congress.

Can you smell the fear? Obviously the last thing the Party of Corruption wants – especially those already under investigation – is for the FBI to go wandering around their offices.

Someone needs to explain to these unpatriotic unAmericans that we're at war! We were attacked on 9/11, and we have to do whatever we can to fight the terrorists, even when we aren't actually targeting terrrorists. 

And, by the way, isn't it nice of Alberto Gonzalez to offer a little 'Don't worry, my good buddies'? 

 Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday he understood the concerns of some members of Congress about the search and said he was working with lawmakers as to how to handle the investigation.

“We’re in discussion privately about what can be done to alleviate the concerns,” Gonzales said at a Justice Department news conference. “I … and the department have a great deal of respect for the Congress as a coequal branch of government … and obviously are sensitive to their concerns. We are working to address those concerns. We have discussions with the House. Those began last night.”

Awww…Attorney General "Torture is legal, and George can do what he wants" Gonzalez respects Congress as "a coequal branch of government". 

Steny Hoyer on the other hand seems to think that Gonzalez and his department might just – maybe- respect Republicans just a little more.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the raid raises questions about why the Justice Department raided the offices of a Democrat but not Republican lawmakers under investigation. “It certainly has been disparate treatment,” he said.

May 24, 2006 Posted by | Congress, Constitution, Culture of Corruption, Democrats, Government, Law Enforcement, Politics, Republicans, White House | Leave a comment