Honestly, this is a story that I believe has no business in the national spotlight. BUT since it is, this might be a good time for all of us to step back and look at where we are as a nation.
Parents, talk to your teens about this. Teens, ask your parents what they think.
Let’s talk about that big, profane word: “Responsibility.”
It all started with a girl giving her valedictorian speech at her high school gradation in Oklahoma. She submitted her speech before hand, got it approved, and then decided to change the word “heck” to the word “hell.”
Read the full story and watch her interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show to get caught up.
The principle is withholding her diploma until she issues an apology. But here she is on national television touting her first amendment right to free speech. She says she is going to stand her ground, and she doesn’t feel sorry for what she has done. What’s more, her own dad is right by her urging her to stand her ground and not to give in to the powers that be.
We love our rights in this country. Admittedly, I am thankful that I have the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. Otherwise, I could not type these words right now! But rights without responsibility lead to an unhealthy self-pride. We will fight for our rights all day long. We’ll shout and protest and go on national television. But no one wants to talk about having any type of responsibility to go along with those rights.
It’s an incredibly individualistic system, every man for himself, rights-driven system that we have developed in this nation. And it doesn’t matter how many people you offend or anger along the way, as long as you have the right to do whatever you’re doing.
So a few observations/talking points from this story out of Nowheresville, OK.
1. Yes, we are guaranteed the right to free speech. But she did not have the RIGHT to give the valedictorian speech. That was an honor and a privilege, and as such there is a certain level of regulation and protocol set in place.
2. She had to submit the speech in full in order for it to be approved. That means there are some things that would not have been approved beforehand. She knew full well that changing that one word would probably light some sparks. It wasn’t a simple slip of the tongue.
3. We don’t like it when school administrators do their jobs. People on a national level are demanding that this principle be fired. Really? By taking this story to the national level, this girl has virtually RUINED this man’s career. And it was her fault in the first place. This whole story is just saturated with selfishness.
4. The same people who go to bat for this girl will then turn around and jump all over someone who says something that in turn offends them. Oh, they’ll absolutely fight for the free speech of a sweet, innocent high school girl. But as soon as a politician or a preacher or another public figure says something they don’t agree with, it’s guns blazing. I smell a double-standard with a side of inconsistency. Don’t believe me? Just check out the comments section of the story link.
People say the Bible isn’t relevant to today’s world? Just check out what Paul tells the church in Corinth. I really love the way the 2011 NIV words it:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say – but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
How would this story be different if Kaitlin Nootbaar, the smartest girl in her school, actually knew this passage? How would society look if all the Christians in America took this passage seriously?
Yes, Ms. Nootbaar had the right to say the word “hell.” But it was neither beneficial nor constructive. And in the aftermath, she is only seeking her own good, not the good of others (i.e. her principle).
So today, just remember that Christians are called to a higher standard. Is it beneficial, constructive, and in the best interest of others to fight for your own rights? Or are we all going to just say, “to hell with responsibility?”