Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Springstead High valedictorian Jem Lugo was right about speech

Jem Lugo delivered a dulled-down speech at Springstead High’s graduation. Her original speech was rejected.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Jem Lugo delivered a dulled-down speech at Springstead High’s graduation. Her original speech was rejected.

It could be one of those casual-but-sweeping life lessons that seem to be popular in graduation speeches these days:

Don't mess with people smarter than you.

Springstead High principal Susan Duval knows that one pretty well by now.

As you've probably read, Duval rejected valedictorian Jem Lugo's original graduation speech and demanded a more conventional replacement.

Lugo complied Thursday evening, but not before outmaneuvering Duval — taking her story to both local newspapers. Of course, local newspaper stories don't stay local these days.

By way of the Web, this one apparently reached the people at CBS News, who told Hernando Times education writer Tony Marrero they wanted Lugo to appear on The Early Show an offer she turned down. A Canadian radio station was also trying to track her down.

It's easy to see how this story would play out on the continentwide stage.

Lugo is, judging from her speech, articulate and funny. Along with her sky-high grade-point average, she was class president, yearbook editor and has won admission to Harvard University. Plus, she did nothing wrong.

Her original speech (available online at tampabay.com ) contains mostly standard graduation advice: Say what you believe, take time to have fun in life and, even, "always say please and thank you."

Not exactly Lenny Bruce.

Beyond a few mild vulgarities, the speech's irreverence is mostly in its off-hand tone. On the importance of earning a good living, for example, Lugo says, or wanted to say: "First off, get money."

Funny, right? I think even Duval may have appreciated it on some level. Because what struck me was how similar its style was to Duval's graduation addresses in 2004 and 2005. The second of these, for example, started off, "If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it."

Or, more accurately, it started with Duval's introduction: "I would like to share some personal thoughts." They weren't personal at all, of course, except to the Chicago Tribune's Mary Schmich, whose 1997 column Duval had found on the Internet and read nearly word for word.

In turned out the same was true of the previous year's speech, a string of witty sayings under the title, "All I Need to Know I Learned from Noah's Ark."

What's the difference here? Well, Lugo did just what smart high students are supposed to do — used her creativity to come up with an original expression of her thoughts and feelings. Duval did exactly what she shouldn't have done as the administrator most responsible for upholding her school's academic integrity: she cheated. And she was later fined for it by the state.

Too bad for Springstead, which recently earned the right to award International Baccalaureate diplomas after a rigorous application process.

This happened on Duval's watch and, from what I can tell, Springstead more than any other school in the county has fostered the kind of academic ambition that no doubt played a part in Lugo's application and acceptance to Harvard. That's why my son plans to go there next fall.

But don't feel sorry for Duval. Her hypocrisy and poor judgment led to this embarrassment.

Not smart.

Springstead High valedictorian Jem Lugo was right about speech 06/06/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 6, 2009 10:10am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. One year after deaths, Sunset Music Festival kicks off with emphasis on water and security

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Before the beat drops, or even builds, you hear Steve-O.

    "If you don't get water you're lame!"

    "Hey! Free water! Come on!"

    Steve "Steve-O" Raymond motions to guests making the line to grab free water bottle at the entrance of the Sunset Music Festival on the grounds of the Raymond James Stadium parking lot in Tampa. ( LUIS SANTANA   |   Times)
  2. Twins eventually cash in as Rays lose, fall back to .500 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays could only battle their way out of trouble for so long Saturday afternoon before succumbing in a 5-2 loss to the Twins.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 27: Brian Dozier #2 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates hitting a two-run home run as Derek Norris #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on during the eighth inning of the game on May 27, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Rays 5-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010973
  3. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  4. Fans in Florida and beyond won't forget Gregg Allman

    Music & Concerts

    The end can come quickly for those who live fast and live hard, who create worlds with their talent and sometimes come close to throwing them away.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)
  5. Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, a former senator, dies at 85

    Ml

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jim Bunning, a former Hall of Fame pitcher who went on to serve in Congress, has died. He was 85.

    In this June 21, 1964 file photo, Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches a perfect game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in New York.  The Phillies beat the Mets, 6-0.  Bunning retired all 27 batters who faced him in the first game of a doubleheader to become the first pitcher in 42 years with a perfect game in regular season play.   (AP Photo/File)