BRAWLEY – Brawley Union High School (BUHS) Senior Brooks Hamby gave his thoughts on his inspirational Salutatorian speech he gave Friday night at the Class of 2014 graduation.
“It’s pretty surprising,” said Hamby. “It all started out with a little back and forth with the high school and then finally getting to speak in front of Brawley. It’s a pretty small school. I go on my favorite news sites and there I am. It’s an exciting thing on how wide of an outreach this has had.”
The story and video first appeared on The Desert Review Saturday. The story and video went viral with several news organizations picking up the story, as well as social media.
“The most amazing thing is how this has spread,” said Hamby. “The comments have been overwhelmingly positive. The fact that there are very little negative comments has been pretty stunning and very nice.”
Hamby said rumors about the school holding his diploma are not true.
“I’ve heard nothing from the school administration,” said Hamby. “After the speech, they kind of huddled up and talked to each other. Nothing has been said to me.”
When asked if the speech he gave was ad-libbed, Hamby was quick to say no. He wanted to do everything by the book.
“The speech I gave was my fourth draft,” said Hamby, “which was a variation of my first 3 drafts. On Wednesday morning I had my first draft denied by the counselor. Thursday morning my second draft was denied by the counselor and the principal. Thursday afternoon my third draft was denied by the counselor, the principal, and the superintendent. They sent me back a version of my third draft with any word or reference to God or religion blacked out. They said this would be approved. I sent the fourth draft to the counselor, the principal, and the superintendent at 5:09 p.m. on Thursday. The ceremony was at 8:00 p.m. I did not get a response on my final draft electronically and they didn’t speak to me before the speech. They never said a thing.”
Hamby said he felt a little nervous before the ceremony.
“I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be,” said Hamby.
The audience was quiet during the speech.
After he finished, the audience of several hundred comprised of his fellow students, family members, and staff responded with thundering applause.
“I hope that the legacy of my speech will not be that I was causing trouble,” said Hamby. “My goal was to keep focused on my message.”
“The school and their attorneys threatened to shut off the microphone several times prior to the graduation ceremony,” said Hamby. “I’m extremely happy that didn’t happen and that the message went far beyond the high school.”
Hamby sought counsel and determined to move forward with his fourth draft.
Below is the letter the District sent to Hamby;
Based on District legal counsel opinion referencing two 9th Circuit Appellate Court cases, any aspect of a graduation speech that makes reference to Jesus and prayer is inappropriate and violates prevailing legal standards. The first and second draft speeches proposed oppose government case law and are a violation of the constitution. The District is advising you that reference to religious content is inappropriate and that the two drafts provided will not be allowed. If you choose to move forward with a differentiated speech that interjects religious content, the sound will be cut off, and a disclaimer to the entire audience must be made explaining the District’s position.
Hamby will be attending Stanford University in the fall.