Calls in Louisiana to Require English at Commencement

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Jun 30 12:22:39 UTC 2008


June 30, 2008
Calls in Louisiana to Require English at Commencement

HOUMA, La. (AP) — School officials in Terrebonne Parish are
considering a policy that would require all commencement speeches to
be in English.
The proposal comes after Hue and Cindy Vo, cousins who were
co-valedictorians at Ellender High School, delivered part of their
commencement addresses last month in Vietnamese. Cindy Vo, the
daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, spoke about high-school memories,
friends and the future. Then Ms. Vo, 18, recited a sentence in
Vietnamese dedicated to her parents, as they watched. She told
classmates that the line, roughly translated, was a command to always
be your own person.

David Bourg, the secondary education supervisor with the Terrebonne
Parish School District, is forming a committee of educators to study
the graduations at the four high schools and to make recommendations
to the school board. Officials are also considering other proposals,
like requiring a prayer during the ceremony. "As board members, we get
to observe the different ceremonies, and there's some inconsistencies
I think the board, or administration more importantly, needs to
address," said Rickie Pitre, a board member. "I don't like them
addressing in a foreign language. They should be in English."

Superintendent Ed Richard said his staff could study the graduations
but questioned whether the board should change a ceremony unique to
each school.  Critics of the changes questioned whether they would
infringe on civil rights. Ms. Vo said her statement in Vietnamese was
aimed at her parents, who do not speak fluent English. "Out of the
whole speech, it's one sentence dedicated to them to give thanks," she
said. "Mine was personal and general for the entire Vietnamese
community and something I wanted to share with graduates." Hue Vo
expressed gratitude to her parents for the hardships they faced moving
here from Vietnam. "It's very important to my parents that I keep my
culture," she said. "I felt if I expressed myself in Vietnamese it
would be more heartfelt."
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