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What's Next? English-Only Commencement Speeches?

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School officials in Terrebonne Parish in Louisiana are considering barring students from speaking a foreign language during commencement speeches, according to an Associated Press article published today in The New York Times.

The proposal came about after Cindy Vo, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants and a co-valedictorian at Ellender High School, recited a sentence in Vietnamese to honor her parents, who are not fluent in English. She translated the sentence into English during the speech, which was a command to always be your own person, the article says. (July 1 update: Here's a longer version of the AP story. Cindy Vo's cousin, Hue Vo, the co-valedictorian, also spoke briefly in Vietnamese during her speech, without providing English translation.)

I have to wonder if a white valedictorian had delivered a commencement speech at the same school and dropped a line in French, based on what he or she learned in a school foreign-language program, if school officials would have reacted the same way. So often, people's feelings about language in this country are connected to their feelings about immigration.

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In response to your last statements, I absolutely agree. I guarantee if a white student would have spoken those quotes, no one would blink in eye. In fact, I'm sure it happens all the time. I don't remember much of mine, but I'll bet the key note even gave a quote in another language.

And your last comment is right on as well. The people that this upset probably stopped listening the second they didn't hear English, and just assumed that whatever the girl was saying was something along the lines of "We're moving into your neighborhoods, taking your jobs, and lowering the property value of your home."

Isn't the point of a good education supposed to teach us new ideas, about other cultures, and more importantly, about our own country's "melting pot" history?

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