Last weekend, Shannon Spaulding, the valedictorian of her class, shared her faith in Christ during her speech at the commencement exercises for Wolfson High School in Jacksonville, Florida.
The valedictorian’s speech was about Jesus Christ and suggested those who don’t believe would go to hell. “I want to tell you that Jesus Christ can give you eternal life in heaven,” Spaulding said before the crowd. “If we die with that sin on our souls, we will immediately be pulled down to hell to pay the eternal price for our sins ourselves.”
For 17 minutes, Spaulding’s speech went on, making religious references to Bible scriptures that were often followed with applause. “Like the Geico Insurance slogan — so easy a caveman can do it. Letting Jesus take care of our sin problem is so easy a child can do it,” said Spaulding.
She is receiving both praise and criticism for her bold statement of faith.
“It was not the right forum. We were all sent there to have a joyous occasion and not a religious revival,” said Samantha, who was at the event to see her sister graduate. School superintendent Joseph Wise issued a statement after the graduation ceremony, stating he deeply regretted that “the student exercised her time in her valedictorian speech in a manner that was offensive and insensitive to some.” Spaulding told local Channel 4 she was not aware of the controversy and stands behind everything she said.
“I was not trying to force anything on anybody. I just wanted to tell them something I knew was important to me and wanted to have them a chance to hear,” Spaulding said.
While some were uncomfortable about her message, there were others who felt she had earned the right to say what she said. “I think that was the most important thing to her, and I think she had the right to say it. She succeeded in becoming valedictorian, and that was her right,” said attendee Carileen Bollinger.
Here’s a link to Shannon’s entire speech: Valedictorian’s Speech About Christ Prompts Controversy – Print This Story News Story – WJXT Jacksonville