Rooha Haghar wanted to exhort her fellow graduates of Emmett J. Conrad High School that they had a responsibility to remember silenced voices...when her voice was silenced by the principal.
June 9, 2019

It is a great honor to be named the valedictorian of your high school, given to the graduating senior who got the best grades of the entire class. The valedictorian speech allows this student to represent the excellence of their collective education, and advice for their future.

Rooha Haghar, an Iranian refugee, was named the valedictorian of her Dallas high school, Emmett J. Conrad. The high school was named in honor of physician and diplomat Emmett J. Conrad, the first African-American surgeon to join the staff of St. Paul's Hospital in Dallas after graduating from an HBCU, and later the first African-American elected to a citywide office. Haghar, mindful of the legacy of her school's namesake, wanted to encourage her fellow graduating seniors to speak for the voiceless. But when she mentioned the senseless deaths of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, look at the gentleman to her left (Principal Temesghen Asmerom) signal and her microphone goes silent. She taps the microphone a couple of times and then gives up, sitting down. Then Asmerom gets up to the podium and taps the microphone and suddenly it goes live again.

How convenient.

Haghar tweeted about her frustration:

It's important to note that the invocation of Rice's and Martin's names were of a piece with a larger call out to the seniors to speak for the oppressed and voiceless.

To be fair, Haghar did run her prepared speech by the school administration and Asmerom did request that she remove that portion prior to the ceremony, which Haghar did not comply with.

I wanted to highlight Haghar's status as a refugee especially, since the Trump administration is constantly demonizing children seeking asylum from violent and oppressive situations. This is Rooha speaking in 2017 at an International Rescue Commission's dinner in Dallas:

The Dallas Independent School District has put out a statement saying they are looking into the mattter. Per NBC News, Asmerom has so far declined to comment.

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