A high school graduation speech telling students to “choose a spouse” based on “biblical principles” is sparking outrage online.
“Choose a spouse, I suggest,” alumnus Jim McGuire said in a commencement address at River Valley High School in Caledonia, Ohio. “I also strongly suggest to make sure to choose biblical principles, you know a male with a female and female with a male.”
Caledonia, about an hour north of Columbus, had a population of 560 in the 2020 census.
Since the speech last week, McGuire’s remarks have been called “hateful” and “inappropriate.”
Alexis Osipow, a 2018 River Valley graduate who was at the ceremony to support her younger sister, told the local newspaper, the Marion Star, “When he made the comment that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, my jaw dropped to the floor, and I honestly thought I was hearing it wrong.”
“I had to look around and see if other people were having the same reaction that I was, and they were,” she continued. “I felt like crying when I heard some people in the crowd clapping. But I was absolutely outraged and so were my parents and brother. I heard people behind me whispering about how inappropriate the comment was as well.”
River Valley High School made the video of the graduation ceremony private, but portions of McGuire’s speech circulated on social media platforms.
One Twitter user wrote, “He made himself the center of attention instead of the graduates and their accomplishments. He should take his ignorant views back to the 1950s.”
One user on Facebook shared a post with a clip of McGuire’s speech and a caption asking the administration to address the “hateful speech.” The user also extended sympathy to LGBTQ graduates, writing, “I am sorry this hateful speech overshadowed your amazing achievements and this incredibly special milestone in your lives.
McGuire, a business owner and board member of the Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities, told NBC News in an email, “My speech was not anti-anything. There was not a negative word or statement in speech to anyone or organization ... Being positive is who I am.”
He also shared a statement he sent to the high school, in which he said, “I truly had the best interests of the Graduates in mind; the Graduates were my audience.”
The school administration released a statement Monday saying: “The speech was not reviewed by anyone on the River Valley Administrative team or Board of Education. Any views expressed by the speaker during his commencement speech reflected his personal beliefs. He was not speaking as an official representative of River Valley Local Schools.”
The superintendent of River Valley local schools added, “The alumni speaker was not a member of the River Valley staff and he was not speaking as an official representative of River Valley Local Schools.”