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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 06/ 7/2010

Principal: Why Helen Thomas was dropped as school speaker

By Valerie Strauss

Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas was disinvited to be graduation speaker at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., because she recently said in an interview that Israelis should “get the hell” out of Palestine and return to places such as Poland, Germany and the United States.

She apologized after the comments became national news, but Whitman Principal Alan S. Goodwin clearly had no other choice but to drop her as speaker (the day should be about the kids, not the mind-bogglingly stupid comments), even if Whitman did not have a fairly substantial Jewish population.

Goodwin sent an e-mail to the school community last evening saying he would soon announce a new speaker. Here’s the text of his message:

To the Whitman Community:

On June 14th, we will be holding our commencement program for our 2010 graduates. The focus of the day is to celebrate their accomplishments in the midst of parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends at Constitution Hall. The class of 2010 has much to celebrate as they make the transition to college, the military, trade work, and more. The class of 2010 earned the highest SAT scores in MCPS [Montgomery County Public Schools], sent several athletic teams far into playoff rounds, earned the highest honors in the arts, and contributed over 40,000 hours of community service. We are proud of all they have achieved.

In recent days, a controversy has arisen concerning our highly regarded graduation speaker, Ms. Helen Thomas, White House Correspondent for 60 years. Graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness. Graduation is the time for a cohesive and joyous celebration of our students’ achievements; other forums exist for discussions of political issues. I spoke to Ms. Thomas’ representative who indicated that Ms. Thomas understands the tensions generated by the situation and would welcome the opportunity to meet with students during the next school year to share her observations on contemporary affairs, rather than speak at our commencement ceremony.

I will announce a new graduation speaker within the next few days.

Although this development may understandably disappoint some parents and students because of their different viewpoints, I am asking, once again, for all of us to focus collectively on the jubilant celebration of 450 seniors and their families who have worked hard to share this festive occasion within the Whitman community.

For this brief moment, let it be a time of remembrance and commemoration: a time to gather and to embrace.

On June 14th, let us celebrate our concerted dedication to educational excellence. Thank you.

Posted by Alan Goodwin


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By Valerie Strauss  | June 7, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Montgomery County Public Schools  | Tags:  helen thomas, helen thomas and graduation speaker, helen thomas and whitman, helen thomas dropped as graduation speaker, walt whitman high, whitman high graduation  
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I have never been prouder to call myself a Whitman Viking. Thank you Principal Goodwin for doing the right thing and canceling this anti-Semitic hack. She should never have been invited in the first place to speak to a school with such a large Jewish population--given her well known anti-Israel views. Good riddance Hamas Helen.

Posted by: Barno1 | June 7, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm a Whitman grad from 1966! We were the 1st class to graduate from Whitman, the building had just been built. I was thrilled when I heard about Helen Thomas being cancelled. Whitman is a great school and I don't remember any problems due to religious differences when I went there. We were all Vikings, and we graduated together with joy. You go, class of 2010!!

Posted by: arlingtonian6 | June 7, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

This is a missed opportunity. As a Whitman grad from the class of 1977, I think it would have been far better to ask Ms. Thomas to share her views than to shut her down. It is only by listening to others that peace can ever be reached. Otherwise, we will always be reaching for the gun.

Posted by: michele3d | June 8, 2010 11:01 PM | Report abuse

Any view that is sincerely held, no matter how offensive, is based on something that is meaningful to the holder of that view. But unless you find out the reasons behind the opinion, you'll never know your common humanity.

Posted by: michele3d | June 8, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

Its Funny how someone can be turned to anti-Semitic after years and years in the white House Just cause she touched israel with her words.

Lets face the truth Jews were killed by europeans and what seemed as reward was just european way to get rid of them by shipping them across the mediterranean sea to have endless war with people hosted them years before.

16 million israely will never take over 350 million arab so we will die before this ends aand maybe when the US have chinese "Obama" the conflict will be solved

Posted by: zeos29 | June 9, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

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