ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. (CBS13) — He congratulated the graduating class of 2011, but one principal’s commencement speech actually offended some in the crowd.

The graduating class at Whittell High School has only 30 students. Just a few weeks ago during graduation their principal gave an encouraging speech congratulating his students and their parents.

“Class of 2011, I want to congratulate you for all your accomplishments this year,” said Principal Crespin Esquivel.

He then said the same thing in Spanish, making sure his commencement speech could also be understood by his Spanish-speaking parents and students who make up the second-largest group of the school.

“I figured why not do it in Spanish? I think it’s important for me to make sure all the families feel comfortable,” said Esquivel.

Maria: You never meant to offend anyone, correct?

Esquival: Absolutely not.

But it appears he did. One woman who sat through both speeches wrote a letter to the editor in a local newspaper saying Esquival “crossed the line”, “was inappropriate” and “took away from the recognition the students deserved.”

Discussion: Should California schools have commencement speeches in both Spanish as well as English?

“[I] wouldn’t be offended. We’re a melting pot,” said one person we spoke with.

“No, I put my daughter in a school where she learns both English and Spanish,” said another person.

The woman who complained about Esquival’s Spanish translation sparked a debate online similar to one that has gotten national attention.

Tim Howard, a player on the U.S. Soccer team, created controversy after Saturday’s loss to Mexico during the gold cup final. Howard bashed tournament officials for allowing the award ceremony to be done in Spanish.

“To me we live in America and that’s the beauty of America, that we all bring our backgrounds our cultures our languages and that’s what makes us who we are,” said Esquival.

In California, Hispanics make up about half of the students.

Esquival, in his first year as principal at Whittell, believes that if he’s got a tool to reach out to students and their parents, then why not use it?

“I’m doing what is right for all my families and I know I’ll take a hit for it, but it won’t stop me from doing what’s right for my families,” he said.

Esquival says he’ll probably do the same thing at next year’s commencement.

Comments (1,241)
  1. gill says:

    It’s no-wonder this country has killings, rapes, molestations, all the USA KNOWS IS HATE !!!!!!!!!!!!! if you all want to be correct you should all go back to your original country of origin and give this country back to the original Indian people that were here first huh ???? What do you think ???

  2. bbb2 says:

    “In California, Hispanics make up about half of the students.” The article also states that Hispanics make up the second largest ethnic group in the class of 30 students. That he gave a translation in Spanish is COMPLETELY understandable.

    Usually, if there is a translation for a speech or anything else, it is so a large part of the audience can understand it – translations are not done for every single language spoken by members of the audience because of obvious limitations such as time. Your argument is petty and childish. If a class of 30 that has a sizable Spanish-speaking minority was given a translation of their principle’s graduation speech in Spanish, what is it to you?

    If in Toronto, where I used to live, a speech was translated in French or Punjabi, two of the most common languages spoken by residents – no one would have batted an eyelash. There is a reason the rest of the world thinks the way it does about the U.S. – as an arrogant, ignorant, and obnoxious bunch.

    BTW, I am an American citizen who can speak more than one language. To that I’ll add that multilingualism should be appreciated and respected. But most of you commenting on here would not know that it is not at all easy to become fluent in the ability to read, speak, and write a language other than English. Perhaps to you, English is the best and only language that should be spoken.

  3. jesus says:

    Ireally don’t see the problem. The Whiner that c/o the use of Spanish, probly could’t speak a word of it. Or shes racist. I thought it was a Great Idea. It shows the Diversity in the school/town/county.I Commend the Pricipal for that speech.

    1. Steve Weibel says:

      It is mighty strange that you call this person a racist. Just because she believes we should speak our national language and not speak another language that is not a language of our country. It is rude to speak another language in front of those that do not speak it. If you live here, learn English and continue to teach your family your native language. It is important to expand your culture and understanding of other cultures, but learn the language of your country.

    2. Darlene says:

      You do not know anything about Whittell High School… and should not leave a comment on this site! I am very happy my chidren are no longer at Whittell High School and are moving on to a more diverse society without Crespin’s, “holier than you”, attitude.

  4. kelly657 says:

    That Worthless Roach should be deported!

  5. lu says:

    it’s funny how American’s want everyone who comes here to speak English yet when they visit another country they don’t know a word of that countries language thats being an idiotic hypocrite. If you’re surrounded by people who speak different languages, either deal with it or move, what else do you expect.

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