Reactions to student’s speech
Kudos to Huda Ayaz for using her platform as The Wheatley School graduation speaker to charge her classmates with educating themselves "about international dilemmas, including the ethnic cleansings of Palestinians and Uyghur Muslims. Families are continuously torn apart and real human lives are being lost but ignored" ["Controversy over speech at high school," News, June 25]. As a parent of children who attended Wheatley and as a former high school social studies teacher, I applaud the high school senior for putting into practice the critical thinking she learned at Wheatley, a skill vital for our multicultural democracy.
The fact that her speech made some attendees uncomfortable and got them responding does not mean it was the wrong venue for such talk. Rather, the nature of the response by some adults and teens ("go back to Pakistan") points to the need for more work at Wheatley and within families on the practice of civil discourse, another vital skill for our democracy.
The motto at the high school at which I taught was "Know thoroughly, think critically, act ethically." Ayaz more than demonstrated that maxim. Going forward, it’s worth asking whether administrators, parents and students can follow suit.
Andrea Libresco, Mineola
Huda Ayaz has a right to express her feelings, but those who don’t agree with her should just keep their mouths closed? Now that she has finished being educated in one of the finest school systems in the entire world, perhaps she should get her college education at the school of hard knocks.
My high school commencement at The Wheatley School was 50 years ago. We had to deal with President Lyndon Johnson sending over tens of thousands young Americans to their deaths in Vietnam. Who was to blame for that? Likewise, who is to blame for the Palestinians’ nightmare? It’s heartbreaking.
But what was spoken at this year’s commencement was wrong, and so was the feedback, but it was not harassment.
John Poulos, Freeport
I was deeply disturbed by the description that the Council on American-Islamic Relations was portraying of our school district.
The East Williston Union Free School District is diverse religiously and nationally. Our children learn, debate and play sports together. They celebrate each other at our international food court and our Intercultural Unity Day. At preprom parties, all parents came together to celebrate this coming of age and, during graduation, the students were hugging and taking pictures with one another.
Israeli and Jewish parents have every right to be upset by our graduation speaker’s comments as they were antisemitic and must be condemned, but the reaction and comments by a few people following the speech was also unacceptable.
Our community can handle this. We don’t need some outside organization looking to capitalize on this unfortunate event.
So I leave the naysayers who negatively commented on the school with an image from my home the other day. Six kids watching sports together, an Arab Christian, three Jews and two Muslims. Frederick Douglass said, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." They have built strong children in my district and for that I am proud.
Todd Richman, Old Westbury
I commend The Wheatley School graduate Huda Ayaz for having the courage to stand up for the basic human rights of both Palestinians and Uyghur Muslims in her commencement address in Old Westbury.
I see nothing controversial about Ayaz’s remarks, and the verbal menacing she had to endure, including being told to "go back to" a country she wasn’t born in, was disgraceful.
Ayaz is a credit to both her school and community.
Matthew Zeidman, New Hyde Park
Trump Organization is relatively small potatoes
So, after months of forensic auditing former President Donald Trump’s taxes and the Trump Organization, all that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. may come up with are charges related to fringe benefits the company gave to top company executives, such as use of apartments, cars and school tuition, not a smoking gun ["DA may charge company," News, June 26].
I certainly agree with the the article reporting, "There’s nothing illegal about companies giving lavish perks to valued employees" except that "those benefits count as compensation subject to income tax."
Most businesses, big or small, are probably guilty of such violations. The Trump Organization, though, is minuscule compared to the giant tech corporations, drug manufacturers, car manufacturers, airlines, etc. So why pick on the Trump Organization? I see it as a political vendetta by both Vance and New York State Attorney General Letitia James as they themselves had indicated that they were going after Trump.
Jacques Hakim, Bayside