SPOKANE, Wash. - "(Expletive) this establishment."
Those were the final words of a speech Lewis and Clark High School senior Nick Cashaw gave during a school assembly this week. Cashaw said the speech was to encourage free-thinking, marching to the beat of one's own drum, and revolting against social norms but school leaders were less than pleased. For using the "F-bomb", Cashaw was immediately suspended from school and not allowed to walk at the Lewis and Clark graduation ceremony.
KHQ spoke exclusively with Cashaw on Friday.
"There were just things that I've been thinking about that I felt like my fellow peers needed to know about," Cashaw told KHQ on Friday. "I would say my main message is to not let individuals or the society as a whole, control you, or dictate what you need to do with your life."
"Pursue your dreams and don't let people tell you what your dreams need to be," he said.
As it turns out, Cashaw was already used to the limelight. The aspiring songwriter and rapper, from Spokane, has been building a fan base on the local hip-hop scene for months. His music was the reason he was center stage at LC's assembly on Wednesday. He was asked to perform in a ceremony to honor seniors, called Move-Up Con, on the seniors' last day of school. Cashaw was not scheduled to give a speech but after his song, Cashaw said, he saw an opportunity to speak his mind and seized it.
At the podium, a teacher approached him and asked if what he was about to say was appropriate. Cashaw said "yes." Little did they realize, Nick was about to drop a bomb on the audience.
"I am here to encourage you to live," Cashaw said toward the end of the speech. "Realize that this system we are all apart of is not the way things must be and you are free to do what you please, for this is your universe. The only entity powerful enough to inhibit you from being what you want to be is yourself and never let anyone tell you differently. Lastly, If I had one thing to say to my fellow seniors and the school as a whole it would be go find who you are and what you are meant to accomplish, and never let anyone tell you how to do that. The devils are here, but there is a greater force within all of you and it is your fate, as a being of consciousness, to go seek it out for yourself. Take that to heart."
Then Cashaw capped off his speech with three final words: "(Expletive) this establishment."
He's convinced his speech would not have been the same without the F-word. "it's the power of the word," he said. "I feel like my message would not have been delivered or viewed by as many people if the word wasn't present."
The auditorium of students immediately burst in applause and cheers. Based on the reaction, it seemed Cashaw's parting words launched him into hero status. But in reality, the reviews are mixed.
Lewis and Clark senior Monique Wallace said, "At first I was kind of shocked that he said that to begin with but, at the same time, after I realized what just happened, it was kind of a 'I sort of agree with that' kind of moment."
On Facebook, Adelle Hurley wrote, "I say good for the school! They can mail him his diploma if he did indeed pass! I don't care if you hate the establishment or not. That is no way to represent yourself or your peers, especially being released into the world as an adult. Grow up!!!! I think it was all for attention!!!"
Tracy Rice wrote, "I'm sorry, but as a senior he had to know what the consequences would be if he used the language."
Deena Mathews wrote, "Sometimes you have to do something shocking to wake people up. I think this was his way of expressing that."
The district whole-heartedly disagreed. They suspended Cashaw and are not allowing him to walk during his graduation ceremony.
Lewis & Clark Assistant Principal Dan Close said, "The issue we had was that it's not against the message of his speech but certainly the venue and the method and the audience that he chose to use them. Had he not chose to use the profanity, there wouldn't have been an issue."
"I feel like the message was far more important than me walking at graduation," Cashaw continued.
Like his music, Cashaw wanted his audience to seek a deeper meaning in his speech. Now, he's confident, his words were in fact music to their ears.
"I've had enough people approach me that said 'They really took my message to heart.'"
When KHQ asked Cashaw how his parents would feel about the speech, he said he lives on his own and his no contact with his parents. He also wanted to clarify that his anti-establishment statement was not directed at Lewis and Clark High School but rather "the world we're born into."
Cashaw said he plans to go to college at either Seattle Community College or Eastern Washington University with plans to pursue his music career.
Lewis and Clark Principal, Mr.. Jordan, sent KHQ this statement:
"This is not about the message in the speech. Advocating for such things as finding out who you are, not living a superficial life, thinking outside the box, and never letting anyone limit what you can do are good messages. It is about three words in the final statement which included a word that is totally inappropriate in a public setting.
It was disheartening, disappointing, and it embarrassed staff who have been his advocate and provided him support over the years.
It is a privilege to hold the microphone and perform in front of a school's student body and staff. with that privilege comes responsibility.
Since this was not on the agenda, the student was asked by a staff member if this was appropriate. The student said 'yes.' Use of the profanity in this setting is not appropriate. Had the student not used that word we wouldn't be having this conversation.
We have high expectations for student behavior. We are all about developing students and assisting them when they make mistakes.
When students make poor decisions at LC, whether using profanity, speaking in derogatory terms about others, or lying to their teachers, we give them the opportunity to express remorse for behavior, apologize to the victims, and agree to change behavior. If a student chooses not to repair the damage, there are consequences for him or her because the damage festers for the teachers who give their hearts and souls to help students, for the younger students who look up to older students, and for the parents who attend an event expecting a positive atmosphere.
Participating in athletic events, drama productions, attending dances, and participating in school ceremonies such as graduation is a privilege. Loss of these privileges is a natural consequence for inappropriate behavior."
NICK CASHAW'S SPEECH::
Cashaw's speech can be seen on YouTube:: Http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vP8QUMTkV_w&feature=youtube_gdata_player
"The world is cold. Hell is empty and all the devils are here. They reside before us, not the devils of the biblical sense but rather the devils of humanity itself. The suppressors of the conscious, the killers of the spirit, the obstacles to cool. There is an imminent doom that stares us in the face, a blackness that descends upon this civilization. We are shown what we are to focus on, instructed on how we are to act, and told what we are to think but I have yet to see that you understand.
I had a vision. A vision that has been perceived by countless great minds throughout the history of humanity and that I am sure has come to influence many of you before me today in some form. The vision was simple but profound in it's being, inexplicably deep in it's complexity and made a mark on my existence that will stay with me until the day I die. I had a vision that this entity, this beast we call life is indefinitely bigger then we make it out to be.
I came to the realization that there are greater forces, both within and around us, that we will never even begin to comprehend. And although I feel their influence, the divine intertwined, I may never come to terms with their existence, as much as I seek meaning, wishing to come to terms with mine. But you see this led me to another thought. As I examined the world around me and began to question what I was seeing I came to a second realization that we live disconnected. Disconnected from each other, disconnected from a truth we all fear and most importantly disconnected from ourselves. We are so wrapped up in things we have been taught to attribute superficial value to that we are missing out what is of true importance. Your eyes are open but you do not see.
Many among you will die without ever grasping the true essence of our purpose in life and for this I am frightened. Many among you will die chasing green slips of paper. Many of you will die alone constantly the seeking the comforting approval of others while others of you will die while your name and your gift to the world die along with you. Your eyes are open but you do not see. Many of you will die disconnected from a beautiful paradise that lies within your conscious if merely you wish to explore it while other of you will die lost, chasing something that you chased simply because you were told to do so.
I am here to encourage you to live. Realize that this system we are all apart of is not the way things must be and you are free to do what you please, for this is your universe. The only entity powerful enough to inhibit you from being what you want to be is yourself and never let anyone tell you differently. Lastly, If I had one thing to say to my fellow seniors and the school as a whole it would be go find who you are and what you are meant to accomplish, and never let anyone tell you how to do that. The devils are here, but there is a greater force within all of you and it is your fate, as a being of consciousness, to go seek it out for yourself. Take that to heart and finally, (expletive) this establishment. Thank you."
Chelsea Kopta filed this report. Follow her at KHQChelsea Kopta on Twitter and Facebook.
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