Bell County high school student and valedictorian Ben Bowling wanted to share some words of wisdom with his graduating class, but there was a twist that no one saw coming.
“This is the part of my speech where I share some inspirational quotes I found on Google,” Bowling said in his speech. “‘Don’t just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table.’ – Donald J. Trump.”
The crowd burst into applause. “Just kidding,” Bowling said. “That was Barack Obama.” The 18-year-old valedictorian said the crowd quickly went silent. “The crowd erupted in applause and before they could even finish clapping, I said I was kidding and the applause quickly died,” Bowling said.
Bowling, who graduated on Saturday morning, told Courier Journal that he “didn’t mean anything bad by it” and thought the moment was lighthearted and funny. “I just thought it was a really good quote,” Bowling said. “Most people wouldn’t like it if I used it, so thought I’d use Donald Trump’s name. It is southeastern Kentucky, after all.”
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Bell County, which is located in the southeastern part of the Commonwealth near the Tennessee border, overwhelmingly supported
Trump in the 2016 Presidential election.
Nearly 80 percent of ballots were cast for the political outsider and celebrity. Bowling said there was no backlash to his speech at all.
“There was a portion of the crowd that thought it was absolutely hilarious,” Alisha Russell, a Kentucky law student who attended the ceremony said in a Twitter message.
“But there was definitely some collective groaning too.” Russell immediately went to Twitter to share the experience. “Y’all, no lie – the valedictorian just quoted Trump and everyone cheered ... then he told us that it was actually an Obama quote. Best part of the day. I’m rolling,” Russell Tweeted.
Bowling graduated from Bell County High School with a 4.216 grade point average, he said. He will be attending the University of Kentucky where he hopes to study biology and hopes to pursue a degree in medicine.
“I’m really excited to go to college,” Bowling said. “There’s more freedom in college and there’s also way more places to eat in Lexington.”
Bowling’s advice to any valedictorian who is going to give a speech, be courageous. “Try not to be too nervous about it,” Bowling said. “For the most part, if you’ve been successful up to this point there’s nothing to worry.”