+
upworthy
Identity

Nonspeaking valedictorian delivers powerful graduation speech about using our voices

"God gave you a voice. Use it."

nonspeaking student gives graduation speech, valedictorian, autism
Photo by Pang Yuhao on Unsplash

Everyone has a right to be heard.

Valedictorian Elizabeth Bonker has not audibly spoken since she was little over a year old, after being diagnosed with autism. But she knows the power of communication. Her moving commencement speech was a captivating call to action for all who listened, including the millions of internet viewers who have watched and shared the video.

“The irony of a non-speaking autistic encouraging you to use your voice is not lost on me,” she told her graduating class, using her text-to-speech computer.

The small device became Bonker’s “one critical intervention” to break through barriers that made her unable to speak. Bonker noted herself as “one of the lucky few non-speaking autistics” for being taught how to type and express herself. It enabled her to emulate her hero Helen Keller, a deaf and blind woman who went on to become a respected author and disability rights advocate.

Overcoming communication challenges gave Bonker an empowered perspective. That strength and resolve came alive as she referenced Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning” to illuminate the importance of forging one’s own path, before putting the concept into her own words.

“The freedom to choose our own way is our fundamental human right, and it is a right worth defending, not just for us, but for every human being.”

Being of service to others was another big component of Bonker’s speech. She provided pens to every student and asked them to write “life is for service” on a piece of their commencement program—a phrase created by the beloved Mister Rogers, their fellow alumni. She encouraged everyone to hold onto that message after graduation and use it to fuel their sense of purpose.

As for her own mission, Bonker’s dream is “communication for all.” That dream is fulfilled through her nonprofit organization, which works to provide other nonspeakers with helpful communication tools and education. She also shared her personal journey in her book “I Am in Here” to instill a sense of hope to anyone facing similar challenges.

There are several factors that might keep us from really speaking up and expressing ourselves, but Bonker’s speech beautifully captures why it’s a necessity not just for our own benefit, but to do more good in the world. Or as Bonker put it—to “be the light.”

“God gave you a voice. Use it.”

You can watch the full speech here:

"Freddie Mercury" by kentarotakizawa is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Fans are thrilled to hear Freddie Mercury's iconic voice once again.

Freddie Mercury had a voice and a stage presence unlike any other in rock music history. His unique talents helped propel the band Queen to the top of music charts and created a loyal fan base around the world.

Sadly, the world lost that voice when Mercury died of AIDS at age 45. For decades, most of us have assumed we'd heard all the music we were going to hear from him.

However, according to Yahoo! Entertainment, remaining Queen members Roger Taylor and Brian May announced this summer that they had found a never-released song they'd recorded with Mercury in 1988 as they were working on the album "The Miracle."

Keep ReadingShow less

Doorbell camera catches boy's rant about mom's chicken

When you're a kid you rarely have a lot of say in what you get to eat for dinner. The adult in your house is the one that gets to decide and you have to eat whatever they put on your plate. But one little boy is simply tired of eating chicken and he doesn't care who knows it. Well, he cares if his mom knows.

Lacy Marie uploaded a video from her doorbell camera to TikTok her son. The little boy is caught on camera taking the trash out venting about always having to eat chicken. He rants all the way to the trash can, being sure to get it out of his system before he makes it back into the house.

"Chicken. No more chicken. Tell me you like, we have chicken every day. Eat this, eat that, eat more chicken, keep eating it," the 10-year-old complains. "It's healthy for you. Like, we get it. We have chicken every day."

Keep ReadingShow less


We all know that Americans pay more for healthcare than every other country in the world. But how much more?

According an American expatriate who shared the story of his ER visit in a Taiwanese hospital, Americans are being taken to the cleaners when we go to the doctor. We live in a country that claims to be the greatest in the world, but where an emergency trip to the hospital can easily bankrupt someone.

Kevin Bozeat had that fact in mind when he fell ill while living in Taiwan and needed to go to the hospital. He didn't have insurance and he had no idea how much it was going to cost him. He shared the experience in a now-viral Facebook post he called "The Horrors of Socialized Medicine: A first hand experience."

Keep ReadingShow less
Democracy

Arizona election official posts perfect response to woman who received two mail-in ballots

These kinds of clear, concise explanations are the best way to battle misinformation about how votes actually get counted.

A woman received two ballots in the mail. Is that a problem?

Since having elected leaders instead of kings is a hallmark of our democratic system, Americans share a common concern for election integrity. But for some, that concern has grown into full-blown conspiracy theories and misinformation about election fraud since before Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election.

Despite dozens of lawsuits either being dismissed as groundless or lost on their merit in court, people still try to claim that the 2020 election was rife with fraud.

One of the primary targets of those fraud claims is mail-in ballots. People haven't seemed to wrap their minds around how mail-in ballots can be secure and how people can be prevented from voting twice if they happen to have more than one ballot mailed to them.

Turning Point USA field rep Aubrey Savela shared a photo of two official Arizona ballots with her name on them to X, with the caption, "Maricopa county at its finest… My first time ever voting in a presidential preference election and I received not one but two mail-in ballots.Thank you @stephen_richer."

Keep ReadingShow less

A penguin and the planet SAturn.

Some folks just have a knack for remembering all sorts of random facts. They're the stars at trivia nights, but sometimes, they come off as too much of a know-it-all.

Do you ever wonder why some people seem to be better at recalling random facts than others? Monica Thieu, a multi-time “Jeopardy!” contestant, studied the phenomenon and found that people who are great at trivia and remember random facts could also recall the situation and content when they first learned the fact.

So, someone who is excellent at remembering random facts won’t just remember that Grant is buried in Grant's Tomb. They will also remember that they learned it on a sunny day while on a walking tour of Riverside, New York.

(President Ulysses Grant is buried in Grant’s Tomb, which is located in Riverside, New York.)

Keep ReadingShow less
Community

Hotel is giving away 10 all-expense-paid trips to help rebuild Patagonia hiking trail

Post your video entry by March 15 for a chance to do some good while exploring one of the world's most stunning ecosystems.

Las Torres Patagonia

Torres del Paine National Park

In the far southern reaches of South America, Patagonia beckons adventurers with its striking landscape. Rugged mountain peaks, deep valley vistas, pristine lakes, virgin forests, coastal cliffs and more combine to make this semi-arid land a paradise for nature lovers and photographers alike.

If you've ever seen a photo like this…

hiking trail next to a lake in patagoniaHiking trail at Torres del Paine National Park in PatagoniaLas Torres Patagonia

…and thought, "I have to go see that turquoise water for myself," now's your chance. Las Torres Patagonia is offering an all-expense-paid trip (including airfare) for 10 lucky winners to travel to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and stay at the all-inclusive Las Torres Patagonia hotel for five days.

Keep ReadingShow less