YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Two video versions of Yorktown High School’s graduation ceremonies will soon be made available online: one with Dr. George Yancopoulos’ controversial keynote speech and one without it.
The June 27 graduation was live-streamed on YouTube but was taken down shortly after.
“This event happened, and removing the address from the video goes against the principles of transparency and acknowledgment,” read a statement from the Yorktown school board. “It is important for our district to acknowledge what took place, and use it as a learning opportunity.”
But for families who feel the address “marred the celebratory atmosphere” of the festivities, a version without the Regeneron president’s speech is also being produced.
Yancopoulos, in a statement published to social media on Thursday, apologized for his “insensitive” comments. Among other remarks made during his 20-plus minute speech, the Yorktown Heights resident said “it should not be a crime to say all lives matter” and argued that police are being “scapegoated” for larger issues behind systemic inequities.
“I have had time to reflect on my remarks at the Yorktown High School graduation last weekend and have listened attentively to the reactions to my words,” Yancopoulos wrote. “I recognize the insidious effects of structural racism exist in ways that may be invisible to me, and I have much to learn about the ways in which racism continues to plague this country.
“I apologize for being insensitive and to the people I hurt with my remarks,” he continued. “My intent was to discuss how society has systematically over centuries contributed to many inequities, including in healthcare where significant disparities exist for Black Americans. I recognize I did not do this effectively, and I remain committed to listening and learning to the believe that hate and prejudice in any form is wrong.”
The Yorktown Central School District Board of Education’s full letter is below:
Dear Yorktown School Community,
As a Board of Education, we feel it appropriate to follow up Dr. Hattar’s letter to our Class of 2020. We too want to extend our apology for any pain that resulted from the graduation speaker’s remarks. As part of the ceremony, a keynote speaker was invited to address the graduating senior class. We felt it would be a positive opportunity for our students to hear from someone whose company is working tirelessly to develop a treatment for the virus that upended their senior year. The speaker was asked to speak about his company’s work in developing a pharmaceutical treatment to solve a global pandemic, which would ultimately change the world. Unfortunately, the speaker added divisive comments that were inappropriate, especially for a ceremony meant to celebrate our students’ accomplishments and encourage them in their future endeavors. The remarks also run contrary to the Yorktown Central School District’s principles of unity and inclusiveness.
As promised, the videographer is combining the Graduation for One and Graduation for All ceremonies into one video, and we appreciate your patience as the full video is being produced. There have been inquiries as to whether the keynote address would be removed from the graduation video. This event happened, and removing the address from the video goes against the principles of transparency and acknowledgment. It is important for our district to acknowledge what took place, and use it as a learning opportunity. We understand that this speech may have marred the celebratory atmosphere that was intended for students and their families. Therefore, two versions of the graduation ceremony will be produced, one with the keynote address and another without the keynote address. As we await production of the final videos, both versions of the Graduation for All ceremony will be posted to our YouTube channel this week.
We remain committed to supporting the work of cultural awareness and equity in the Yorktown Central School District.
The Yorktown CSD Board of Education