Social studies teacher Peter Heck gave the commencement address given at Eastern High School in tiny Greentown, Indiana. As WRTV reports, the speech was a humdinger — at least the part about women in the workplace.
“I challenge you to devote yourself to your families and your children. If you choose to have a career, God’s blessings upon you,” Heck orated. “But I challenge you to recognize what the world scoffs at, that your greatest role in your life will be that of wife and mother. The greatest impact you could ever contribute to our world is a loving investment in the lives of your precious children. To solve the problems plaguing our society, we don’t need more women CEOs. We need more women as invested mothers.”
Many members of the audience reacted enthusiastically to the message delivered by the senior class sponsor (and, according to his website, part-time radio talk show host and decidedly Christian motivational speaker).
“It was good that he said that,” junior Marina Swaggerty told WRTV. “Parents need to be there for their kids. Lately people are getting too into their jobs and not caring enough about their kids, and they are failing through high school.”
The junior’s mother, Lisa Swaggerty, told the Indianapolis ABC affiliate that she understood Heck to be calling for a balance between career and family.
Other audience members reacted negatively to the remarks.
“It jumped out at me that he said they shouldn’t pursue a professional career,” junior Corey Parton told WRTV. “Maybe that’s not how he meant it. Maybe he does want women to be successful and get a college degree, but it was a little out of place.”
Another student added that his grandmother was particularly offended.
Heck said that he did not mean to deter female graduates from pursuing real-world jobs.
“I was addressing both the ladies in the audience and the men, stressing to them that the most important role any of us will ever have is the role that we play in our families,” he told WRTV. “I challenged the men by telling them that, to solve the problems of our society, we don’t need more millionaire entrepreneur men. We need more men acting as fierce defenders of their wives and providers for their children.”
It’s unclear if Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman (mother of two), South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (also a mother of two) or the three women who have served as U.S. secretaries of state since 1997 (collectively the mothers of four) support Heck’s remarks.