Michael Vick asked to be commencement speaker for local grads

June 1, 2011  

By Leslie Smith (as first posted on Dogtime on May 23, 2011)

Michael Vick has been invited by Philadelphia’s Camelot schools to deliver the commencement speech to their graduating seniors. Since columnists are predicting that cynics like me will find fault with his remarks no matter what he says, I’m offering Vick the chance to garner my undiluted praise. All he has to do is stick to this script on graduation night:

The Commencement Speech I Hope Michael Vick Will Deliver

My name is Michael Vick and I’ve done some terrible, horrific things. They weren’t “mistakes” or “misjudgments” as I used to call them — they were barbaric acts of cruelty. And up until today, I have not adequately come to terms with the unimaginable pain and suffering I’ve caused. From here on out, my mission is to face my demons, admit my crimes, and do everything I can to ensure that no animal suffers the fates I served my pit bulls. When I’ve spent a significant amount of time working to end dog fighting and my actions show they’ve made a real difference, that’s when I’ll have truly earned the honor of being your commencement speaker.

For years I’ve been saying that dog fighting was part of my upbringing, that at the time I didn’t know it was wrong. Well of course I knew it was wrong — why else would I have denied and lied about it once I was discovered? I realize now how pitifully cowardly that was. I couldn’t admit the depravity of my actions then because that would’ve ensured paying the consequences. But I admit them now. My cruelty was monstrous. For those of you here tonight about to embark on adulthood, don’t allow the environment you’ve always been surrounded by dictate your sense of right and wrong. Don’t ignore that voice in your head that asks “Can this really be ok?”

And while I’m riding the confession train, allow me to come clean on this: Up until now, my partnership with HSUS, including my speaking engagements, has been largely nominal in nature. My goal was to rehabilitate my image so that I could land endorsements and continue my career. More than eliminating dog fighting, I wanted my fame, fortune, and adoration back. I wanted to be seen as doing the right thing, and I wanted people to believe I’d learned my lesson.

But what I now realize is that it’s not about the lessons I’ve learned or the growth I’m allegedly seeking. Bottom line, this is not a story about Michael Vick and second chances. This is a story about the importance of compassion when it comes to those who have no voice.

We can pretend the message here is that one can turn one’s life around after making terrible and irreversible decisions. But let’s be honest, for the average American — 99.9% of you sitting here today — the acts I committed would not be readily forgiven if the perpetrator was a mechanic or a retailer or a teacher. I have tremendous athletic ability, and while it may not be fair, that talent has bought me a rare, perhaps even undeserved, second chance. It is not the norm. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting you need to be perfect. Rather, I’m insisting you must not be cruel. That’s the real message.

It’s taken me longer than it should have to understand that. In fact just the other day I said I wouldn’t change a thing about my past. God, how incredibly pompous and insensitive that was. As if my reluctant realizations could make up for the torture those animals lived through — or died for. As if it all could possibly be worth their years chained to cement blocks, enduring untreated broken limbs, severed ears, gaping flesh wounds, rape. Unquestionably if I could, I would go back to choose a different path. I would never have let such suffering occur, and I would’ve used my influence to expose and abolish dog fighting and cruelty wherever I saw it.

So from here on out, settle for nothing less than genuine remorse and explicit action. Simply the absence of atrocious behavior is not enough. Demand I show commitment to this cause, prove that I understand the gravity of the pain I’ve inflicted. And believe that my first true efforts start tonight, that my commitment will come above playing football and image-makeover attempts and partying. Know that I know the psychological makeup of someone capable of such actions is bigger than anything I can overcome on my own —and so I’ve decided to undergo serious and intensive therapy to understand what makes a human commit such inhumane acts. With this insight, I hope to deter others.

That means, I can no longer hide behind a PR team and carefully choreographed public image campaign. I will no longer avoid confrontation with the owners of my former dogs and accept awards or accolades from those who don’t care about compassion. I will not duck into the protective safeguard of my entourage, and I will comment when asked for comment. I will meet with anyone who wants to hear my apology, and I will pay for the medical care of each of my former dogs for the rest of their lives. It’s the very least a man can do.

As a good faith effort here tonight, I’ve bought each of you a copy of Jim Gorant’s “The Lost Dogs.” Theirs is the true story of redemption. The dogs’ achievements — in spite of so many obstacles — are so much are much more inspiring than a story of a guy who was handed everything, squandered it, and handed it all back again.

Thank you and good luck.

« « Making ‘Pit Stops’ | Love & Leadership » »


9 Responses to “Michael Vick asked to be commencement speaker for local grads”
  1. Phil M says:

    This is really well done. Who can we send it to so that vick would see it?

  2. almondkiss says:

    Going to jail is a horrible time no doubt…and the ones that go to jail no doubt deserve it. I am not sure if he actually went to jail because of the IRS and money he owed or because of the cruel acts he did to his dogs. Undeniably cruel acts…perhaps just saying I am sorry will never be enough. Why do people do this? Good question…no heart…no conscious..a mean spirit to say the least. To watch a dog kill another dog by ripping it apart..unreal…or how about those poor dogs that are used for bait…Mr. Vick could walk around the world in bare feet for all I care. These were his dogs…he choked them..strangled them..and what was his answer? Then the HUS offers to make his a speaker…I has almost lost all faith in humans. Our Pack is a leader in rescuing Pitbulls….LEO..was one of his dogs. What a beautiful dog too. All of the Pitbulls are just wonderful…Its Mr. Vick and those like him that give these loving and loyal dogs a bag rap. I dont like him and never will…..

  3. StubbyDog says:

    @almondkiss Thank you for your comments, and thanks to wonderful organizations like Our Pack and the many others that helped these dogs and all the abused pit bulls.

  4. pb says:

    Wonderfully written! I will forward this to as many people as I can. Thank you for this!

    Although, you did forget to mention Vick actually killing the dogs with his own hands – hanging them and drowning them in buckets. A lot of people seem to have never learned those facts and assume he never got his hands dirty – just acted as a manager or ring leader.

    No matter what he says, I will always view him as a very, very sick man.

  5. StubbyDog says:

    @pb Thank you for your comments and for clearing up any misunderstanding that Vick did indeed ‘get his hands dirty.’

  6. almondkiss says:

    Thanks for getting back to me on my comments…I cannot forget the fact Mr. Vick strangled those dogs…with his own hands..some with chains. What about the little doggies used for bait? I saw some pictures of those dogs too. I also saw pictures from other rescued dogs that were used as bait. I cant imagine how anyone could condone these acts of brutality. Hitler may…he killed his dog. He could be sorry…but I think he would still be doing this if he wasnt caught. I dont ever want to hear that it was his culture. This country has spent years trying to forget how the US was divided by race. Now its okay to say this so that he could prove his innocense..unreal….He should never have a dog….

  7. StubbyDog says:

    @almondkiss We agree, he should never have a dog, but maybe the best lesson in all this horror is the victims that were saved, rehabilitated, and now are in loving homes, some even serving as therapy dogs. That’s the real testament to the pit bulls.

  8. AdrienneClegg says:

    Thank you, somehow I feel as though all the little things that have needled me for the past 4 years are out on the table. I have been puzzled why no one in the media has made mention of these very basic of concepts,honesty, personal responsibility, integrity, compassion and remorse. These are the hallmarks of “Sportsmanship” ….But then there is nothing of “Sportsmanship” in Dog Fighters. Thank you so much.

  9. StubbyDog says:

    @AdrienneClegg Thank you for your comments, very well said.