Texas Valedictorian's Speech Switch Makes Waves

Paxton Smith says she could not stay silent
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 3, 2021 12:10 AM CDT
Updated Jun 3, 2021 6:21 AM CDT

The commencement speech that Lake Highlands High School valedictorian Paxton Smith planned to give—and that administrators approved—had to do with media and content consumption. But in light of the "heartbeat" abortion bill her home state of Texas just signed into law, which will essentially ban all abortions after the six-week mark after it takes effect in September, she changed her topic without notifying administrators. "I have dreams, hopes, and ambitions," she said when addressing the graduating class Sunday, per D Magazine. "Every girl here does. We have spent our whole lives working towards our futures, and without our consent or input, our control over our futures has been stripped away from us."

The 18-year-old called the legislation "gut-wrenching," especially considering it offers no exceptions for rape or incest. "I refuse to give up this platform to promote complacency and peace, when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights. A war on the rights of your sisters, a war on the rights of your mothers, a war on the rights of your daughters," she concluded. "We cannot stay silent." The speech got some high-profile shout-outs, including one from Hillary Clinton. A district spokesperson tells the Dallas News speech protocols will be reviewed ahead of next year's graduation ceremony. Smith, who is headed for UT Austin, says she's heard from some administrators that her diploma may be held as a result, but nothing has yet happened on that front. (More heartbeat abortion bill stories.)

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