Who is Paxton Smith?
Paxton Smith is a Texas high school valedictorian who reportedly switched out her approved graduation speech script to protest against the newly-signed state law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
She is the valedictorian of her graduating class with a 104.93 average.
Post-graduation, Smith will be attending the University of Texas Austin.
As part of her valedictorian duties, Smith was to prepare a speech to read at her graduation, which had to be approved before commencement fell on May 30, 2021.
She originally wrote a speech about the effect of media on young minds but changed this decision just days before graduation.
How old is Paxton Smith?
Paxton Smith is said to be 18 years old as of the year 2021.
Paxton Smith Lake Highlands
The school’s officials have since said in a statement that nothing of what Smith spoke about in her valedictorian’s address was submitted as part of her original speech. Although it’s not unusual for school officials to intervene when a student goes off the script from an approved speech, Smith was allowed to finish hers without interruption. She took the podium after the controversial abortion law was signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott just last month.
In the wake of the controversy she has caused surrounding future student speeches in the school district, Smith also earned a Twitter from Hillary Clinton.
What is the ‘heartbeat’ bill?
Just 11 days before graduation, Texas governor Greg Abbott passed a bill nicknamed the “heartbeat bill.”
This bill would prohibit abortions in Texas as early as six weeks before some women even know that they are pregnant.
This opens the door for any private citizen to sue abortion providers and others.
Smith was warned that if she deviated from her script, her microphone would be cut.
Still, she decided to talk about the pressing issue and the importance of reproductive rights.
Why is Paxton Smith’s valedictorian speech going viral?
After addressing the crowd, Smith launched into the new topic in light of recent events, it feels wrong to talk about anything but what is currently affecting me and millions of other women in this state.”
She continues, “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. We cannot stay silent.”
Her speech has currently surpassed 20k views on YouTube.
About the reception, Smith said “When I gave the speech, I didn’t realize people who weren’t affiliated with LHHS would see it.
“I’ve been getting hundreds of messages applauding what I said. It’s been shared on almost every platform I can think of. That’s exciting.”
Her unexpected change of topics has resulted in the schoolboard reviewing their policies for valedictorians in the future.
Smith defends her decision by saying, “A large part of the reason I made the speech at graduation was that was the only place I could think of where I could reach so many people from so many different backgrounds.
“It did cross my mind that this is a family event where people are cheering for their kids, but this is a universal topic, and it affects everyone. I felt it need to be said.”
Paxton Smith Graduation Speech
The high school valedictorian with a 104.93 average was supposed to give a school-approved speech for the commencement ceremony at the Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, on Sunday, May 30. Smith, who is graduating, can’t be any older than 18.
She had initially submitted a speech on the impact media has on young girls in today’s society, which was approved for the ceremony.
But as she went up on stage on Sunday, May 30, Smith completely switched the script of her speech and went on an impromptu protest speech that lasted a few minutes where she slammed the newly-signed “Heartbeat Bill” and has since received an overwhelmingly positive response for what she said.
Paxton Smith Speech
“I refuse to give up this platform… when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights,” Smith said in her speech, soon describing the legislation as “a war on the rights of your mothers, a war on the rights of your sisters, a war on the rights of your daughters.”
Speaking to her graduating class of 2021, Smith said “We cannot stay silent.” And although she wasn’t silenced during the course of her address, the Richardson Independent School District is reportedly in the midst of reevaluating the set of protocols for future student speeches.
“Everything that was supposed to be said during graduation was included in a notebook on the podium,” Karen Clardy, RISD school board president, told local outlet Lake Highlands Advocate. “The speech that was delivered was not the one that was submitted, and it was not in the podium book.
This student chose to instead use an alternate speech that had not been submitted or approved in advance.”
Paxton Smith Abortion Speech
Smith talked to her three parents about her decision. Two of them read her new speech and approved; the third wasn’t thrilled but agreed to keep quiet.
The controversial new law that Smith criticized in her speech prevents Texas citizens from getting an abortion if the heartbeat of the fetus is detectable, which can take place “as early as six weeks gestation — or six weeks from a woman’s last menstrual period.” Set to go into effect from this year September 1, the legislation would also allow private citizens to sue individuals as well as people providing abortions for violating the ban.
Smith, like many others, criticized the law saying the limited time impacts women’s decision-making process. “Before they have a chance to decide if they are emotionally, physically and financially stable enough to carry out a full-term pregnancy, before they have the chance to decide if they can take on the responsibility of bringing another human being into the world, that decision is made for them by a stranger,” Smith said, as seen in a video of the speech published by Dallas TV station WFAA. “I have dreams, hopes, and ambitions,” Smith added, concluding: “Every girl here does.”
“We have spent our whole lives working toward our futures, and without our consent or input, our control over our futures has been stripped away from us.”
Paxton Smith College
She’s an outgoing person by nature, but knowing what sort of reaction her remarks might spark filled Smith with trepidation leading up to Sunday. She practiced the speech again and again, to the point that she didn’t need to think about the words. On Sunday, as she climbed the stairs to the stage, her mind went blank.
At the lectern, with a shaky voice, she began by thanking one of her coaches. Then she pulled from her bra a single piece of paper, folded in quarters, and told people what was on her mind. Her voice grew stronger with each sentence. At the end of her three minutes, she was in full command of that stage.
Two days after her speech, Smith says, “It feels great. It also feels a little weird. Whenever I have opinions that can be considered political or controversial, I keep them to myself because I don’t like to gain attention for that kind of stuff. But I’m glad that I could do something, and I’m glad that it’s getting attention.”
“It just feels weird for me personally, that I’m linked to the attention that the speech got.”