DeKalb, IL — A Texas high school valedictorian switched her graduation address approved by school administrators and instead delievered a speech targeted on Texas’ new restrictive abortion bill.
Paxton Smith, the 2021 valedictorian at a Dallas high school, submitted to school officials an address on the effect of the media on young minds. But when she spoke at Sunday's graduation ceremony, she discussed "a war on the rights” on her body and those of other girls and women by the "heartbeat bill" signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
"I cannot 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 mothers, a war on the rights of your sisters, a war on the rights of your daughters. We cannot stay silent," Smith said in her speech.
The new law bans any abortion after a first heartbeat can be detected, which could come as early as six weeks after conception when many women could be unaware that they are pregnant.
"I have dreams and hopes and ambition. Every girl graduating today does,” Smith said in her speech. “We have spent our entire lives working towards our future, and without our input and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us.”
Smith was a little bit nervous that the microphone would be cut off during the speech and that she expected to have her diploma withheld but it wasn’t.
The school district issued a statement that said it would review student speech protocols before next year's graduation ceremonies.
"The content of each student speaker's message is the private, voluntary expression of the individual student and does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position or expression of the District or its employees," the statement reads, according to WFAA TV.
Smith was stunned by the response to her message. Now her speech has been shared by millions along with political figures like Hillary Clinton and Beto O’Rourke.
“All the teachers that were lined up on the field were like, ‘Yeah, good job.’ It felt great," she said, according to WFAA TV. “I thought the speech was going to die on the stage that day and the complete opposite has happened.”
Smith’s message is to use your platform, your voice and your rights.
“Use what you’ve learned to help the people around you and vote for what you think is right,” Smith said, according to WFAA TV. “Do what you think is right.”