As someone who got stoned in the parking lot before my own high school graduation, I cannot say that I understand what it’s like to be a high school valedictorian. But as someone who grew up in the Bible Belt three hours away from Dallas, Texas, I can say it was awfully fucking brave for a high school valedictorian in that city to nix her pre-approved commencement address in favor of one pointing out the horrific consequences of Texas’s recent abortion ban.
Paxton Smith, valedictorian at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, had submitted a more standard speech to officials about TV and the media. But in light of an abortion ban signed into law in May by Texas Governor Greg Abbott that would outlaw all abortion after six weeks regardless of situations of rape or incest—and make anyone who “aids” a person in obtaining an abortion susceptible to legal consequences—Smith chose to give an honest speech about the real victims of the erosion of women’s rights in America, young women like herself:
“I have dreams, and hopes, and ambitions. Every girl graduating today does,” she said. “We have spent our whole lives working towards our futures, and without our input and without our consent, our control over our futures has been stripped away from us. I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail me, I am terrified that if I’m raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter.”
And because Smith is a brave kid who said something incredibly important, the shitty cowards who typically occupy these positions have already vowed to never let another smart valedictorian give a speech that matters ever again:
“After Smith’s speech, a school district administrator told a local outlet, Advocate Magazine, that officials would now review its policies in order to “prevent something like this from happening again.” Neither Smith’s school nor her district supported her actions, the administrator added.”
Fittingly, Smith addressed the right to autonomy in her speech, as Texas government and Dallas educational authorities continue making plans to strip that autonomy away:
“I hope you can feel how gut-wrenching it is. I hope you can feel how dehumanizing it is, to have the autonomy over your own body taken from you.”