Lake Highlands High Valedictorian Pulls Switcheroo on Commencement Speech (D Magazine)
Paxton Smith, the valedictorian of Lake Highlands High School’s Class of 2021, with her 104.93 average, submitted her speech ahead of Sunday’s commencement ceremony at the high school stadium. It was about media and how much of it she consumes and how that consumption has shaped the way she sees the world.
But another matter kept nagging at her. She couldn’t stop thinking about the “heartbeat bill” that Gov. Greg Abbott had signed into law last month. The law prohibits abortions as early as six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant, and it matters not if the pregnancy results from incest or rape. Abortion rights activists say it is the most restrictive law in the country. It will go into effect in September.
The more Smith thought about it, the more she was drawn to the conclusion that there was nothing more important that she could address with her time at the microphone.
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.
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.
See for yourself. Smith’s speech starts at the 4:30 mark