I was inspired this week by a speech given by Paxton Smith, the valedictorian of Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, Texas. If you haven’t watched it yet, you really need to. As soon as she takes the podium and reaches for her speech (which was not her original approved speech), you can feel how nervous and excited she was. Paxton shares that originally, she was going to talk about tv, media and content but recent events in Texas inspired her to talk about something else. You can see her nerves as she pulls the new and unapproved speech from her graduation gown and talks about why she was motivated to change her speech, using this platform. If you are not up on recent events in Texas, the Governor has recently signed the “Heartbeat Bill”, which puts a ban on abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy.
I want you to put yourself in the shoes of this 18 year old girl for just a minute. Issue aside, feelings on abortion aside. She is choosing to speak out on a something that she is passionate about, to hundreds of people. Knowing that the school would not approve, that some of her classmates would not agree, unsure how her family would feel, in a public forum such as this. The courage that it took to get up and talk, with such passion, about this issue – which we all know is extremely controversial and heated. I want to share just part of her speech with you because it was powerful:
“And I’m talking about this today, on a day as important as this, on a day honoring the students’ efforts in twelve years of schooling, on a day where we’re all brought together, on a day where you will be the most inclined to hear a voice like mine, a woman’s voice, to tell you that this is a problem. A problem that can’t wait. 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.”~ Paxton Smith
I did not choose to write about this to get into a debate with you about abortion. No one wins those fights, and while I have a personal belief that every woman has the right to choose what’s best for her and her body, I know that there are many that will disagree.
What inspired me the most about watching Paxton, was the show of strength and bravery inside that young woman.
We often talk about the next generation, how to bring them into the fold, get them involved, get them inspired and encourage them to make a difference. If you want to know how to get the next generation to pay attention and get involved, we need to listen to them and be inspired by THEM, not them by us.
I find myself in awe of those who have the strength to speak their minds at such a young age. All too often the Millennial generation is often mislabeled. I have heard them referred to as lazy, or coddled, or they need to toughen up, and that they don’t understand hard work.
It is so wrong and unfortunate that the older generation can’t see the value of the younger one. We are building this world for them. They are the ones that will have to live in it. Why are we bucking against their ideals, desires and wants to keep hold on the “old and traditional”? Who does that serve?
This girl represents the next generation. Her passion, and ability to speak about something she was moved by is inspirational. Was she afraid? I am sure that she was, but she but did it anyway. How many times have you been in a meeting, and was afraid to speak up because it wasn’t the popular decision, or you were worried how you would be perceived? We tend to say that this younger generation is outspoken, but why is that? Because they aren’t afraid to be different? Because they understand that things are not black and white? Why is this a bad thing?
Paxton found her voice and used it. Watching her I had similar feelings that I had during the Presidential Inauguration when Amanda Gorman read her poem for the world. I mean, talk about powerful, bravery and courage! How many of you quoted her in a social media post, or started following her on Twitter that very day? I wanted more. I needed something to fuel my own passion and ideals – to bring us into some light after a very dark year.
We need to stop being afraid to share our ideas just because it’s not the popular choice, or politically it doesn’t match up with what those in power think or believe. I spoke about this a little bit last week in my column “The Ties That Bind”, but why are Americans so quick to jump and fight against those who believe differently than you do? Why are we so afraid of change and anyone who thinks or acts differently than us? You can be open minded and understanding without going into attack mode. It’s not a fight or flight world and we would be way more accomplished if people stopped fighting over silly things, misrepresenting each other, and really just felt the need to make a big deal out of everything.
Thank you to the brave people who speak up for their rights, for those who can’t speak for themselves, and for speaking out when they see injustice. You inspire me and I am happy to share the story of one brave young woman from Texas.
I think the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it best: “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes”.
Be well, Chenango.