Paxton Smith, the Texas high school valedictorian who dedicated her graduation speech toward speaking out against Texas’ new abortion law, was awarded TheWrap’s Voice of the Future Award at the 2021 Power Women Summit.
“We are rapidly approaching a time in our nation’s history when full freedom is only available to certain citizens based on what reproductive systems you are born with. We need to do something about that,” said Smith as she accepted the award during the opening night of the event.
Emily Hampshire, star of “Schitt’s Creek” and QCode podcast “The Beautiful Liar” presented the honor to Smith.
“WrapWomen’s Voice of the Future Award honors a young woman leading social change through art, spoken word or change-based initiatives that inspire meaningful change in society,” she said in her introduction.
Smith made headlines earlier this year when a recording of her valedictorian speech at Lake Highlands High School went viral. The Dallas native had planned to speak about the effect of media on young people, but she changed her speech at the last minute in order to address an urgent social issue. Eleven days prior, Texas Governor Greg Abbott had signed S.B. 8, prohibiting abortion across the state. Smith courageously used her voice and her platform to speak out against the highly restrictive new law.
“We need to represent ourselves when our government fails to represent us,” Smith said in her acceptance speech. “It will take all of our voices to fight this, but know that the power rests in your hands.”
Watch the full speech here.
The Power Women Summit is the largest annual gathering of the most influential women in entertainment, media and technology. The event aims to inspire and empower women across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives. This year’s PWS provides three days of education, mentorship, workshops and networking around the globe – to promote the theme, “Represent.”