By Jonathon Van Maren
I wrote a column about the viral valedictorian speech on abortion by a Texas high school student last week, but I see the story is still getting attention—even internationally. Paxton Smith is being lauded as a courageous young woman by the likes of Hillary Clinton, and publications from The Guardian to the CBC have been eager to cover the speech and interview Smith. She’s got a political career if she wants one.
I’m not going to break down the speech again, but one more point is in order here. Paxton Smith delivered a speech articulating a position held by nearly every Western head of state, the president of the United States, the vice president of the United States, the entire Democratic Party, nearly all of the corporate elites, Hollywood, the music industry, much of the media, and the majority of academia. How, exactly, is this speech “brave?”
The virality of Smith’s speech was a foregone conclusion, and I suspect she knew it. A high school girl giving a speech about the essential nature of abortion was guaranteed to fly on social media because she was parroting the conventional narrative. If a pro-life student went off script and described the barbarism that takes place during the abortion procedure, the New York Times and Vox and the rest of the wolves would be tearing apart her social media looking for indiscretions or posts that could be misconstrued as such. It would take genuine bravery for a student to take the anti-abortion position, which would either attract massive ire or simply fail to go viral in the first place.
But Paxton Smith used her platform to propel herself into the national spotlight with the full knowledge that thousands of wealthy and connected people who could make her career would love what she had to say. So she said it, and now she’s famous. That’s a smart and cunning move. But it certainly isn’t courageous.