Smart inspires audience with courage, honesty

Morgan Haire

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Speaking as a child abductee and now a childs’ right advocate, Elizabeth Smart spoke on April 21 as part of the Artist-Lecture Series. Nearly 400 gathered to hear her abduction story and spoke about child safety.

“I was so inspired by her courage to come out and speak on such a sensitive subject in her life,” said Rylie Turner, education senior.

Smart was abducted from her bedroom June 5, 2002, at the age of 14. She became known across the nation for being part of one of the most followed child abduction cases of our time. The nation was collectively looking for Smart for nine months.

“I was so grateful for the nation’s effort in searching for me,” Smart said. “I was thankful for everything from the prayers to donations. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say thank you enough.”

Smart was tied up, raped three to four times daily and threatened if she attempted to escape.

“Sleep was such an escape for me,” said Smart. “Waking up was pretty depressing. I could remember thinking to myself if this was ever going to end.”

Smart was able to talk about her story candidly, making the audience feel more inspired than uncomfortable about her kidnapping.

“It’s an inspiration to stay positive in life,” said Channing Taylor, nursing freshman.

Smart is the founder of the Elizabeth Smart foundation, a program aimed to prevent crimes against children. She also helped promote the National Amber Alert System among other safety legislation to prevent crimes against children.

“After my abduction I just wanted to go back to being the girl before I got kidnapped,” Smart said. “I decided when I was a little bit older, I wanted to do something better with my life.

She founded the Elizabeth Smart foundation in 2001. Recently the foundation merged with Operation Underground Railroad.

“After the merger we have worked closely with victims who were caught up in human trafficking,” Smart said. “We really try to reunite the victims with their family or at least get them to a better place.”

Smart said that she hopes the audience will walk away with a sense of hope.

“We need to keep looking forward and not dwell on the past,” Channing said.

Smart emphasized that we all have problems, that each one of us is going through different issues.

“Those mountains are worth conquering,” Smart said. “Just go back to the ray of hope and always look up.”

Matthew Park, associate vice president of student affairs, said he thought Elizabeth presented the most compelling story of the series, not just because of her horrific experience, but her positive rebound she had with helping to pass legislation.

“I feel like she has changed so many lives,” said Madison Lucido, student at Archer City High School. “She’s such a great example of not giving up and to keep pushing through the tough times.”

Ashley Lomeli, nursing junior helped choose Smart for the Artist-Lecture Series.

“When I first saw her profile among others and it struck a chord in me,” Lomeli said. “To know she survived that long with the torture that was brought unto by her captors just makes her seem like such a strong influence on other survivors of child abduction.”

Lomeli said Smart stood out among the rest because I believe the students can understand her story and really listen to what she teaches them about safety.

“I remember hearing about her story when I was younger,” said Natalie Rodriguez, accounting and finance senior. “I was so excited to see her now as a survivor and hear about her experiences first-hand.”

Smart was found alive on March 5, 2003, in Sandy, Utah.

“When we came across the Utah border after being in California for a couple of months, one by one, police cars began to surround us,” Smart said. “I remember one of the officers coming up to me and saying, ‘A little girl has been missing for a while now, is that you?’”

Smart said it was wonderful to be with her family again.

“It was like being a princess,” Smart said. “I missed the little things like the carpet below my feet, the heater and the drawer full of clothes that were too small for me.”

Smart said she wasn’t sorry for what happened to her. She’s glad that she can be a role model for those who are unspoken. She also hopes her story will help spread the awareness of crimes against children.

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