Chautauqua Lecture Videos


I Choose to be Happy: Triumphing over Tragedy [Video]

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Missy Jenkins Smith of Paducah, Kentucky, is the author of the compelling memoir, I Choose to Be Happy: A School Shooting Survivor’s Story of Triumph over Tragedy, and a noted speaker about recovery, healing, forgiveness, and above all thriving in life in spite of whatever challenges might be put in one’s way. Smith was one of eight students in a prayer group randomly shot by 14-year-old Michael Carneal on Dec. 1, 1997, in the lobby of Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky. Three girls were killed. Missy, a 15-year-old sophomore at the time, was paralyzed from the chest down. But Missy didn't see her disability as an end. Just hours after the tragedy, she forgave Carneal and took back her life. Over the subsequent 15 years, harboring no malice but instead focusing on her physical and mental rehabilitation, Missy would go on to graduate from Heath, earn a bachelor's degree in social work from Murray State University, become a counselor for troubled youth at a day treatment center, get married and give birth to two healthy sons. Missy, now in her 30’s, has received numerous honors over the years for sharing her story of her determination and courage, and for her work on behalf of anti-violence, including being named “Kentuckian of the Year” and one of Ladies' Home Journal's “Most Fascinating Women.” She has appeared on TV shows such as “Oprah,” “Good Morning America,” “Dateline,” and “Anderson Cooper 360,” and appeared on stage as Al Gore’s guest at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. In addition, she was honored by former U.S. Attorney Janet Reno as “a leader in encouraging youth involvement in crime prevention.”

Keynote Address for National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Part of the Chautauqua Lecture Series: Order and Chaos (2016-2017).


Access restricted to current EKU students, faculty, and staff.


Copyright 2016 Missy Jenkins Smith