The Resonating Voices of Youth
“Honestly, it’s the first step. Every major movement in the United States, it always starts at the state level. So first we’ve got to talk to our own state, our own governor, and our own senators and representatives. Have some change there.” Thus did Alfonso Calderon, of Parkland, Florida, describe the mission as he and many of his classmates boarded a bus bound for Tallahassee. Others who have been interviewed by various members of the media have added their voices to his.
Sofie Whitney shared her view on the bus trip to the State Capital. “The biggest goal that we have in going to Tallahassee is just having a conversation with our representatives and our senators, talking about mental health, background checks, assault rifles. Just getting our voices heard, face to face, so they can’t hide from us. I think the difference between us and Sandy Hook is that those kids weren’t old enough to speak their experiences and their tragedy...We’re running the ‘Never Again’ movement, we’re running March for Our Lives, all student led.”
All student led! Unfortunately, many of the State Senators and Representatives that these youth went to see refused to meet with them.
Emma Gonzalez has taken an incredible lead role in voicing the frustrations of her peers in the aftermath of this shooting. At a rally in Ft. Lauderdale three days after the shooting, Emma declared, “Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and our President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change we need to see.”
Jim Wallis, columnist for Sojourners magazine, noted, “Something is happening with the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and, because of them, something is happening to us as a nation...As many of the very articulate young people said this week, they are turning their grief into action.”
Wallis reflects on his own situation as a teenager. “On a personal level, the words and deeds of these new student activists have resonated deeply with me. When I was their age, I remember being told that the war in Vietnam was right and there was nothing that we as young people could do about it. But our friends and classmates were dying in Vietnam...We were also told that we could never end the war. But we did...Now, because an older generation has failed to protect our children from guns, they have decided to protect themselves, each other, and their eventual children...A new movement has begun—and the students are already changing the national narrative.”
This is the power of the resonating voices of youth. Remember the garbled voices of adults on Peanuts cartoons? We adults often sound just the same as we argue back and forth, attempting to make sense of complex social problems. Only the voices of the young come forth clear and loud. When the voices of adults frequently overstep other panelists on news shows, and there is little sense made of raucous debates on interviews, the youth speak over us with clarity and precision.
One further youthful voice is that of David Hogg. He was wrongly accused by alt-right sources of being a paid actor speaking against the powers-that-be in the aftermath of this shooting. As reported by Eliot Nelson of the Huffington Post, Hogg was asked whether he and other gun control activists can maintain the political momentum. “Columbine was nineteen years ago. Now that you’ve had an entire generation of kids growing up around mass shootings, and the fact that they’re starting to be able to vote, explains how we’re going to have this change. Kids are not going to accept this.”
I have hope in this. I trust that the passion that these youth have shown to the world will not dissipate, will not diminish, will not fade. And that is, in fact, the greatest danger, that those Senators and Representatives will outlast and out-maneuver the youth, to the point that the youth will become exasperated, and we lose their concern for one more generation.
Yet I have hope. Hitting closer to home, I have hope that the youth of Delaware will rise up and tell the adults around them that they are valued, and that they have a right to equal treatment and equal access in our public schools. I want the earnestness of the Parkland youth to catch fire among the youth of Delaware. With the support of, and sometimes in spite of, the adults of Sussex County, I want to witness the rise of youth in our midst to demand that our schools honor the sanctity of each person.
We must not relinquish the purpose and end goals of Regulation 225, which seeks to provide safe places for all our youth in public schools. If we adults continue to build roadblocks, here is hoping our youth raise their voices once more and bend or break the rules. And that will enable them to write new rules, when the adults finally listen.