I spent today inspired. I spent today moved. I spent today deeply hopeful. I spent today believing that this country’s best days may just yet be ahead of it.
I spent today talking to five of the student leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have shaken this nation’s status quo on the issue of gun violence – Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Alex Wind, Cameron Kasky, and Jaclyn Corin. They are in Washington, DC for tomorrow’s March For Our Lives.
I was struck by the vigor of youth, which should be of no surprise. But still to be in their presence was something special. Their energy and commitment was palpable and it was satisfying to see and hear. Their passion runs deep, and I recognize it as that special brand of passion that can only be born from a searing personal and emotional experience.
Entrenched interests like the NRA who seek to blunt these students’ message endeavor to paint them as pawns of adult liberal activists. It is a charge that is insulting, and false. I noticed how bipartisan this group was. Some are Republican, some have parents that lean that way. Some come from homes that have guns. They are not making cynical demands or advocating for a checklist derived from some think tank white sheet. Rather they are pleading with the President, with elected leaders, with anyone who can make a difference, to act in the name of safety, reason, and rationality.
They note correctly that polling shows a majority of the country believes in common sense gun laws. And they insist that they will make their voices heard – in the streets and at the ballot box. We shall see what happens, but I would not bet against them.
As I spent time with these young leaders, I thought of a 1966 address that then-Senator Robert Kennedy gave in South Africa. It is referred to as the “Ripple of Hope” speech and many consider it his best formal oration. It was a clarion call for justice and individual rights. Kennedy said that our hope must lie in our youth and all who recognize the power of idealism to change the world. It is a message as apt today as it was more than 50 years ago.
“Our answer is the world’s hope; it is to rely on youth. The cruelties and the obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. It cannot be moved by those who cling to a present which is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger which comes with even the most peaceful progress. This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.”