While teenagers may not be old enough to vote, we are definitely wise enough to understand right from wrong. The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are sparking national conversation on gun violence. As they lead a successful school walkout and a national march, they have taken control on matters that will lead us into a brighter future.
We teenagers are truly making a difference in our society, but this isn’t the first time. There have been countless occasions when teens and even kids as young as five have used their voices and shared their opinions. It seems that adolescent activisms is on the rise and adults are finally listening.
In my opinion, adults may have a harder time speaking out. They become more cautious in their decision-making, which may lead to overthinking and disregarding their feelings on a subject overall. I think the reason so many adults aren’t listening to us kids is because they are threatened, threatened that we are aware of our world’s inhumane acts and are brave enough to speak out.
As kids grow and learn we begin to understand the choices of right and wrong, but we still are developing our worldviews. There have been many times when kids have been the ones inducing change in communities throughout history.
In 1963, a seventh grade student named Gwendolyn Sanders led a civil rights walkout at her school in Birmingham, Alabama. This walkout was inspired by the racial injustice the young girl witnessed.
Sanders and 800 other students ranging from second grade to high schoolers defied their teachers and marched out of school and onto the streets of Birmingham. The students held hands, sang songs, and held posters saying things like “I’ll die to make this land my home.”
The chief of police, Bull Connor, ordered all of his men to arrest every student and place them in jail. As each student was released, they persistently kept going back to the march. Connor was not satisfied with their punishment, so he ordered his men to go as far as releasing dogs and spraying the children with high-powered fire hose, which caught media attention and forced President John F. Kennedy to finally listen. A month after the former president announced his plans to introduce civil rights legislation.
In the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic had spread widely throughout the US, and the public understood very little about it, so many with the life threatening disease where ostracized. When Ryan White, a 13-year-old boy from Indiana, contracted HIV from a blood transfusion, his school did not let him attend even though White’s doctors had informed them that he was not contagious.
White became the boy who symbolized the many people living with this disease. He wanted more AIDS research to be provided to learn how to prevent the disease and more public knowledge. He died in 1990 at the age of 19, and shortly after his death, a bill was passed. The Ryan White Care Act provided low income and uninsured people with AIDS to access the care they need. While new things can scary, but we all should try or learn something new. In White’s situation, he used his experience to advocate for the people who couldn’t and encouraged others to know and understand the facts before judging a new subject.
Last year, Sophie Cruz and thousands of other kids fought for immigration rights. Cruz was born into a family of two undocumented immigrant parents, feared that they would be deported and she would be alone in the US with no mother or father. At just five years old, Cruz researched Pope Francis. When Cruz was informed Francis would be in DC in 2015, she wanted to deliver a note to him. The note urged him to become an advocate for undocumented immigrants. Cruz also wore a shirt that read “Papa Rescate DAPA” (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans).
Initially, Cruz was turned away by security, but Pope Francis was interested in what the little girl had to say, so he meet with her and Pope Francis then introduced his opinion to the board of Congress during a meeting encouraging them to provide more openness to immigrants and refugees.
At just seven years old, Cruz was invited to the White House to meet President Obama and then later spoke at the Women March that same year in 2017. She said, “We are here together making a chain of love to protect our families. Let us fight with love, faith and courage so that our families will not be destroyed.”
Sophie Cruz fought for many immigrants and refugees in America who are now facing under Trump’s rule to deport immigrants and repeal DACA. Although Cruz is only eight years old, she represents a child who understands and comprehends a matter much bigger than herself.
Now in 2018, the kids from Parkland Florida—Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, and the students of the Never Again Movement—have emerged a revolution of fierce determined teens ready to fight for what the believe is right. In just a short amount of time, they have organized marches and walkouts across the nation.
They speak directly to the people of power to make change and call out those who hide behind their cowardly ways. They had a live meeting on CNN to ask people involved in the NRA questioned to spark some reasoning and change into their lack of gun safety.
As the teens and kids all over the nation speak out against gun violence, I am sure that the movement for better gun laws will change because as long as we fight for what we believe in the good will always prevail. As Steven Levingston, an international civil rights writer, wrote for the Washington Post, “History shows that kids, with their innocence, honesty and moral urgency, can shame adults into discovering their conscience.”
I am proud to be a part of this generation. This generation of love, hope, and change.