Today, Wednesday, March 14th, 2018, at 10:00 a.m., a nation of students walked out of their classes and out of their schools, intending to protest the insecurity across the country as school shooting after school shooting claims the lives of their innocent victims. Thousands participated everywhere from New York to Washington and, yes, even here in the south.
I cried real tears today when I saw the stream of people walking on to the field. For weeks we orchestrated and compromised with county and school administration to be able to have this event, to speak up and have our voices join the chorus of our generation as it yelled its frustration this morning. The county school system had finally changed its view on the protest and allowed it to occur penalty-free and, so, here we were. Here was a solid percentage of my school on the field, standing in the freezing, windy cold morning, huddled in solidarity together. The tears budded in my eyes as I recorded a video for Snapchat, and they fell as the chorus began singing a song of peace, hope and remembrance for those lost in the Stoneman Douglas massacre, many of whom had friends at Johns Creek.
Because this was more than just twenty minutes without class or a project blossoming. This was more than just seeing people agreeing with you or supporting you, and this was more than just a gathering of people. This was the mobilization of a generation, the call from more than just the politically extreme members for the government to do something! Please! Today, I watched my peers risk zeros on minor assessments and social alienation to freeze in the stadium for seventeen minutes because this was finally something that they cared about. Now, they will raise their voices. Now, finally, they understand that the current complacency is helping the system to fail them - fail us - as students.
I listened to radio shows and read plenty of Facebook articles in anticipation of this event, interested in seeing how the nation would react. Many parents expressed their support; universities promised not to consider a disciplinary action against applicants or future students if it came as a result of this demonstration of the first amendment; friends encouraged other friends to participate. Many teachers, even if inherently against the ideas being advocated for, presented the walkout as a teaching moment, a chance to see the First Amendment or even Tinker v. Des Moines in practice, and administrations across the country placed parameters around yet permitted this expressive action.
Yet many did not. And their criticisms, overwhelmingly, were that this walkout did not accomplish anything concrete. Did not do anything. Resolve anything.
But is it true that this protest could have meant nothing? To believe so is to be naive and clueless. For many high school students, this was the first time that they had raised their voice to be a political participant - a trait essential to maintaining democracy - and the walkout provided a peer-supported, organized, peaceful outlet of doing so. Perhaps this could spark a life of political activism or, at the very least, awareness; I sincerely hope so.
And, of course, more than even the lessons taught to the students, the empowerment and the involvement that they saw, there is the clear message to the outside. The message that hopes and prayers have a place, but action to save our students has a larger place. That it is not a regional fight anymore than it is racially biased or gender-swayed. Most importantly, that our generation works together. Politicians are public servants and put there to serve and honor the collective desires, requests and attitudes of their constituents, and the generation that walked out today is either barely of voting age or about to be. And, as we saw today, they are ready to stand up for how they feel, especially on an issue that could quite literally be life or death to them.
Be prepared. For every criticism of my generation as "lazy", "self-absorbed", "globally apathetic", "personally unaware because of the time spent on social media" or "entitled and expectant of hand-outs without work", today provided a counter. Today, we stood up and made a nationwide shout for change, a shout for security and protection and control of those forces that would cause us harm. Today, we contributed to the democratic spirit of America and voiced our opinions on issues that we were informed about, aware of and very much passionate about. And it won't end here - students will register to vote. They will write their Congressmen and sign petitions and text RESIST to 50409.
This is the beginning of a conversation. But this conversation is more than just gun control or school safety. It is now about the future of our country - and my generation is perfectly prepared to take up the torch.
I am excited for the future.