March 19, 2019 | 42° F

DEANGELO: Students have ability to enact real social change

Opinions Column: All That Fits


The quote “be the change you wish to see in the world” is written on a staircase at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Sarah Chadwick, a survivor of the Feb. 14 mass shooting, said she read it every day while walking to class. Now, she and many of her classmates are living Gandhi’s words by launching a wave of gun reform activism — one equipped with experiential dialogue and the hearts of young people. In a matter of a week, they have grown to out-lead the leaders of our country. 

After news broke that 17 people were murdered at a high school in Florida, the recognizable post-gun violence routine began once more. There was the causality count update, fascinations with the white shooter’s backstory, social media outpours and the inevitable offering of “thoughts and prayers.” 

But, quickly it seemed responses from the victims shared a different tone. Students, who just lost friends and endured possibly the most terrifying moment of their lives, were speaking out with thoughtfulness and conviction. Rather than taking their rightful privacy, they looked into the lens of media cameras and confronted the NRA, Congress and the president himself. With teary eyes and strong voices, they demanded one thing: change. 

In turn, the high schoolers also did what any fed-up, passionate young person would do: take matters into their own hands. Chadwick and her friends, Cameron Kasky, Emma González, David Hogg and Sofie Whitney to name a few, generated a sweeping movement called #NeverAgain with a clear goal for stricter background checks on gun buyers. Their words and campaign spread, and a march on Washington, D.C. has been scheduled to confront the epidemic of mass shootings in schools. 

The actual reason why this specific movement may be the one that sparks change has less to do with their rational arguments and more to do with how they carry them. The young people of #NeverAgain have grown up with one thing other famous initiatives have not: the internet. These students know how to get word out and do so quickly. They understand the nature of hashtags, how to rally on the digital sphere and even shut down trolls who label them as “crisis actors.” 

And those from Stoneman Douglas are not alone. Two days ago, at least 1,000 students from the West Boca High School left their classrooms in the middle of the schooldays to hike 12 miles to neighboring Parkland and pay their respects. They too wanted to protest gun violence and pushed past their administrators to do it.

In the midst of the uprising, President Donald J. Trump ordered the Department of Justice (DoJ) to issue a ban on bump stocks, a semi-automatic weapon converter like the one used in the Las Vegas massacre. Trump has been seemingly open to improving gun reform, nonetheless the devil is in the details. It still remains to be seen if the DoJ or White House will actually follow through in prohibiting these so-called bump stocks. Regardless, this action alone is not enough. Not for me, nor for the students of Parkland. 

As raw videos surfaced from inside the school, I forced myself to watch them. If students, not much younger than I, had to experience this firsthand I could do them the favor of not shutting my eyes. What I saw and heard through blurry cell phone footage reaches past the word traumatic. The terror and fear of the victims can be felt through the screen. 

If survivors have the courage and resilience to speak out against the nature of guns in our country, their voices in the megaphone must be respected. They are not just students. They are not just children. They are survivors of a brutal attack who have begun a new fight to never see it happen again. The American people need to join that fight to press lawmakers for gun regulation. 

Representative John Lewis (D-Ga. 5th District), one of the key proprietors of the civil rights movement, was first arrested in 1957 at 17. Many do not recognize this, but outspoken teenagers have been the source of unstoppable action in our history. It was students who populated a large margin of the civil rights movement  — marching, sitting, speaking, suffering and prevailing for the world they wanted their futures to exist in. 

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and their supporters do not seem willing to let the conversation go quiet. Neither am I. Young people have changed America before, and they will do it again. Only this time, the revolution will be televised. 

Julia Deangelo is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. Her column, "All That Fits," runs on alternate Thursdays. 


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Julia Deangelo

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