OPINION: The Parkland shooting sparked a new generation of activists

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Courtesy of SCHS staff

The students of SCHS participate in the walkout on March 14, 2018.

By Kiera O'Hara-Heinz, Santa Clara High School

The idea of an activist has changed throughout history. In the past, many people would think of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, or the anti-war movement of the 1960s as famous activist movements. Now, people could easily mention Emma Gonzalez’s “We Call B.S.” speech to lawmakers and gun advocates, or David Hogg speaking out against the NRA. Armed with smartphones and social media, the new face of activism is growing decidedly younger.

A little over a year ago, on  Feb. 14, 2018, 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida were shot and killed during one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. In the aftermath, survivors of the shooting created March for Our Lives, a movement aimed at uniting young people towards a goal of stricter gun regulations.

March for Our Lives did more than just call attention to gun violence. It galvanized a generation and highlighted the importance of political involvement. Students who previously slept through their civics classes started writing letters to their representatives. Teenagers who spent all their time on social media put their platforms to action and organized marches and walkouts. In fact, according to Time Magazine, over 800 marches were organized across the world, the majority by young adults. Even SCHS organized an event to memorialize the lives lost in the shooting.

The world is changing and activism is changing with it. While young people may be criticized for their obsession with social media, it provides a valuable resource that can connect individuals across the world.

March for Our Lives is an example of teenagers using their passion and their networking skills to bring light to important issues. As a demographic, teenagers’ ideas are often pushed aside, leaving many feeling voiceless. The leaders of the movement showed teens that they have the power to influence legislatures as well as voters.

The survivors of the Parkland shooting may have started the fight, but it is far from over. In the time since the event a little over a year ago, dozens of reforms have been passed, including the nationwide banning of bumpstocks and the addition of more thorough background checks in many states. However, more reform is needed. According to CNN, 31 school shootings have happened in the time since the Parkland shooting, including a particularly deadly one in Santa Fe, Texas where ten people were killed.

The Parkland shooting and subsequent March for Our Lives movement will remain in history as an example of what young people can do when they are empowered. Voteless but not voiceless. As powerful as they are youthful. They are not slowing down.

This story was originally published on The Roar on February 16, 2019.