On March 20, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who are advocating for gun control after a mass shooting happened at their school on Feb. 14, spoke at the “#NEVERAGAIN: How Parkland Students are Changing the Conversation on Guns” panel. The panel discussion took place at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics.
The auditorium was packed with people who had entered a lottery to gain admission to the event, including Harvard students, interested citizens, advocates and a variety of press organizations.
The #NeverAgain movement was started by senior Ryan Deitsch and his brother Matt Deitsch, a recent graduate; seniors Emma González and David Hogg; and juniors Cameron Kasky and Alex Wind, all students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Before the panel discussion began, the students led audience members in a moment of silence to acknowledge a Maryland high school shooting that had happened earlier that day.
Moderator Meighan Stone, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women and Foreign Policy Program, started the conversation by asking the students what they wanted from the government and how they were able to come forth as leaders of the #NeverAgain movement shortly after the school shooting.
According to Kasky, the students found the strength to move forward and speak out for what they believed in.
“We found each other and said, ‘We are speaking out, and we are strong.’ Together, they can’t stop us; they can’t silence us. We can control what happens here, and we can fix this,” Kasky said.
Wind believes the students are each others’ support systems and that they can help one another recover from the tragic event.
“I think we’re coping and we’re healing through each other, which is so important. There have been times when one of us will just break down, and it’s important to have everyone there with us,” Wind said.
Hogg said he believes that people have the right to speak up for their beliefs and vote politicians out of office if they aren’t doing their jobs to protect citizens.
“We make sure we speak up to these congressman, these state legislatures, and we let them know these are what their constituents want,” Hogg said. “If you choose not to vote on the side of students’ lives that’s completely up to you, and if you choose not to vote on the side of human lives that are innocently taken every year, that’s okay, because we’ll vote you out. It’s as simple as that.”
Kasky described hearing about the event unfolding on the news.
“I started to realize we’ve seen this before; I’ve seen this countless times. What happens is we get two weeks in the news, we get a bundle of thoughts and prayers, everyone sends flowers, and then it’s over,” Kasky said.
González spoke with confidence about how change is possible if people are willing to take action on their ideas.
“We can’t settle into that stew of thinking, ‘I can never change anything.’ You need to act. Acting is incredibly important,” González said.
Matt Deitsch believes Americans everywhere have to unite and stand up for gun control.
“Every place in America needs to come together and stand up for this and make this the voting issue so that we can draw the line in the sand between the leaders that are there for their own profits and the people actually fighting for people lives,” Deitsch said.
According to Hogg, in order to confront corruption in the government, people have to become both politically aware and active in making difference.
“When you don’t pay attention to what’s going on, you are absolutely complicit in the death of our democracy,” Hogg said.
After the panel discussion, there was a Q&A with the audience. One audience member asked where the students think the movement will be a year from now.
“A year from now, I see a very different political conversation and I see a lot of different people in office,” Kasky answered. The audience roared in approval to this remark.
To Wind, a look into the future involves the youth of America taking a stand and creating change.
“I don’t think this movement would be possible if we weren’t teenagers. We were the ones there. We know what it was like,” Wind said. “We were the only ones able to reach out to the youth, the new voters, and show that it’s our time to make change in this country.”
Although the students’ time in Boston is over, their fight continues. On Saturday March 24, cities across the US will be participating in March For Our Lives, a national protest, that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students organized to call for the passing of a gun-control legislation.