Where These Young People Lead Us, I'm Going

 Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

One week after the Valentine's Day massacre that killed 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, survivors will bring their #NeverAgain movement rally to Tallahassee, Florida's state capitol, and meet with legislators. "No more BS," they shouted, full-voiced at their rally on the Broward County courthouse steps.

When I was their age, I protested, too – against racial discrimination and the war in Vietnam. Their fight against the monopolistic and harmful power of the NRA came to them in the personal terror and horror of the murders that visited their school last week. They inspire me, and where they are leading, I'm going. These young people possess moral power, and their outrage paired with determination will bring about legislative changes we desperately need but stubbornly have withstood calls for action in the past.

The leaders of America’s suddenly reignited gun-control movement hold court with cable news networks in suburban parks, strategize in a headquarters at their parents’ house and in some cases are too young to vote or buy a gun. ... A group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School upper-classmen has turned their anguish into activism. Still grieving, they have launched an all-out assault on assault weapons, pledging that their school will be the last to become a slaughterhouse and warning politicians to get on board or get out of their way. ... They’ve given voice to a new generation of school shooting survivors and thrust themselves into the middle of a national controversy — a burden heavy for anyone, much less a group of mourning teenagers.
— Miami Herald, Turning anguish into activism, Parkland students push America’s gun-control movement
 Marjory Stoneman Douglas student rally, Broward County, Florida

Marjory Stoneman Douglas student rally, Broward County, Florida

These young people belong to a generation in which more than 150,000 of their fellow students, attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools, have experienced a shooting on their campus since the killings at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999, according to a tabulation by John Woodrow Cox and Steven Rich.

These Florida students also embody the feisty, determined spirit of their activist namesake, Marjory Stoneman Douglas. In 108 years of life, she had neither time nor interest in reflecting on questions about herself. when Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich once asked her if she'd ever been discouraged in her fight to protect the Everglades, Marjory responded:

‘What does it matter if I’ve been discouraged or encouraged over the years?’ she said, brusquely. ‘This thing’s got to be done. It’s not a question of how I feel from moment to moment.’
— Marjory Stoneman Douglas

These young people are emblematic of the fighter that Marjory was. She might never have used a hashtag for her campaigns, but she never gave in and never gave up as she took on causes and battled against powerful forces that daunted others.

She had battled governments, developers, engineers, sugar cane industrialists and the apathy of normal people. She had pushed so hard and for so long that the state had finally committed to preserving one of the world’s great wetlands. We have her to thank for Everglades National Park. ... As a young woman, born before women had the right to vote, she lobbied for women’s suffrage. She campaigned for civil rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. She fought for proper plumbing in Miami’s poor, black neighborhoods and worked on behalf of migrant workers.
— Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune

We'll hear these student's voices as more of us – old and young, Democrat and Republican – join their chorus. Let this #NeverAgain movement grow until even the most NRA-bought, gun-happy legislator can no longer hide from these young people's message. This week Florida legislators – a majority of whom are beholden to the NRA – must act as a first step in putting an end to our nation's mental instability when it comes to living in ways we do with our 2nd Amendment. 

Turns out Marjory and I have a few things in common, though I can only wish that my activism could be as consequential as hers. She and I were Wellesley College graduates, separated by six decades, and each inspired by the college's motto, Non Ministrari sed Ministrare"Not to be ministered unto, but to minister," not to be served, but to serve in ways that make the world a better place to live for others.

 The Fool's Club at Wellesley College.  Marjory Stoneman, kneeling in the foreground as April's Fool.

The Fool's Club at Wellesley College.  Marjory Stoneman, kneeling in the foreground as April's Fool.

Marjory and I each married a man to whom we were ill suited, left our marriages soon after, and never married again. We were journalists and authors, with her book being The Everglades: River of Grass, first published in 1947. Preserving the Everglades is the fight for which she is best known; for me, it's climate change activism with Mothers Out Front, doing what I can to secure a livable climate for our children.

With climate change activism, young people are leading the way. Pause for a moment to take note of the youngsters who are in federal court accusing the federal government of violating their Constitutional rights by "knowing about the dangerous climate impacts of burning fossil fuels and supporting the developing of fossil fuel production anyway.

 Eugene, Oregon

Eugene, Oregon

These youngsters filed their lawsuit in September 2015 and it remains in the federal court system. This week President Donald Trump was added as a defendant: This lawsuit, filed by 21 kids, challenges the federal government to slow climate change.