‘Welcome to the Revolution!”

Cameron Kasky of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida welcomed the crowd in Washington, DC for the March for Our Lives on March 14. When news reports came in of a school slaughter in Florida, I could not have imagined that the March for Our Lives was possible. But this time was different. These young survivors of the massacre changed the conversation. Their message: How many children will be sacrificed? Do we really value guns over people?

One month after the Parkland shooting, high school students across the nation, including here in Oak Park, walked out of their classrooms to remember those who died. And people of all ages and backgrounds across the nation took to the streets in 800 locations in the March for Our Lives.

Four days after the March, I finally saw Hamilton and immediately recognized the parallels to the March. Young people led the Revolution. They were at the beginning of their lives. Anything was possible. They believed in the possibilities and were unafraid to speak out. It took courageous voices to reframe the issue. They changed the conversation.

Hamilton rallied the crowds in New York. He spoke on street corners and wrote to rally people to the cause. And people responded. In the same way, Parkland students raised their voices. They used the “street corners” of the 21st century to reach out across the land, and people responded.  

Hamilton and his friends reached out to others who had the skills, experience and resources to help. General Washington, Lafayette and others joined the effort. In the same way, those older and experienced leaders offered skills and resources to make the March for Our Lives a reality. But the leaders were the students.

Hamilton reached out to allies to help get the word out, to write the Federalist Papers and reframe the conversation. Putting their ideas in print took courage.

Parkland students also reached out to bring in other voices. They allied with young people in the cities of America whose voices had been ignored. These students face daily threats of violence and death. They spoke from their lived experience and broadened the conversation, built connections and showed that we are all involved. 

King George mocked and ridiculed the young revolutionaries of his time. Who were these young upstarts to challenge a great power? They couldn’t possibly win. Today gun rights leaders do the same to the young people of our time. They ridicule and try to intimidate the students who speak up. 

But this is not a moment; this is a movement. On April 20 five Julian middle-school girls organized a memorial for Columbine at Scoville Park. The ceremony included 13 minutes of silence. The names of those who died at Columbine were read aloud and for each a single orange balloon floated into the sky. 

The lyrics of Hamilton could echo today: “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.”

Teresa Powell is an Oak Park resident and the former village clerk.

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